The Tinker Bell Cocktail and Marc Davisby Jim Korkis, staff writer
I don't really drink alcohol. Occasionally, I will have one glass of wine with an Italian meal or nurse a single SeaBreeze (vodka and cranberry juice) at a social function. I've been drunk twice in my life and didn't care for the experience either time.
Basically, I don't care for the taste of alcohol and, in addition, I saw the negative effects on my peers while attending college. I was always the one holding their heads above toilets or driving them home. If people want to drink, as long as they don't hurt themselves or others, I am fine with them doing so.
So, I am really not qualified to talk about alcohol… except in the Disney historical sense.
During the Golden Age of the Disney Studio, it was quite common for animators to drink, not only because it was the nature of the time period but also to relieve the stress of being in a tiny room for hours and hours with a light shining in your eyes while you attempted to draw thousands of pictures with each one only slightly different from the one before it.
Regrettably, some of the finest Disney animators, like Fred Moore and Norm Ferguson, saw their outstanding talents fade as these artists became too enamored of the comfort of the bottle. Imagineer Mary Blair often went out with other Imagineers for a "three-martini lunch" and came back unable to continue working for the rest of the day.
Retta Scott, the first female animator at Disney, was known as the "Queen of the Martini Set." She could drink anyone under the table and the next day be as fresh as a daisy, unlike her unfortunate drinking companions.
People at the Disney studio had their own special locations to "sleep off" the after effects of too much drinking, like under their animation desks or behind a stack of storyboards. Studio nurse Hazel George kept a huge supply of "pink pills" that helped alleviate the physical discomfort of a hangover.
"Drinking was the inmates' prevalent habit," recalled Disney Legend Jack Kinney, who was best known for his directing of the Goofy cartoon shorts. "Walt was no exception. When we worked late, we often saw his car swerve out of the parking lot as he headed home to Westwood. That was quite a long way to go, but he always made it. He must have had someone watching over him."
"We worked together. We played together. We drank together," he said. "Maybe more ideas were quenched than born in our frequent forays to favorite bars for liquid inspiration."
The tradition of animators and alcohol lives on today. At Pixar animation studio, the animators actually built three bars in the building itself for employees and visitors to get a drink.
Even Walt Disney drank, although there is no evidence that he ever over indulged and embarrassed himself. On the Internet, you will find many uninformed postings that describe Walt as everything from a teetotaler to a "raging alcoholic."
Walt was definitely not an alcoholic but he did drink at parties and award ceremonies and moderately at home, making him no different from any other man who lived during that time period.
Again, there was never any evidence of a stumbling, out of control Walt due to alcohol or being abusive after a few drinks. Walt allowed his animators to leave the Disney Studios at lunch and have a few drinks as long as it did not effect the work they were producing in terms of quality and meeting deadlines.
"Five o'clock was drink time in the office," recalled one of Walt Disney's last secretaries Tommie Wilck. "If you were in the office at 5 o'clock, we always served drinks. Walt had a Scotch Mist and I always served whatever anybody else wanted.
"The Scotch Mist is mostly ice. I would put ice and water in it and then float the scotch on top and not give him very much of it. He got the taste of the scotch without having had much of it. He may have consumed a lot of liquid but I don't think he really got much liquor."
Walt's daughter Sharon remembered, "He wanted kids to look up to him. He never let himself be photographed with a drink in his hand and I don't think too many photos exist of him with a cigarette."
While Walt both drank and smoked (often three packs a day), he once told the Disney Studio nurse Hazel George that "You're right about one thing. Smoking and drinking are sins. Because you are one of God's creatures and if you don't take care of the body He gave you, you are committing a sin."
"My dad never drank whiskey or smoked or used any swear words," Walt once said and his father took it as a sign his sons were headed down the wrong path when they all started to do so.
It was Walt Disney who set the "no alcohol" policy at Disneyland after seeing how serving alcohol in amusement parks and carnivals almost always resulted in fights and anti-social behavior, like accosting women.
As Walt told "Saturday Evening Post" writer Pete Martin in 1956: "No liquor, no beer, nothing. Because that brings in a rowdy element. That brings people that we don't want and I feel they don't need it. I feel when I go down to the park I don't need a drink. I work around that place all day and I don't have one. After I come out of a heavy day at the studio sometimes I want a drink to relax."
In another interview, Walt said that if people really wanted a drink, they could do as he sometimes did and that was to walk across the street to the Disneyland Hotel and get one in the bar.
By the way, Margaret Kerry, the live action reference model for the character of Tinker Bell in the Disney animated feature Peter Pan, recently sent me the chapter titles for her upcoming book Tinker Bell Talks … Tales of a Pixie Dusted Life, which she assures me will be available this coming fall. I, along with many of Kerry's fans, have been eagerly waiting for the book since she first announced it over a decade ago.
So what do Tinker Bell and alcohol have in common? A very special cocktail created in Tokyo in 1990 and a little-known story about it.
The Old Imperial Bar is located in the Imperial Hotel Tokyo. The hotel was dedicated on November 3, 1890 in the Ginza area near the Imperial Palace. It was built specifically to accommodate the increasing number of foreign guests, in particular the influx of Western visitors, to Japan.
