Tinker Bell is the symbol of “the magic of Disney” for Disneyland located in Anaheim, California as well as all of the Disney theme parks around the globe.
She first appeared in the 1904 play and 1911 novel “Peter and Wendy” written by Scottish author James. M. Barrie. Virginia Brown Faire played the role of Tinker Bell in the 1924 silent film adaptation of the Barrie children’s tale. In an early draft of the play, Tinker Bell’s name was Tippytoe (or Tippy for short).
In the original novel, Tinker Bell the Fairy was a mischievous, ill-tempered and sometimes vindictive creature (getting the Lost Boys to shoot arrows at Wendy) who lived in Neverland. Called a “common fairy” by Peter Pan, she was his close friend and jealous of anyone who sought his affections.
It was not until the Disney 1953 animated film “Peter Pan” that Tinker Bell was referred to as a pixie who used a sprinkle of pixie dust to enable someone to fly. She had no dialogue in the film. When she communicated, it sounded like a tinkling bell which only fairies and Peter Pan understood.
When designing the image of Tinker Bell for the animated feature film, Disney animator Marc Davis used as a model actress Margaret Kerry (not Marilyn Monroe as many people believe).
Disney’s depicted Tinker Bell as a beautiful fair-skinned, blue-eyed blond, clad in a green strapless mini-dress, green slippers with white puffs and transparent wings. When she flies, she leaves sparkling trails of pixie dust in the air.
In the book, Peter Pan described Tinker Bell as, “exquisitely gowned in a skeleton leaf, cut low and square, through which her figure could be seen to the best advantage. She was slightly inclined to EMBONPOINT [plump hourglass figure].”
In 1954, Tinker Bell appeared in the opening credits of Disney’s live-action television anthology series (1954-1992) beginning with “Disneyland” (where Tinker Bell introduced FRONTIERLAND, TOMORROWLAND, ADVENTURELAND and FANTASYLAND), to “Walt Disney Presents,” “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color,” “The Wonderful World of Disney,” and “The Magical World of Disney” when “The Wonderful World of Disney” moved from ABC to NBC in 1988.
When the Disneyland theme park opened in 1955, Tinker Bell was featured in “Peter Pan’s Flight,” a theme park ride based on the artwork from the animated film. The same ride was later installed in Walt Disney World in Florida.
In 1955 and again in 1960, Mary Martin performed the Broadway version of “Peter Pan” for television audiences who had the chance to save Tinker Bell’s life after she drank poison to save Peter Pan. All the viewers had to do was clap their hands, if they believed in fairies. Of course, the resounding claps from all the children watching the program restored Tinker Bell (seen only as a ball of light) back to life.
In 1961, Tinker Bell became a feature attraction at Disneyland when she appeared nightly in human form when 70-year-old Helen “Tiny” Deutch Kline (1891 – 1964), a petite, four-foot-ten inch tall, 98 pounds Hungarian circus aerialist in her 70’s dressed as Tinker Bell the Fairy and flew (suspended from a cable) from the top of the Matterhorn over Sleeping Beauty Castle and then on over towards Frontierland, as part of the Fantasy in the Sky fireworks show. To stop the built up momentum from sliding down the wire, Kline had to crash into a mattress.
Kline got the job because she had previously slid down a cable in a harness at the Hollywood Bowl dressed as Tinker Bell as part of a concert Walt Disney had organized in the late 1950s called ‘Disneyland sponsors Disney Night at the Hollywood Bowl’.
When Kline died of stomach cancer in 1964, she was replaced by 19-year-old Mimi Zabini, a French circus acrobat, who was followed by Judy Kaye. Tinker Bell flew from 1961 through 1977 then resumed her flight with the opening of the new Fantasyland in 1983.
Two years later on July 3, 1985 Tinker Bell made her first flight at Disney’s World Magic Kingdom in Florida from the top of Cinderella’s Castle to Tomorrowland Terrace.
In 1988, Tinker Bell appeared in the closing credits of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” where she sprinkled fairy dust as the screen went black after Porky Pig’s trademark “That’s All Folks” farewell.
Julia Roberts played the role of Tinker Bell in the 1991 full-length theatrical release “Hook” starring Robin Williams as Peter Pan and Dustin Hoffman as Captain Hook.
The Fox network produced an animated program “Peter Pan and the Pirates” where the voice of Tinker Bell was played by Debi Derryberry. Sumi Shimamoto played Tink’s voice in the 1989 anime “Peter Pan no Boken.”
Tinker Bell became the focus of the Disney Princess franchise and later starred in the Disney Fairies cartoon series in 2005 where she lived at Pixie Hollow with several of her fairy friends: Rosetta, Iridessa, Silvermist and Fawn.
The series spawned a number of full-length direct-to-DVD films, including “Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure” (2009); “Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue” (2010); “Tinker Bell: Secret of the Wings” (2012) which introduced Tinker Bell’s twin sister, Periwinkle; and “Tinker Bell and the Pirate Fairy” (2014); Legend of the Neverbeast (2014); and “Pixie Hollow Games (2011), a half hour TV special. Mae Whitman provided Tink’s voice for the DVDs.
In August 2007, the US Post Office issued a 41 cent stamp featuring Tinker Bell and Peter Pan, as well as stamps for Mickey Mouse, Dumbo and Timothy Mouse, Aladdin and Genie.
During the 2008 Walt Disney World Christmas Day Parade special on ABC, Disney announced that a Tinker Bell float would be added to the Disney’s Electrical Parade at Disney’s California.
On October 28, 2008, a Pixie Hollow meet-and-greet opened near the Matterhorn at the edge of Tomorrowland, toward Fantasyland in Disneyland where guests were able to interact with Tinker Bell and her companions. Each fairy posed for photos and signed autograph books.
A similar area called “Tinker Bell’s Magical Nook” was located in Adventureland at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom in Florida. Tinker Bell later moved to Town Square Theater where she now meets visitors without her fairy friends.
In November 2009, Tinker Bell became the smallest waxwork ever made for Madame Tussauds’ Wax Museum in London – measuring only five and a half inches.
To celebrate the Hollywood Walk of Fame’s 50th anniversary on September 21, 2010, Tinker Bell earned a star (the 2,418th) on the Hollywood Walk of Fame becoming he sixth Disney character to receive this honor.
In 2010, there was also buzz in the entertainment industry that a live-action film called “Tinker Bell” would star actress Elizabeth Banks. So far, the movie has not materialized.
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