Tinker Bell Talks To Me

by Wade Sampson, staff writer

The computer-animated Tinker Bell, out October 28 on DVD is the first of four Tinker Bell fairy films in the works, a new one launching each year. The basis for this interpretation of the little pixie comes from the 2006 book In the Realm of the Never Fairies, from Disney's publishing house.

The movie represents a refocusing of Disney's straight-to-DVD strategy from releasing sequels of classics such as Bambi, Lady and the Tramp and Cinderella, which have been a rich source of revenue. (Last year's Cinderella III, for instance, took in more than $80 million, the Redhill Group tracking firm estimated.) Instead, they'll go for "more original work, original stories," according to John Lasseter, chief creative officer of Pixar and Disney Animation Studios.

In Tinker Bell, the famous pixie finds her voice and "what she is really meant to be," Lasseter said. "It is kind of a creation story."

The storyline takes place before the events in Disney's animated feature Peter Pan (1953) and introduces Pixie Hollow, a part of Never Land where fairies live.  In Pixie Hollow, where the fairies live, "everything revolves around this one magical tree," Lasseter explained. The Home Tree "is where all the pixie dust comes from. It is the center of Pixie Hollow."

"We're creating a whole new mythology,"  Lasseter said. "It guided me to the notion of how fairies are connected to nature. You know you get those questions with kids who are growing up, like, 'Daddy, why do leaves turn colors in the fall?' and 'Why are there dewdrops on the grass?' And now I've got the perfect answer: 'Fairies did it.'"

The straight-to-DVD Tinker Bell movies will be the following according to the information that Disney has released:

Tinker Bell (October 28, 2008)

  • Director: Bradley Raymond
  • Producer: Jeannine Roussel 
  • "Enter the magical world of fairies and meet the enchanting creatures of Pixie Hollow, who ‘nurture nature’ and bring about the change of the seasons. Changing the colors of the leaves, moving a sunbeam to melt snow, waking animals from their winter slumber, or giving a patch of sproutlings a sprinkle of water are all within the realm of these seasonal specialists. Tinker Bell thinks her fairy talent as a 'tinker' isn't as special or important as the other fairies' talents. But when Tink tries to change who she is, she creates nothing but disaster! With encouragement from her friends Rosetta, Silvermist, Fawn and Iridessa, Tink learns the key to solving her problems lies in her unique tinker abilities… and discovers that when she's true to herself, magical things can happen.”

Tinker Bell: North of Never Land – working title (2009)

  • Director: Klay Hall
  • Producer: Sean Lurie
  • “In autumn, Tinker Bell is entrusted with crafting a great treasure that can rejuvenate the Pixie Dust Tree. But when her friend Terence offers to help, Tink's temper and stubbornness get the better of her, shattering both her creation and her friendship with Terence. To set things right again, she must embark on a journey far North of Never Land… and along the way, she will discover an even greater treasure.”

Tinker Bell: A Midsummer Storm – working title (2010) 

  • Director: Carolyn Gair
  • Producer: Margot Pipkin
  • “After being confronted by her antagonist Vidia, an irritated Tinker Bell retaliates by taking a photograph of Vidia… without considering the consequences. Now, the two must set aside their differences and cooperate to prevent evidence of the existence of fairies from falling into human hands.”

Tinker Bell : A Winter Story – working title (Release Date: 2011)

  • Producer: Sean Lurie

The fourth, as-yet-untold story of Tinker Bell and her fairy friends will take place in winter, completing the cycle of the seasons.

I’ve written about Tinker Bell many times before including here.

To me, the “real” Tinker Bell is the one that appeared in Disney’s original animated feature and the live-action reference model for that character is Margaret Kerry who has had a long and varied career in entertainment. She has her own Web site, called TinkerBellTalks.com (link).

I have known Margaret for several years and she is just delightful and everyone who meets her is struck by the same revelation that despite the decades, she is still very much Tinker Bell.