The hotel has gone through some re-design over the years, including work done by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright in 1923. During World War II, there was damage done to the hotel. In addition, after the war, it became obvious that the hotel's remaining 280 rooms were not enough to make the business financially viable.
In 1968, some parts of the historic building were removed to a museum outside of the city of Nagoya and a new high rise structure was built in its place that operates successfully to this day.
However, the Old Imperial Bar still retains original interiors, chairs, carpet designs, ash trays, glass and other elements from the Frank Lloyd Wright period.
In 1990, to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the hotel's dedication, which included the Old Imperial Bar, a competition was announced to create a unique signature cocktail to commemorate the event.
All of the bartenders eagerly took up the challenge and, eventually, nearly 180 original cocktails were created and submitted.
One of the bartenders, Hiroshi Nishiwaki, loved his young daughter dearly. She was a huge fan of Disney and her favorite character was Tinker Bell. So, to honor her, Nishiwaki worked at developing a cocktail inspired by the image of Tinker Bell.
He eventually came up with a new cocktail based on white rum with a slightly green color that he dubbed the "Tinker Bell." He won the first prize over the 180 other entries and the cocktail was officially added to the menu of original cocktails offered by the bar.
Special cards advertising the "Tinker Bell" cocktail were put on the tables of the Old Imperial Bar as well as all the other bars and restaurants in the hotel. They were to be used as coasters for the drink.
One day, shortly after the competition in 1990, an old, slightly overweight American came into the Old Imperial Bar and took a seat at a table near the bar counter. The gentleman was obviously used to the finer things in food and drink and had an educated palate.
He asked the bartender for a recommendation for a cocktail, and the bartender quickly suggested the "Tinker Bell" and briefly explained how it had just won a position on the menu after stiff competition.
The old man listened patiently to the story and then smiled.
"Do you know who I am?" he gently enquired. "I am the father of Tinker Bell."
The man was Disney Legend Marc Davis. Although he had retired from the Disney Company in 1978, he remained active as a consultant with the business, helping with the development of attractions at Florida's Epcot, as well as Tokyo Disneyland. He had just been named a Disney Legend in 1989 and was on a visit to check things out at Tokyo Disneyland.
Davis was known as the "ladies man" in Disney animation. He designed and animated Alice in Alice in Wonderland, Wendy and Tinker Bell in Peter Pan, Briar Rose and Maleficent for Sleeping Beauty and, of course, Cruella De Vil for 101 Dalmatians.
Not only did Davis come up with the final design for Tinker Bell after so many others, including Disney Legend Milt Kahl, had made attempts, he also did much of the animation of her like close-ups and iconic scenes, like when she was standing on the mirror.
While Davis did use some live-action reference footage done with actress-dancer Kerry, he also incorporated his own interpretation of the character. He found it especially rewarding to work with a character who was mute so that thoughts and feelings had to be communicated through pantomime.
"I tried to make a personality out of her," Davis told interviewer Scott Wolf. "When I did this Tinker Bell, there were some people who complained I made a little fat-assed pixie out of the thing which was not true."
Marc was quite sophisticated when it came to drinking, unlike many of his Disney peers. Disney Legend Grim Natwick told animation historian John Canemaker that "His [Marc's] gin martini has long been recognized as the finest martini west of the Mississippi. Never to have tasted a Marc Davis martini is to have been denied an experience unparalleled in drinking tradition."
Of course, Davis ordered a "Tinker Bell" and, by all accounts, enjoyed it. When he finished, he flipped over the small rectangular advertisement card and on the blank back side proceeded to draw a simple sketch of a full figured Tink flying in the air and facing to the right.
The image looked very much like this reversed one that Davis had drawn much earlier.
He autographed the drawing and it is still hanging in the bar, although time has discolored and faded the artwork so that the image and signature are just faintly visible.
However, that is not the end of the story.
Several months later, the bar received a surprise gift. It was a large colorful piece of original artwork from Davis that depicted Tinker Bell kneeling on the rim of a cocktail glass.
The Tink image looked very similar to the one in the upper-left corner of Davis' original series of sketches for the character that can be seen here.
Marc did the drawing in pen and water color. At the bottom of the drawing, he inscribed it "Happy 100th Birthday Imperial Hotel! Marc Davis."
The bar matted and framed the drawing and it hangs behind the bar counter. Visitors can see it if they ask and if they are especially polite, can hold it and have a picture taken with it.
After Davis passed away in January 2002 from a stroke, his wife Alice Davis called the bar to ask about the drawings and was very delighted that they were being well taken care of and shared with guests.
The cocktail became so popular that the bar created a non-alcoholic companion named "Cinderella."
If you Google "Tinker Bell Cocktail," you will find that many places have created their own versions. However, the following recipe is the one served at the Old Imperial Bar and the one that Marc Davis enjoyed.
Tinker Bell Cocktail
1.2 oz White Rum
0.3 oz Peach Liqueur
0.3 oz Parfait Amour or Violet Liqueur
0.02 oz (1 teaspoon) Lemon Juice
Garnish with a green mint cherry in bottom of glass and rim the glass with sugar.
Yes, because of its history, I would sample one of these cocktails. After all, it is a Disney tradition.