Monday, November 30, 2009

Watered Down and Twice as Marketable

When did Tinkerbell stop being a bitch? I remember watching Peter Pan, the Disney version of course, and noting even as a kid that Tink was a nasty piece of work. As an adult watching the movie again, I could take it further and realize she was a vain, self-centered, conniving, and mean-spirited fairy. This was not the happy go-lucky make a wish kind of fairy. This was the bite you on the finger kind from Labyrinth.

However, in this day and age of the Disney Princess Marketing Machine, that personality type probably doesn't sell so well. So instead, Tink's been repackaged and redesigned into some plucky little heroine. There are still aspects of the old Tink, and as a writer I'm curious to know how this new Tinkerbell becomes the version we see with Peter Pan... but I have my doubts that Disney will ever tell that story.

Not when they have the Disney Fairy Marketing Machine to consider.

This isn't the first time a character's been rehabilitated to make a buck or appeal to a wider audience. Vampires have been getting this treatment for years, long before they started to sparkle. The George Clooney Batman movie was made primarily to sell toys. Or at least it looked that way, so I hope that was the intent. And there are any number of other examples I could probably think of if I was inclined to do so at the moment.

Which I'm not.

Now I can't really fault the House of Mouse, because they've been doing this for years. They built an empire on it, and really, if you watch Steamboat Willie the Mickey Mouse you see there is a far different character from the Mouse my little one watches on Playhouse Disney. Same for Bugs Bunny and the rest of the Looney Tunes. I could probably blame the societal impulse to make everything "wholesome" but the cynic in me says it's probably more just marketing than anything else.

I don't think you could turn the original Tinkerbell into a very marketable franchise. She doesn't exactly espouse the values we want our little girls to emulate, after all. While this requires me to admit I've seen the first Tinkerbell movie - her origin story, naturally - the bad fairy in the film reminded me far more of the original Tink from Peter Pan than the titular character did. In other words, she was vain, self-centered, and self-serving. Naturally she got her comeuppance, because we can't have the villain get away with it in a kid's movie.

In a way I'm disappointed. While the new Tink has been repackaged to teach a couple of different important "moral" points, I think they could have used the old Tink to teach how not to behave. They would have stayed true to the original character - at least in her original Disney manifestation - and I wouldn't have been scratching my head wondering what happened to her.

Plus they could have done tie-ins with that old Elton John song. ... Though on second thought, that probably wouldn't go over very well with the parents.

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