By Mindy Johnson with a Foreword by John Lasseter
Disney Editions has recently published a lavish tome dedicated to the development and history of the beloved, but slightly naughty, fairy Tinker Bell, designed in collaboration with the Animation Research Library. The book traces the history of the sparkly sprite from her origins as essentially a circle of lamplight in J. M. Barrie’s original “Peter Pan”ï¿½ stage play to a fixture in Disney Parks, flying over nightly fireworks shows, to a character with a voice and a bevy of forest friends residing in Pixie Hollow in recent Disney movies.
The first part of the book delves into Disney’s long quest to bring Barrie’s play to the big screen, reflecting the same perseverance shown by Walt when he decided that he absolutely had to secure the rights to another beloved story that is chronicled in the current Disney film, “Saving Mr. Banks.” Disney received the okay to move forward with the project in 1939 after securing the rights from the Great Ormond Street Hospital (to which Barrie had left the rights on his death). Production ground to a halt during the 1940s as a result of a number of difficulties, including an artist’s strike in 1941 and the war in Europe. During that time, Disney turned its attention to making money by doing work in support of the war for the government, including military training films. The movie came back into development in 1945 after the war ended, and inched along for years as the company tried to get back on a firm financial footing. After years of developing the story, the film got the final green light to move forward from Walt in 1950, and a team was assembled to work on the film.
During this time, legendary Disney artist Mary Blair got involved in the film. “Her conceptual work on “Peter Pan” defined the role of Tinker Bell as the ever-present wisp who darts along on Peter’s adventures.” Johnson explains that in developing the overall story for the film, Disney artists invested a great deal of time and effort into developing the appearance and personality of Disney’s most famous fairy. “It seems reasonable to conclude that when concocting their recipe for Tinker Bell, the Disney animators combined equal parts Blue Fairy and Fantasia sprite — with a generous dollop of personality thrown in.” The film was finally released in 1953– after thirteen years of development, three years of active production, the painting of over a million animation cels and $4 million in production costs — and a star was born.
When Walt made his early forays into television in the 1950s, he realized that he needed a character to help introduce the shows. Tinker Bell was the “perfect blend of magic and wonderment,” and became a fixture in the opening sequences of several of the Disney shows, and now in the opening sequences of Disney movies. Tinker Bell has been an ambassador and symbol for the Disney brand for decades, also appearing “in person” in the parks — she first “flew” over the park in 1958 and has continued in various iterations ever since — and helping to sell merchandise as varied as park souvenirs and peanut butter.
This lovely book is chock full of photos and previously unseen concept art, as well as well-researched history of both the Tinker Bell franchise and Disney’s long journey in getting J.M. Barrie’s “Peter Pan” to the screen. It book will delight both Tinker Bell and Peter Pan fans, and will look gorgeous on any Disney fan’s coffee table.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Alice McNutt Miller is a lifelong Disney fan whose fondest childhood memories include “The Wonderful World of Disney” on Sunday nights and her first trip to Disneyland when she was ten years old. Alice and her family are Disney Vacation Club members, and have now visited every one of the Disney parks throughout the world. They live in Vienna, Virginia.
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