Margaret is almost finished with her long-in-production memoir Tink Talks: Tales of a Pixie Dusted Life.

“I have finished 87 of the 100 chapters,” she told me recently. “Some of the chapters are only two or three pages long because this is not like the Julie Andrews biography with the ‘and then I did this’ type of chapter.  It is more along the lines of short stories or anecdotes about things that have happened in my life. I keep asking myself what people might want to know. Things slowed down because my computer broke. I drove to Best Buy in this Los Angeles heat and did my best ‘poor little old lady’ impression but they still said they wouldn’t fix Windows 2000, but the boy there was so nice and gave me the names of four places that would. Fortunately, I was worried about my computer so I had someone come in and back up all the files a week or so before my computer went down. However, I can’t get back to writing until the computer is fixed.”

Margaret is also producing a DVD for sale:

“They interviewed me for quite some time for the latest release of the Peter Pan DVD and ended up using only maybe two minutes on the final DVD. I contacted the person who had all the elements from that interview and we are going to edit it and then produce it as a DVD so I have something to sell besides the autographed photos. I am going to stop selling autographed photos because I am running into some problems. One woman sent her photos back because she thought that Tinker Bell looked too pink in the photo. I told her that was the same color pink Tinker Bell was in the original movie but she sent them all back anyway.

“I recently did a presentation for the Disney Archives talking about Tinker Bell. I would say that about 40 people crowded into that small space, some of them sitting on the floor.& Afterward, three of the people involved on the new Tinker Bell DVD came up to me and told me how much they enjoyed it. They said they loved what I said about Tinker Bell and her personality because that was the same approach they were taking. I reminded them that I met with them a couple of years ago and told them the same thing. ‘Or so that’s where we got the information!’ they said. I just laughed. I have seen a small bit of the animation and I think it is wonderful. Tinker Bell talks in it but I tell people that Tinker Bell talks in the original novel. Do you know the first thing she says?  ‘You silly ass!’ That really isn’t really inappropriate it because in those days that expression referred to a donkey. There is this little girl named Mae Whitman who is doing the voice and she does a wonderful job. I think they are going to send her out on promotions for the DVD. She is about 5 feet tall and has the biggest eyes!”

Apparently, Brittany Murphy who was originally signed for the role apparently sounded a little too old for Tinker Bell. It has nothing to do with talent. After all, many voice actors are recorded for a role and then the production changes direction somehow so the Studio wants a different approach to the voice. (For the character of Hades in “Hercules, ”Disney originally approached Jack Nicholson. When those negotiations stalled, they brought in John Lithgow who recorded lines but someone felt he just wasn’t funny and so James Woods was brought in.)

"Tinker Bell is such an indelible character to pop-culture even without a voice," said Dick Cook, chairman of Walt Disney Studios in 2006. "She is sassy, feisty and independent. Brittany's distinctive voice and superb talent will bring all these qualities to life, as well as show new sides to Tink's personality. Audiences will get to know Tinker Bell like never before, and I am sure will fall in love with her all over again."

Mae Whitman is only 19 years old and is thrilled to be giving voice to a classic character.

"Kids will really like her energy and her feistiness because it never comes from a malicious place," Whitman said. "It's always out of the goodness of her heart."

Margaret Kerry is constantly trying to explore new adventures.

“I [did] a little show of skits for the National Fantasy Fan Club convention with Teri Hardin. She is so funny and nice and talented. In one, she [was] an agent and is driving and I [was] her ON STAR car voice. At first, I just start to give directions and then I go off on tangents like “When was the last time you visited your mother?” We are going to do another one where two old ladies are arguing over who is sicker. It should be a lot of fun.

“I found out that Tinker Bell is going to get a star of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I would love to be in attendance. I suspect it might be in connection with the DVD that is coming out.”

Margaret remains a charming and articulate spokeswoman for the fairy she modeled over half a century ago. I think her many Disney fans will be surprised when her biography finally appears at how much else she has done over the years and continues to do.

Keep ‘em flying, Margaret!