Monday, March 23, 2015

Pixie Pirate

Grownup pirates like us aren’t supposed to enjoy movies aimed at five year old girls, but since Black Sails isn’t on again until Saturday, and Pirates of the Caribbean Dead Men Tell No Tales isn’t due out until 2017, I found myself sitting in front of Pirate Fairy, Disney’s 2014 movie short in which Zarina, a pixie from Pixie Hollow in Neverland takes up work as a pirate.

The movie is the fifth of the straight-to-video Pixie Hollow series, and pre-supposes a certain knowledge of the Pixie Hollow universe. It’s a series aimed primarily at pre-school girls, so I didn’t expect much, especially in the pirate department.

The first movie in the series apparently fixed the most enormous problem, which was that Tinkerbell was REALLY mean. Then there’s a cast of pixie characters, all pretty much stereotypes and color-coded, in case you can’t tell them apart. The pixies seem to have their own little community in Neverland, and the series seems to pre-date the introduction of Peter Pan to the island.

The plot of this video involves Zarina, who has a pretty boring job packaging pixie dust at the pixie-dust factory. In her spare time she performs chemical experiments, trying to find out the possibility of formulating different types of dust.

Now, it may seem odd that movies about fairies are meant to encourage little girls to take up chemistry and engineering, but this is the case. “Tinker” bell likes to build things, and Zarina does a lot of things right in performing her chemical experiments. For instance, she carefully records her experiments in a book, and the thickness of the book, along with other clues, indicate that she’s been at this quite a while.

She’s also made some personal sacrifices in order to perform these experiments. She uses her personal share of pixie dust in her lab, and is therefore forced to walk everywhere, instead of flying like her friends.

What we see, of course, is her big breakthrough. She makes all kinds of dust that do all kinds of things (also color-coded). But if she continued her research and development with careful product safety and dosage testing there wouldn’t be much of a story. So she goes crazy with the new dust, does a lot of damage and gets in trouble.

Her answer to all this is to use her new products to put all the fairies to sleep and steal the dust-producing element for her own use. She then takes up with a pirate crew who offer to further her research in exchange for her giving their ship flying powers, enabling them to rob people far inland and get away with the goods.

Image result for Pirate crew Pirate Pixie

I wasn’t expecting much from the pirates. The entire ship’s crew consists of six guys, but I put this down to the requirements of low-budget CG, and keeping everything clear for the kids. They show a variety of nationalities, including an Asian, an Italian and an Irishman, but no African pirates, which kind of disappointed me.

The ship looks good – surprisingly good, although work on the ship was an investment – a CG good ship can have a lot of uses. It’s referred to as a “frigate” though it’s clearly a galleon. But hey, any time the word “frigate” gets used in a kids movie, I’m all for it.

The pirate fairy is, of course, the captain. She gets a headband, a sword and a pair of really cool boots to go with the title. After all, it’s aimed at little girls, so we have to include some cute clothes.

Weird little things were good. The pirate’s shoes are perfect straight-last buckle shoes. The one-eyed pirate is the cook. The cannons actually look like real cannons. The use of the term “offering you quarter” is properly defined, and almost properly used. 

The other friendly fairies set out, first to rescue their friend, and once it’s clear she’s become a pirate of her own free will, to get back the dust-generator. Along the way, there are hijinks in which the fairies’ powers get changed around, and also assorted fairy-dust generated special effects. One of the fairies “imprints” a newly hatched baby crocodile.

More to my interest was the gradual revelation of the identity of one long-faced pirate. First we learn his name is James. Then that he went to school at Eaton. (There’s only one pirate who’s been to Eaton.)  About the time the pirates reveal they were only joshing Zarina along until she could make the ship fly, James opens a closet and whips out a long red pirate coat and an enormous hat.

By this point most kids will have figured out who James is, but the movie never actually says it. Instead, the baby crocodile swallows an alarm clock, a pretty funny scene, as objects are being thrown at the crocodile, and I’m waiting for the alarm clock. Then James picks up a hook as a tool. Finally, at the end, after the crocodile has bitten him on the butt. James is washed out to sea, and is picked up by none other than Mr. Smee. I’m imagining the delight of a child who figures out, all on her own, who James is.

Of course the fairy dust generator is recovered and the fairies have a happy ending. We knew that would happen. I’m just thrilled with such a great little biography of the early days of Captain Hook.

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