It was early 2008 when Mae Whitman got this mysterious call
from her voiceover agent, Melissa.
Mae Whitman at the world premiere of "The Pirate Fairy" on the Walt Disney Studios lotback on March 22, 2014. Copyright DisneyEnterprises, Inc. All rights reserved
"She was telling me that Disney had this very important
project but that they wouldn't tell Melissa what it actually was. All she knew
that that they were eager for me to come in and audition for this part,"
Whitman recalled during a 2012 interview.
So Mae went in for this audition. Where -- once she got in front
of that mic -- Whitman discovered that she was just supposed to read a couple of
very vaguely-written lines. There were nothing on these pages that gave Mae any
information about the character that she was supposed to be voicing. Even
stranger, the guys behind the glass in the recording booth were being very
tight-lipped as well.
"I got none of the guidance that you typically get in a
voiceover recording session. 'Could you please say that line again only
faster?,' 'Could you make your character sound more excited or happier?' They
just sat back and listened," Whitman continued. "And since I've been
doing voiceover work since I was five, which is why I'm very comfortable in a
recording booth ... Well, I just decided to be myself. Read those lines in my
normal speaking voice."
Brittany Murphy at the 2006 Licensing Show rightafter Disney announced that she would be theofficial voice of Tinker Bell. Photo by Jeff Lange
Ah, but what Mae didn't know was that this wasn't just any
audition. After announcing back in June of 2006 that Brittany Murphy was going
to be the official voice of Tinker Bell for a new series of "Disney
Fairies" home premieres, Disneytoon Studios had now decided to go another
way with this character. And the reason that they'd called Whitman in was that
they were now considering her as someone who could possibly voice Peter Pan's
"From what we've already seen of Tinker Bell in
Disney's 1953 animated feature
, we knew that this character was curious. That
she's fun. She's feisty. She's super-loyal to Peter. Not to mention able to get
angry. So we really needed to find a voice that could capture all of those
emotions that we already knew about Tinker Bell without her even
speaking," explained Peggy Holmes, the director of "Secret of the
" & the soon-to-be-released "The Pirate Fairy
"So we needed to find an actress that could portray that range of
emotions. And Mae Whitman -- thankfully -- had that range. She can work
onstage. She can work on film. She can work on television. And she can work in
voiceover. And it's all that experience that gave her the depth that we need
for this iconic character."
And when Whitman found out that she was being offered the
opportunity to voice Tinker Bell, she freaked.
Tinker Bell & Mae Whitman back in September of2010 back when Peter Pan's Pixie Pal got hervery own star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame.Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.All rights reserved
"Now you have to understand that -- when I was growing
up -- 'Peter Pan' was my favorite Disney movie. So to now be part of the team
that gets to go back to Never Land
and have all these new adventures with characters that I've loved since
childhood ... Well, it's honestly like a dream come true," Mae enthused.
"So for me, this job is definitely filled with love."
Mind you, at this point, Whitman now has six "Disney Fairies"
films & TV specials under her belt. And having spent all that time in Pixie
Hollow, has the pixie dust now begun to fade for her?
"To be honestly, no," Mae stated. "What's
great about the people at Disneytoon Studios is that -- with each of these projects
-- they've then built out the world of Pixie Hollow bit by bit. With each film,
they've brought in new characters. Better yet, they've allowed Tinker Bell and
her friends to change and grow."
(L to R) Tinker Bell, Mae Whitman & Periwinkle (Tinker Bell'ssister) at the November 2012 premiere of "Secret of theWings." Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved
"I mean, in the first "Disney Fairies" film, Tinker
Bell didn't even want to be a tinker. She wanted to change her talent. But at
this point in the "Disney Fairies" film series, Tink is hugely proud
of being a tinker fairy. She wouldn't change her talent for anything in the
world," Whitman said. "That's what I love about working on this
series. The lessons carry over from movie to movie. More to the point, Tinker
Bell herself changes from film & film. She's always changing and
And speaking of growing ... After spending the past five
projects exploring this one teeny tiny corner of Never
Land, the folks at Disneytoon
Studios have decided to use "The Pirate Fairy" as an excuse to
finally leave Pixie Hollow and go off & explore more of the island.
"The initial idea was to do a road trip adventure with Tinker
Bell and her friends and this adventure dealt with a rogue fairy who was
experimenting with pixie dust," explained Jeffrey M. Howard, the
screenwriter on "The Pirate Fairy." "But once we had the idea of
putting pirates into this 'Disney Fairies' film ... Well, it only seemed
natural to include the most famous Never
Land pirate of all, Captain
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved
Now do keep in mind that this is a far younger version of
James Bartholomew Hook than we saw in Disney's 1953 version of "Peter
Pan." But the story team at Disneytoon Studios actually turned this to
their advantage by making "The Pirate Fairy" the very first time this
Disney Villain fought using a hook or got chomped in the butt by Tic Toc the
crocodile. And if you sit through the credits of this "Disney Fairies" film,
you actually get to see that fateful moment where Hook first meets Mr. Smee.
And for someone like Mae Witman, who's been a "Peter
Pan" fan for as long as she can remember, doing voicework on a film where
Tink and her friends actually visit Skull Rock and then do battle on a flying
pirate ship that's being powered by pixie dust ... Well, you just know that
this has to be a thrill.
"I just love that I get to be a part of this legacy at
Disney," Whitman admitted. "I mean, back in September of 2012, I got
to be part of this D23 event which honored 75 years of Feature Animation. Which
was where I was supposed to be paneling with Margaret Kerry -- who was the
live-action model for this character back in the early 1950s -- and Ginny Mack
-- who Walt personally chose as the face model for Tinker Bell."
Peggy Holmes & Mae Whitman at D23's Destination D: 75 Years of Disney Animated Features event back in September of 2012.
"Now I'm backstage with Peggy Holmes, waiting to go.
And just then it hits me that I'm now actually part of this Disney legacy. That
I'm now one of the women who's been entrusted with keeping the character of
Tinker Bell alive & magical," Mae remembered. "And I got so
emotionally overwhelmed at that moment that Peggy actually had to walk me
around for a little while and calm me down a little."
"I just hope that -- 60 years from now -- when Disney's putting
together panels to promote the new holographic Tinker Bell movies that they'll
be making then that I'll look as good as Margaret & Ginny did at that D23
presentation," Whitman laughed.
The Tinker Bell movies are generally good films. I'm glad that Whitman is so happy to be a part of it. "The Pirate Fairy" seems pretty cool, and the pirate angle might also appeal to boys, helping Disney win that elusive boy demographic.