Today, Hollywood is full of films with messages embedded in them. This is true of cinema since it’s beginning. Many times if a message is not completely overt, then they are hidden and require heavy analysis and inference to figure out what can be taken away from the film. The film we will analyze is Disney’s Secret of The Wings, directed by Peggy Holmes. This film centers itself around the story of Tinker Bell and her life altering experience.
Tinker Bell lives in Autumn Woods, which is the warm side of the land. It is a complete climate difference than the opposite side, Winter Woods. Winter Woods is the icy cold home to winter fairies. A log makes a barrier, with one climate on either side of it. The law for both sides is that no fairy can cross the barrier under any circumstance. Despite that, Tinker Bell’s curiosity drives her to venture over to the side. In doing this she discovers something astounding, in that she has a sister.
This is a film that I have never seen growing seeing as that it was released in 2012. However, it is certainly a children’s movie, which stems from the familiar story of discovering new things and pushing boundaries. The target audience is children with their families. This appeals to girls more than boys but it has elements that give it a male audience. With that established, let’s get right into the messages that this film conveys. This film included a cliché message and several problematic messages. We will analyze all of these and see if the positive message outweighs the problematic messages.
Pathos is the biggest and most effective appeal employed throughout this film. Ethos and logos aren’t as apparent and so we will focus on the emotional appeal. We immediately connect with Tinker Bell when the film begins. She is kind, cute, witty, slightly troublesome, and has a desire for adventure. As children and adults, this is what many of us wish to be like. We often are afraid of risks and adventure, yet Tink sweetly embraces them. This pathos is directly linked to the positive message. This message that I deduced can be broken up into two parts. The overall theme of them is to stand up for what you believe in. Within this, there two are sub-messages that are, have determination despite obstacles authority presents, and true love and friendship never fails. In the book Everything’s and Argument, by Andrea Lunsford and Ruszkiewicz they talk about things called human-interest stories. I believe that this is employed in Secret of The Wings. Lunsford and Ruszkiewicz say the pathos appeal “[uses] a particular incident to evoke sympathy, understanding, outrage, or amusement” (Lunsford and Ruszkiewicz 39). I believe Secret of The Wings highlights the first two.
The story is centered on gathering viewer’s support of the positive message I mentioned above. There are specific scenes, like when Tinker Bell and her long lost sister Periwinkle first meet, that gather these emotions from the audience because we realize how unfair it is that they have been so far apart. They have a great time together and make audiences believe that it is better that they remain together, despite the fact that we know what the law states. The law is in place to keep the fairies safe, since the opposing climates are not suited for them, posing a great danger to their wings. By this point though, we don’t care anymore. We have been manipulated by the overwhelming emotion that these two sisters bring on screen and it no longer matters what the law says. This is a highly effective use of pathos and it gets that powerful message across.
On the flip side there are counter messages. These are that we should challenge authority despite the dangers they present, determination and pursuit of friendship always ends well, and curiosity is enough reason to go against the law. These are all messages that are problematic and harmful to the children that they target. Tinker Bell is so curious that she decides to step over to Winter Woods. Her only reason at the moment was because she was curious. Tinker Bell also challenged authority and wouldn’t take no for an answer. She was told by the King of the Winter Woods Lord Milari to never return and that she couldn’t see her sister again. Tinker Bell responded saying “no” straight to his face. This utter disregard for authority could potentially be a negative influence on children watching. What is wrong with this is that saying “no” doesn’t work very well in the real world. Not abiding by the laws often results in people ending up killed or in jail. As if this wasn’t enough, Tinker Bell and Periwinkle were persistent and believed in their relationship so much that the movie convinces us that the story has to end well. The truth is that the harder they pursue each other, the more adversity they face. This ultimately turns to a grandiose scale that puts the whole land of Pixie Hollow in jeopardy of freezing over including the pixie dust tree, which allows fairies to fly. However, the film brings together a miraculous solution and all is well. In a realistic setting, this would likely not end well. Laws are not changed easily like that and this gives children a false hope.
Now it comes to the decision of which argument was made more effectively and which has a greater weight on the scales. Before being able to properly choose, Louis Giannetti’s book, Understanding Movies discusses that tone must be analyzed first. Giannetti states “tone can strongly affect our responses to a given set of values (Giannetti 442). He continues by saying “without taking a film’s tone into account, a mechanistic analysis of it’s ideological values can be misleading” (Giannetti 442). When analyzing the tone of a movie we are talking about the “manner of presentation, the general atmosphere that a filmmaker creates…toward the dramatic materials” (Giannetti 442). Secret of The Wings has a lighthearted happy one to it. It is one that is joyful, playful, and amusing. These characteristics favor the positive message that the film is attempting to get across. Despite the fact that there are thrice as many negatives, the tone has a way of setting the mood and allowing audiences to look over those problematic areas. A film that can accomplish such a feat as that is truly exceptional. Due to these things, Secret of The Wings gets 3 tickets for a positive message that outweighed multiple negative ones throughout the film.