TINKER BELL: PAST AND PRESENT
“Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure” will be released on home video on Oct. 27, but, no, that’s not a scene from it above. The iridescent pixie shown above is a conceptual design drawing of Tinker Bell, Peter Pan’s sprightly sidekick, from the late 1930s. This version was created with the beauty of a Dresden doll in mind and lacked that spunky hot-headedness that defined Tink when she finally reached the screen in the years-in-the-making “Peter Pan” in 1953. It’s interesting to see the long history of a character that, really, is only now getting her Disney close-up.
Aside from her regular appearances on Walt Disney’s various anthology TV shows — “Disneyland,” “Walt Disney Presents” and “The Wonderful World of Disney,” among others — she’s traditionally was a character that Disney put little effort into developing as a key property. That changed with the creation in 2005 of the Disney Fairies campaign, which includes children’s books, dolls, play-sets and a Pixie Hollow attraction at Disneyland and Disney World’s Magic Kingdom — all set in Tinker Bell’s fairy world.
Last October, Disney released “Tinker Bell,” the first movie starring the fairy, on DVD and Blu-ray, and that was just the beginning, with a planned four more in the works. The second of those releases is “Lost Treasure,” which, like the previous film, takes place before the events shown in “Peter Pan” and draws its inspiration from a season — the first film was spring, this one is fall and, in this second image, you can see Tink is very different than she was in her protean stage of seven decades ago.
Despite Tink’s very lady-like associations, her latest film is being overseen by a couple of guys: director Klay Hall and producer Sean Lurie. The guys talked to Hero Complex contributor Patrick Kevin Day about working with Pixar mastermind John Lasseter, updating Tinker Bell’s look and making a fairy movie despite being male.
PKD: What was the origin of the idea of making four Tinker Bell movies at once?
Klay Hall: It started when John Lasseter took over as the chief creative officer for [Walt Disney Feature Animation]. He sat down with myself and the rest of the directors and producers, and we talked about what this whole [Disney Fairies] world could bring to film. We landed on the idea to go with four stories based on the seasons. We liked the idea that fairies brought seasons to the world, so we decided to go out and start coming up with four different ideas for four different movies that would support the idea of seasonal change. They weren’t supposed to be sequels, they were supposed to be stand-alone movies that could just be able to be played by themselves and you could get the content and the characters and everything.
PKD: What’s it like working with John Lasseter?
Hall: At first it was as scary as you can imagine. He’s an amazing guy and has such an incredible track record. We were all in awe of him. But once you got to know him, he’s a real personal, warm guy who greets you with a big bear hug and is a real collaborator. And really supportive of the creative process and a director-driven movie studio. He sat down with us all, he embraced us. It felt we were on a level playing field. It never felt like an executive coming in to help guide you.
Sean Lurie: He had such a great way of giving notes. He wants directors to solve story problems, and he’s there to help. The way he approaches it, he says, “I’m going to tell you the things that I think are working and the things I think aren’t working. I might even have some ideas, but you don’t have to take those ideas.” He has a way of being critical of material in a warm, open way. You embrace it and appreciate it. He’s tremendous.
PKD: What Pixar-style methods did he introduce to you?
Hall: Right off the bat, he eliminated the executive-approval process. What he incorporates was the brain trust or story trust, modeled after the Pixar one, where it’s a group of directors and some producers and you read each other’s scripts or you screen the dailies and basically everyone is asked to be brutally honest. Check the ego at the door. No agendas other than to make a quality product. He brought that in. It worked out well for all of us. Now it’s an ongoing process.
PKD: How many people are in the group?
Hall: Probably around 10 or 12. We don’t have set meeting times. If a director needs help, he’ll call a meeting and people will scramble to get there. We have a very open atrium in the middle of the studio. When people go to get coffee or go to the restroom, people bump into each other there.
Lurie: At Pixar, Ed [Catmull] and John had this big atrium where you can get food. They intentionally put the bathrooms out there. Their intention was to create a central area that would create an informal dialogue among people. It’s amazing how much that actually factors in. We have a similar thing here too. A lot of conversations come out when you’re going to get a bowl of cereal.
PKD: How did you update the look of Tinker Bell?
Hall: Her original inspiration was the Blue Fairy. She went through several forms all the way up through Marc Davis’ designs in the early ‘50s for the “Peter Pan” release in 1953. We started there, with the Marc Davis design, the classic Tink. Everyone’s familiar with the iconic figure from the theme parks. She’s on so many products in her little green skirt and pompoms on her shoes and a little bun in her hair. We felt it was important to not only embrace the classic Tink, but to give her a fresh look in these new films.
With the seasons supporting her change, her costume could adapt to the seasons. For our movie, we transported her to a far-off world, where she can’t wear this little dress. It’s not just because of the elements, but because it’s more of a rough-and -tumble ride. We had the opportunity to give a new fresh look to her. We kept the pompoms, but we added boots. Leggings. She still has her traditional outfit over a long shirt and leggings. We added a shawl. Added a little hat for her. We wanted to emphasize the adventure aspect.
PKD: So the only change in her look was her costume?
Hall: Primarily, it was a costume change. The change in her face was from taking a 2-D design into a 3-D film. We went back to the archives and the original model sheets Marc Davis drew and incorporated those into the three-dimensional model. The way it’s lit and her facial expressions are all based on Marc’s key drawings.
Lurie: We tried to stay true to the original Tinker Bell from “Peter Pan.” John came to us with a number of specific notes, including the shape of her eyes. We were doing a more almond shape early on. He said, “I want you to take these drawings out and look at the shape of the eyes.” We tried to make it look as much as we could like the original 2-D drawings.
PKD: You’re both guys making a film to appeal to little girls? How do you trust your instincts?
Hall: We are both guys, and both of us have two sons each. So we come from a boy/man angle on this thing. It was a great challenge. I really welcomed that challenge to take the iconic Tinker Bell and make a great movie with her. Adding the adventure aspect to the movie. And pushing her personality as much as we could. She’s a tomboy, and we went back to that.
Lurie: The film has some adventure, and it’s a quest movie. That’s Klay’s influence and, to a lesser degree, mine. We tried to make a film that is a broad family film, that would appeal to everybody and their family. So if there’s brothers and sisters, and maybe the brothers would be interested too. It’s a fairy film, and boys, for a variety of reasons, won’t be running out to get that. But it’s a great classic adventure. I think that although our primary audience might be young girls, if you make a good movie, you’ll pull in a lot of people.
– Patrick Kevin Day
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Photos: Top: Tinker Bell design from the late 1930s; Middle: Tinker Bell from “Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure”; Bottom: Marc Davis’ Tinker Bell design from the early 1950s. Credit: The Walt Disney Co.