Released in 2008, the computer-animated fantasy Tinker Bell was the first Disney film to give a voice to the iconic character from J. M. Barrie’s play Peter Pan, Or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up.
Aside from a brief appearance from Wendy Darling, the first picture attempted to fly on its own two wings by introducing audiences to the fantastical realm of Pixie Hollow where fairies live in harmony under benevolent Queen Clarion (voiced by Anjelica Huston).
Almost every year since, the spirited sprite has taken flight in a wholesome, family-oriented sequel to enforce strong messages of self-belief, courage and sisterly solidarity.
Tinker Bell And The Legend Of The Neverbeast is the sixth and most enjoyable instalment in the series so far, referencing Beauty And The Beast and the fable of Androcles and the lion to teach children - particularly girls - that true beauty comes from within.
Director Steve Loter and his team of animators dilute that message by festooning the screen with pretty, slim, rosy-cheeked and beautifully coiffed protagonists dressed in figure hugging fairy fashions of every conceivable flattering cut and hue. But it’s the thought that counts.
Animal fairy Fawn (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin) has a big heart and often takes pity on wounded creatures that could, when fully grown, pose a threat to the other residents of Pixie Hollow including Tinker Bell (Mae Whitman), Silvermist (Lucy Liu), Iridessa (Raven-Symone), Vidia (Pamela Adlon) and Rosetta (Megan Hilty).
Having caused an almighty kerfuffle with a baby hawk and incurred the wrath of fiery scout fairy Nyx (Rosario Dawson) and her second-in-command Fury (Melanie Brown), Fawn reluctantly agrees to follow her head rather than her heart in the future.
Almost immediately, she breaks this promise when she stumbles upon a hulking creature called a Neverbeast, which has been roused from hibernation by a passing green-tailed comet.
Hideous and fearsome at first sight, Fawn christens her discovery Gruff and becomes deeply attached to the behemoth.
Subsequently, Pixie Hollow librarian Scribble (Thomas Lennon) uncovers a drawing, which suggests that Gruff will bring about the destruction of Pixie Hollow.
The scout fairies prepare for a dawn attack on the Neverbeast.
“What will you do if you find it?” asks Fawn.
“My job,” replies Nyx, wielding her spear.
Tinker Bell And The Legend Of The Neverbeast casts a sweet, inoffensive and entertaining spell, juxtaposing gentle laughs from vain, image-obsessed fairy Rosetta with Fawn’s assertions that you shouldn’t judge a Gruff by his mane (“I know he’s not what they say he is!”).
Visuals are crisp and colourful and the script accomplishes one simple twist to catalyse a frenetic finale.
Vocal performances are solid throughout and director Loter conjures a genuinely moving resolution that should coax a steady trickle of tears down parents’ cheeks.