Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Take Your PIX?

So here’s what I’m wondering.
The House of Mouse’s latest “line” is Disney’s Fairies. The Tinker Bell movie is the newest addition to books and toys and such that have already been unleashed. The movie would have been out sooner, but production issues abounded. What makes me scratch my head is that according to Disney, Tink is a pixie. I’ve already expressed my displeasure at this change. There’s no need for it, really. But you would think they could stay consistent, wouldn’t you? Why, then, is it not Disney’s Pixies? Someone needs to be slapped. (Said in jest.)

What’s the difference?
You’ll of course find a great deal of mixed beliefs and characteristics, due to folkloric storytelling over the years. But there are some common, notable distinctions. Pixies are considered much more mischievous than fairies. (And Disney’s newest batch are anything but mischievous…not counting the “mean” character.) Pixies are often much bigger than fairies. They have pointed ears and wear green outfits with red caps. (Sure, Disney gave Tink a green outfit…but then, Barrie does have her dressed in a skeleton leaf.) With Disney’s drawing, it’s difficult to tell if Tink has pointed ears or if it’s just the way her hair lays. (Peter Pan does though, which bothers me. He’s not elvin.) Generally pixies do not have wings. One could argue that fairies did not always have them in stories, either. But now it’s more than a bit iconic for them to have them.

Which…would make Tinker Bell a fairy. Which she is.

So, Disney, make up your mind.


Danielle Mari said...

That IS bizarre. I think Disney's Pixies has a nice ring to it- just sound-wise. But what in the world? Is it some evil ploy to sell twice as many toys? Buy the PIXIE TINK! NOW BUY THE FAIRY TINK!

Anonymous said...

In most mythological and folkloric research resources, a pixie is type of fairy. As is a banshee, a leprechaun, the hulda-folk of Iceland and many other diminutive supernatural creatures from European folklore. So I am not sure what difference it makes if Tinker Bell is considered a pixie or a fairy by Disney. If she is a pixie, she is a fairy, so they are right. As you say, there are different beliefs about characteristics of pixies and fairies. Fairies are traditionally mischievous, though you say not as much as pixies. In lore, the mischief of fairies in general is not necessarily malevolent but can include things like burning down houses, spoiling crops, and kidnapping children. Pixies, at least in English lore, have fun at the expense of humans mostly just leading travelers on the wrong path. Pointy ears are traditionally an attribute of pixies, not fairies in general so who cares if Tinker Bell has pointy ears or not. Wings, specifically insect-like wings are mostly contemporary idea, and I do agree that they are iconic because of contemporary portrayals.

What they look like and how they dress is sort of irrelevant. Traditionally, they were said to prefer the color green both in clothing, skin, and hair, though were partial to pale white. Some fairies wore hats, some pixies didn't. Some pixies were considered to look like old men, some like winged fairies. In the twentieth century, authors like Yeats were creating groups of fairies based on whether they were social or solitary, or lived and worked in groups. They were often given occupations (like tinkers and shoe-makers) and were partial to red, brown, and grey rather than the traditional green.

While I think Disney is a corporate monster who produces a crappy product, they are not straying from fairy-lore based on an ancient oral tradition. Ideas of what fairies look like differ from town to town in Ireland, Scotland, England and continental Europe. Barrie's interpretation differs from many other interpretations from people way before he came along, his contemporaries, and those after. If he called Tinker Bell a fairy, someone else from a different town may call her a pixie based on his description. Neither one is right or wrong, and neither is Disney.

They are Disney and are marketing a product. I am sure they are not that concerned over the exact specifications of Barrie's description. Integrity has no place in marketing and sales.

Peter said...

Thank you for your comment.
First, I always find it interesting when someone is unwilling to leave a name other than "anonymous," especially when the comment is as well written as yours.

I am not refuting most of what you say. However, when you lump all of the mythological/folklore entities together, you are referring to Faerie, as opposed to fairy. Yes, one can consider it just a spelling difference. Which it is. But it also carries with it an umbrella-like aspect, a sort of "race." Such as homo sapiens can refer to a child or an adult. And yet, there are classifications even there. A woman is not a girl (in the technical sense). A banshee is certainly not a leprechaun. But each can be labeled as coming from the world of, or as, a Faerie. In that sense, a pixie is a cousin, shall we say, to a fairy. But you know what? This could probably be argued until all of Faerie reclaims the world.

