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Wednesdays with Wade: Tinker Bell Talks!

Wednesdays with Wade: Tinker Bell Talks!

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I'd like to take this column to give a very big plug to Margaret Kerry's new website. For those readers who liked my earlier column on Disneyland's first Tinker Bells, then this will be a "must visit" site for you. (And Disney Archivist Dave Smith explained why "Tinker Bell" is two words because in the Disney animated film, Captain Hook refers to her as "Miss Bell".)

For those of you not familiar with Margaret Kerry, Margaret's career goes back to when she performed in the "Our Gang" series and films like Eddie Cantor's "If You Knew Susie". "The Charlie Ruggles Show," one of the first network television family sitcoms on ABC, cast Margaret as the eldest daughter, Sharon. The final episode was her character's wedding and honeymoon and it turned out to be a major media event.

Later, Margaret married Producer *** Brown and found a new career as a voice over artist in her husband's uniquely animated productions. She is the voice of Spinner and Paddlefoot and the females in the first animated series to feature SYNCHRO-VOX (which is basically human talking lips superimposed on a cartoon drawing,) "Clutch Cargo". "Captain Fathom" and "Space Angel" followed. Margaret can also be seen in many of the live-action segments that open and close the 139 episodes of "The New Three Stooges," as well as be heard in the animated portion voicing all the kids, females, and various odd characters.

However, for readers of this website, Margaret's most memorable theatrical performance was to be the live action reference model for the character of Tinker Bell in Disney's animated "Peter Pan" at the tender age of twenty-two. Despite Walt himself in a magazine quote leading the public to believe that Tinker Bell was inspired by Marilyn Monroe, animator Marc Davis very loudly and frequently emphasized that it was Margaret who provided the physical inspiration.

Margaret is currently finishing up her autobiographical scrapbook entitled "Tinker Bell Talks: Tales of a Pixie Dusted Life".

In October 2003, I got to accompany Disney Historian Jim Korkis as he walked Margaret around the World Showcase at Epcot. Margaret is a member of the Carolwood Pacific Historical Society and made her first trip to Walt Disney World for the re-dedication of the Roger E. Broggie engine. Jim was one of the speakers at the event but he is also a great interviewer who is often able to get unique stories out of someone. If you don't believe me, check out his Ward Kimball interview that will be appearing in the second volume of "Walt's People" out this summer. Jim got Ward to share stories that have never appeared anywhere else.

So to help publicize Margaret's site, I asked Jim if I could share some of the notes he took while talking with Margaret that afternoon. However, those notes really don't capture the experience of walking with those two and seeing Margaret wearing her "original Tinker Bell" nametag and so generously giving her autograph to those around World Showcase who recognized Jim and Jim proudly introducing her and quietly stepping back so the spotlight could shine on Margaret. (Jim even cleverly had some Tinker Bell pictures with him for Margaret to shine for her many fans.)

In his e-mail, Jim said, "Anything to help Margaret! She is a delightful, intelligent and classy woman who will never age. She has more energy than the eighteen year olds I mentor. I have been patiently waiting for her book since we discussed it over lunch at the Germany pavilion at Epcot. I still treasure the card of sympathy she sent when my father passed away several months ago. I hope that this brief glimpse at our conversation will encourage readers to not only visit her website but to buy her book. And tell Margaret I am sorry I missed her birthday and next time I am the one paying for the lunch!"

So here are some of Disney Historian Jim Korkis's notes of Margaret Kerry's memories from that sunny afternoon in October 2003:

"I had an agent who sent me over for the Disney audition for PETER PAN. How do you audition for animation and for a character who doesn't speak? At home I had a room set up...my dance room...with all these mirrors and a bar, etc....so I got this little record player and put on an instrumental record and I worked up a pantomime to the beat of the record of making breakfast. You know, carrying eggs and maybe dropping one, etc. So the next day I went to the studio and took the record player and put on the record and did this mime I had created. I believe there were three people there...probably Marc Davis and Gerry Geronomi and somebody else I can't remember right now. Anyway, they gave me some direction of 'look up as if you see such and such', etc. Now my memory is that they offered me the job there and then but it may have been not until I got home that I got the offer.

