Since no one’s trying to do any thinking today, we bring you…
Last week’s DVD release of Tinker Bell— the Peter Pan prequel shamefully rendered in digital 3D instead of traditional pen and celluloid animation—presents us with a bold new take on the sexy/creepy siren of Disney’s Classic Age. Before 1953, the naughtiest character in the Disney canon was Cinderella’s exposed neck. Peter Pan shattered this flesh barrier, introducing America to leggy, pouty Tink, with her jealous schadenfreude and pixie-dust excretions and that strapless, form-fitting sheath of hers, a bit of foliage barely wide enough to cover a child’s thumb. Even today, long after Peter Pan has become a syndrome and “Neverland” slang for a fancy type of children’s dungeon, there is still Tink the corporate symbol, masthead of the budding Disney Fairies franchise, and FILFiest mascot in the Fortune 500.
2008’s rebooted Tinker Bell is a lovely, inventive young sprite born into a worker’s paradise nestled in the Neverland underbrush. She’s kind of boring. Fleshed out both emotionally and dimensionally, yet lacking the overhead push-pull of Pan v. Hook, Tink 2.0 uses her newfound power of speech for all variety of market-tested platitudes. “Your talent makes you who you are,” she intones in the instructional voice of Mae Whitman (Anne “Bland” Veal of TV’s Arrested Development). The studio faced this same challenge in Toy Story 2, but at least voicing Barbie didn’t obliterate any deeper nonverbal personality. Pixar head John Lasseter has since called Tinker Bell “virtually unwatchable”. It’s straight-to-DVD in all respects.
Except for the sexy/creepy part. 21st century Tinker Bell is a chubby-cheeked, slightly infantilized adolescent with the body of a grown woman. She also sports the skimpiest dress in the movie. Disney’s non-Pixar CGI films still render humanoids as plastic mannequins, so the whole affair has the feel of a conspicuously arousing episode of Jimmy Neutron. But Disney is no slouch in the sex scandal department (think of The Little Mermaid‘s dildo skyscraper, or the topless thrills of The Rescuers, or the glorious full frontal monty of Vanessa Hudgens’ leaked JPEGs), and thus it seems instructive to take a moment to sort out where, exactly, this new Tink ranks in the pantheon of Disney’s creepiest sexy animated female leads.—Sam McPheeters
5. 3D Tink (Tinker Bell, 2008). New Tink is as curvy as Old Tink, but this time around her curves hawk the budding Disney Fairies Franchise. The last Disney merchandise line to target girls age six to ten—Disney Princess—brought in $3 billion in 2006. Get used to lots of sexy pens, lip balms, band-aids and throw pillows.
4. TIE: Princess Jasmine (Aladdin, 1992) / Pocahontas (Pocahontas, 1995). Seen through 21st century eyes, there’s nothing terribly creepy about Jasmine’s multiple midriff-baring costume changes. The creepiness hits only during her seduction of evil Prince Jafar, a slithery Salome dance reenacted in millions of girls’ bedrooms during the long summer of ’92. Likewise, Pocahontas’ skintight deerskins are not nearly as perverse as the gifts of song and cleavage with which she welcomes the white man to the New World.
3. Princess Ariel (The Little Mermaid, 1989). Ariel spends much of her film debut wearing nothing but two purple clamshells. Halfway in, she trades her voice for legs and washes ashore completely bottomless. This leaves her only those huge doe eyes through which to communicate to her beau—and millions of children worldwide—all the ache and fury of teenage sexual desire. If she hadn’t been given corresponding human sexyparts only moments earlier, this scene would have been truly heartbreaking.
2. Old Timey Tinkerbell (Peter Pan, 1953). 55 years of strutting, preening, bending, and caboose waggling still earns the 2D Ms. Bell only the number two spot. It’s a standout performance, but still no match for. . .
1. Jessica Rabbit (Who Framed Roger Rabbit, 1988). JR takes the gold for adult-grade sexuality. Despite her own sheath of ironic self-awareness, Disney waged a most unironic marketing campaign, targeting yet more pre-adolescents with Rabbit’s pendulous appendages. “I’m not bad,” Jessica reminded us, “I’m just drawn that way.” It’s a complex defense for any toon, and one wonders what the newly talkative Tinkerbell would make of it. We may get our chance to find out; she’ll have three more DVDs in stores by 2010.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on November 5, 2008