Walt Disney has left us with some of the world’s most beloved characters. We all know Mickey Mouse, the character that started it all, but next to Mickey, one of the most beloved and recognized is Tinker Bell. Tink, as she is sometimes called, has become the symbol of “Disney Magic” ever since her debut in the 1953 Disney classic “Peter Pan” But like many stories and characters in Walt’s stable she was not a Disney creation. Walt was perhaps the world’s greatest storyteller, and used his creative genius along with artistic license to mold many non-Disney stories and characters into his idea of how they should be portrayed.
Tinker Bell was the notion of Scottish author Sir James Matthew Barrie. Author Barrie wrote the story “Peter Pan or The Boy who wouldn’t grow up.” Inspired by his neighbor’s sons, the Llewelyn Davis boys, he penned a tale of a boy and girl (Peter Pan and Wendy Darling) who had magical adventures in a fairy tale world of Neverland. This was a play first launched in December 27, 1904. From this play and story, Barrie wrote the novel “Peter and Wendy.” But it was the minor character of “Tinker Bell,” a small fairy living in Neverland who had a romantic interest in Peter and was extremely jealous of any girls around him, including Wendy that morphed into the Tinker Bell we know today.
Tinker Bell in the original story was described by Barrie as a “Common Fairy.” The name Tinker referred to her talent of mending pots and pans, like a real Tinker. Tinker Bell did not speak, but communicated in the sounds of a tinkling bell, only understood by other fairies. She was described as spoiled, mean tempered and very jealous and sometimes revengeful, she did have a crush on Peter Pan and was helpful and kind to him. Barrie explained that her one-sided mood swings was due to her small size, which could only hold one emotion at a time. Tinker Bell could fly, but not in the rain, and one of her most common traits was the sprinkling “Fairy Dust” (Walt Disney called this “Pixie Dust”) on people so they could also fly.
In the original stage play, Tinker Bell was represented by a small light created by a stage hand holding a mirror and reflecting it onto the stage when needed. Since Tink did not speak, cow bells which Barrie brought from Switzerland were sounded when she spoke. In the Broadway play of Peter Pan, played by stage personality Mary Martin, Tink was still portrayed as a dancing light with bell sounds for dialogue.
Disney’s version of Tinker Bell made her debut in his animated feature film “Peter Pan” in 1953. But she was still not the Tink we are familiar with today. When the film Peter Pan was being developed, Walt knew Tinker Bell couldn’t just be a moving spot of light, as she was portrayed in all Peter Pan embodiments before. Famous animator and one of Walt’s nine old Men, Marc Davis designed the animated Tinker Bell. Still void of speech, Marc relied on Tinker Bell’s expressions for the animation much like previous pantomime Disney characters such as Pluto and Dopey. Today we know that Tink uses a magic wand to spread “Pixie Dust”, but in the movie she does not have a wand. In the movie and official Disney character archives, she is referred to as a pixie. It was after the release of the film that Tinker Bell received the kudos she has now , and has since been known as the “Symbol of Disney Magic.”
Many misspell her name. It is not one word Tinkerbell, but two. In fact, one of Peter Pan’s nemeses, Captain Hook refers to her as “Miss Bell”, denoting a first and last name. The Disney physically description of Tink is a common fairy who fair-skinned, small and slender. She has a short temper and will turn fire engine red when angry. She is fair-skinned and beautiful with blue eyes, blond hair and those famous “Pointy Ears” She usually wears a green strapless mini dress, green shoes with white puffs and clear wings. Many have complained that Disney’s rendering of Tinker Bell is too sexually suggestive. Marc Davis used actress Margaret Kelly for his inspiration. It was said for years that the original model for Tinker Bell was Marilyn Monroe, but this is false.
Tinker Bell was an immediate hit, and has been the “Hostess” for most of Disney’s live action television programming and Disney movie advertisements. She is shown in the beginning of all Disney movies flying over Sleeping Beauty Castle in a counter-clockwise direction, right to left, all the time trailing Pixie Dust. She was used to introduce Disneyland to the public while it was being constructed. Tink’s credits are astounding. In addition to Movies, she has introduced the Disney classic shows such as “Walt Disney Presents”, “The Wonderful World of Disney”, “The Magical World of Disney” and “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color.” She appeared in comics with other Disney characters where she could speak.
The first time Tinker Bell appeared as live character was in Disneyland Park. In 1961 a former circus aerialist named Tiny Kline was hired to fly around the Castle during the fireworks display. She weighed in at 98lbs and was only 4’ 10” tall. She was 71 years old, and very much like Tink, she had a volatile temperament. She retired in 1964.
Tinker Bell has become a Disney icon; she has many appearances since Peter Pan. In a series of book sequels, she appears in “Peter Pan in Scarlett.” In the “Peter and the Starcatchers” series of books by Ridley Pearson and Dave Barry, she is at the end of the first volume. In film, she was played by Julia Roberts in Steven Spielberg’s 1991 film “Hook.” In 2003 French actress Ludivine Sagnier portrayed her in P.J. Hogan’s film “Peter Pan.” She also starred in Fox’s 1990 “Peter Pan and the Pirates” and even in a 1989 Anime series called “The Adventures of Peter Pan.”
In the Disney parks, she is a major character in the Disneyland dark ride, “Peter Pan’s Flight.” In 2008 Disneyland has a Pixie Hollow meet and greets area by the Matterhorn where guests can mingle with Tink and her fairy companions. In Adventureland in Walt Disney World, a “Tinker Bell’s Magic Nook” is located where the old Adventureland Veranda restaurant was. Earlier before 2005, Tinker Bell was only seen flying around during the fireworks, which was started by Walt himself. In 2008, Disney announced that a Tinker Bell float would be added to “Disney’s Electrical Parade” in Disneyland, the first since the since its original run in 1996. She had made appearances in the now defunct “The Walt Disney Cinema Parade” Walt Disney Studios Paris, “The Parade of Dreams” in Disneyland, the “Fantillusion” parade in Disneyland Paris and she replaced the Blue Fairy in Disney’s “Main Street Electrical Parade” in Disneyland and Walt Disney World’s “Electrical Parade.”
Tinker Bell was presented with her own Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on September 21, 2010. She is the sixth Disney character accorded this honor, and the 13th fictional character on the walk. In addition to the movies and books, her merchandise and memorabilia is beloved worldwide and a major mover in the Disney parks. She even has her own Spell Card in Walt Disney Worlds’ “Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom” interactive attraction.
Here is a bit of Tink Trivia: Tinker Bell was given a whole new costume in over fifty years in the movie “Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure.” She has a long sleeve top, leggings, a cape and hat and boot with her pompoms. She was a Disney Princess, but now is in the Disney Fairies line-up . Like the character Ray from “Princess and the Frog”, both turn red from jealousy. She is considered a Disney Mascot, along with the likes of Mickey, Minnie and Winnie the Pooh. Her goal is to be loved by Peter Pan. Tink’s powers are Pixie Dust and flying, and her weapon is a magic wand. Tinker Bell is Disney’s most popular fairy. She is now voiced by voice actress Mae Whitman. It seems that Tinker Bell will be flying high with fans for a very long time.
Bill has been a Disney lover and fanatic since childhood. He moved to Florida to be near Disney and has been a staff writer for Mickey News for five years. Recently, he added writing for WDW Facts, contributing to the Disney Food Blog, and blogging for The Disney Driven Life to his list of activities. All of this was a natural step for Bill, who spends three to four days of every week in Disney Parks either researching or simply taking in the “magic.”