I think you missed my point(s).
It does matter whether or not Disney calls Tinker Bell a pixie or a fairy. They had already claimed her to be a pixie. In my opinion, they should have some integrity and consistency within their own work. It makes them quite negligent. Especially when they are borrowing the character in the first place. You say that it doesn't matter what Barrie called her. It most definitely does. For, you see, the fact is that he did not call her a pixie. He made a conscious choice to delineate her. He could have labeled her a sprite. But he did not. If he decreed she is a fairy, then that is what she is. One cannot simply, or worse - arbitrarily, re-classify her. Show some respect for the work of an artist. Perhaps it doesn't matter if I refer to a well-known painting as the Mona Liza. [Just ask Ms. Minnelli. ;)]

Thus, Disney has not only discredited the man whose work they used, they discredited their own re-write. That's my point.

I do see yours regarding the unsettling idea that a major corporation doesn't care about anything but greed...but then, aren't we both making that point?

Jay said...

Peter, it is Jay and I wrote the above post and didn't sign it because I was on my way out of work.

Just a follow up, Faerie is the Middle English spelling of fairy, and usually refers to the world of the fairies rather than the creatures as a whole. Fairy is used as a term to describe the collective (and also the world of fairies) but both definition are obsolete, as is the Middle English spelling. It is all semantics anyway. The second part of your post seemed to be designating blanket characteristics on pixies and fairies, and then you say:
"Which…would make Tinker Bell a fairy." I was addressing that. If I misinterpreted, my mistake.

I overlooked the line in the first paragraph that you mention Disney's consistency being a problem which is my mistake. However, there is no mention in the post of Disney's "discredit" of Barrie. Though, I am aware of your issues with staying true to original sources. Mostly, I would agree that if you are doing a true sequel that you need to stay as close to the original as possible. I disagree though in this particular case because what you are referring to is not a sequel. It is a character in a Disney movie based on character from a Disney movie based on a Barrie character. I would assume that Disney writers and producers would never even consider going to the original source as a reference so that they could stay true to the work. If they did at this point, most people would not get it. People who watch Disney movies in general probably do not even know that there was a book (I know you are aware of this with many other instances outside of Peter Pan) let alone that Tinker Bell is different in the book than in the movie. I would guess most people don't care either. The collective memory of the world at this day in age is more familiar with the Disney version rather than the Barrie version. I don't think anyone is intentionally spitting on the legacy of Barrie, including Disney. Your Mona Lisa comparison is not really applicable though because that is an icon that is still recognized by that name and that image in the collective memory. I would rather say that it if all of a sudden experts discovered it was really called the Mona Liza, people would still call it the Mona Lisa.

Bottom line, I would go as far as saying that the Disney Tinker Bell and the Barrie Tinker Bell are not even the same character at this point. So if they called her a flying monkey, who cares? Again, they are producing a product to make money, and frankly, they probably would not make money on a true representation. Sad but true.

You shouldn't take it so personal though. Disney has crapped on tons of original stories, it is their business model.

Peter said...

That's what I had said, that 'Faerie' is both a variant spelling and a collective term for the 'world of creatures.'

People not being aware of the "facts" does not make it acceptable. It's a sad comment on people in general.
It doesn't matter if it's a sequel (or a prequel such as the Barry/Pearson books or the movie Tinker Bell) it's still using the character of another. I fail to see how an artist can be so disrespectful of another artist. Sure, I'm aware it happens all the time. But it doesn't mean I have to like it or let it slide.

Again, the real point of the post is that Disney can't even keep their own words in line. The whole thing had been meant in a laughing at them manner, with yes, a slight slap on the wrist. For fun. The fact that Disney contradicts themselves is the real issue here. Contradicting authors whose work they use (unfortunately) is a given.

Forgive me for caring about literature and art. Take no offense, but it's your attitude that is part of the problem, isn't it? How can we let this stuff go by without saying anything at all?
I can't be the ONLY one who cares. And if I am, then woe to the world. :)

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Peter said...

The above comment has been deleted not because it offended, but because the entire subject matter had nothing to do with this post.

Please, keep comments related to the subject. Do not use random posts as a place to write your thoughts to me. If you have comments for me directly, feel free to use the Guestbook. You may access it via clicking the pen and ink drawings on the site. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I for one don't think Peter Pan would be for censorship.

*the Golden Dwarf

Peter said...

Possibly. But just because he's not one to follow the rules doesn't mean you share that same right on my site. Please show me the simple courtesy of putting comments in their proper place. Thanks.