"Anyway, they said, 'at your convenience, please come in on Monday' and that sounded odd to me so I pushed it and said 'How about 10:00?' and they said 'Fine'. So I showed up and was in a bathing suit....and tennis shoes! You can see it in a publicity photo or two and they offered to get me ballet slippers and I told them I had those at home and I would bring them in the next day and I did.

"They called me 'Two Take Tink' because I would get it right the first time and then they would have me do it a second time for 'safety'. I was so young and foolish. I could have made a lot more money messing things up so they would have to do it over and over. I am the one who suggested they bring in Roland Dupree to body double Peter. Roland was a terrific dancer but never grew beyond five foot five so never became a romantic lead dancer."

"Kathyrn Beaumont (the voice of Wendy in the film who also participated in the live action sessions) makes a separation between then and now. The work she did for Disney was back then. I went to her classroom when she was a teacher and told stories and did voices for her students...but only under the stipulation that I never reveal to them that Kathyrn had done any work for Disney.

"I did a voice for one of the mermaids and they encouraged us to ad-lib and come up with our own lines and I ad-libbed a little lisp for mine. There were three of us. June Foray and someone else. (Jim's note: "probably Connie Hilton") I also did a voice reading for the Indian squaw but June ended up getting that and I also did a couple of lines for Michael but I don't think they were ever used. I think they had me do them for safety reasons...just in case."

Jim is not just an expert in Disney but in a host of other areas and their conversation wandered into all of Margaret's career and some wonderful anecdotes including the fact that she loved doing "The Charlie Ruggles" Show" but had never seen an episode. Someone had some kinescopes and showed her four shows and she said, "Damn, I was good! And nobody ever told me. The director, unlike a movie director, was up in that glass booth and he never told me if I was doing well or not."

One of the announcers was Hal Smith and he was doing a live commercial for Dr. Ross dog food and the animal was so hungry he gulped down the food and threw up on Hal. Hal just picked up the puppy and petted him and said, "Did you eat too fast because you just love Dr. Ross dog food? Don't worry, Dr. Ross will take good care of you, etc." without missing a beat.

One time, Margaret and her husband took their two children to the Brown Derby on Hollywood Blvd. at Christmas and Hal came out dressed as Santa and saw the kids and started talking to them and Santa just knew everything about them. He even called Margaret's daughter by a pet family name. The kids were enthralled. Hal even made sure he didn't finish by going to his car in the parking lot but walking the other way until they were all out of sight.

Her first husband was *** Brown who produced "Clutch Cargo". As I mentioned earlier, Margaret did voices with Brown's "SYNCHRO-VOX" system. They had a strap around the top of her head to hold her face still and they painted white around her mouth (and different color lipstick for each character) and had a cardboard circle matte around her face when they filmed. She vaguely remembers that the lines must have been off to the side for her to see and read.

She also remembers that Brown was developing several series including one that was very similar to "Jonny Quest". One that she loved was "Golden Eagle" about this World War I fighter pilot who donned the goggles and flight mask (like a superhero) to become the Golden Eagle in this World War I plane. The plane would even scream when it went into a dive like a screaming eagle. They had a "horizontal multiplane camera" where they could have put a picture of a plane on a glass plate and moved it across so it looked like a plane flying.

Margaret also claims to have developed the concept of a series that would take place in an animation studio, "The Company We Keep", which she claims was stolen for "The Duck Factory" (and why isn't that early Jim Carrey tv series on DVD?). It would have been loosely based on animation personalities that she knew and at the end of each episode would be pencil test animation.

I am sure these and many more stories will be in her book. When Jim talked with her, she was about three-quarters of the way through and told him she was going to throw it all out. She felt it was pretty boring stuff and that if she did it in more of a scrapbook format, then she could just tell the stories and share the pictures she wanted to and skip over the "boring stuff". If you had been there listening to Jim interview Margaret, you would have quickly realized that in Margaret's life, there was nothing boring!

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