The Evolution of Tinker Bell



When a new baby laughs for the first time a new fairy is born, and as there are always new babies there are always new fairies.” – J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

There is only one character apart from Mickey Mouse that is synonymous with Walt Disney Animation; the character of Tinker Bell. For years, at the beginning of every Disney movie, Tinker Bell would flick her wand over Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, a shimmer of fairy dust would appear, and the movie begin. It was always a magical moment of anticipation, like she was lending some special power to the film.

As every Disney fans knows, Tinker Bell belongs in Peter Pan’s universe. The story of Peter Pan, from its first inception by J. M. Barrie to the hands of Walt Disney, the great magic maker himself, always included the fairy whose voice tinkled like bells. In Walt’s case, he finally had the opportunity to give Tinker Bell a form, a shape, turning her into more than just a flickering white light. Thanks to the 1953 film, Tinker Bell now has a face that glows red when she’s angry, tiny white pompoms stuck onto her pristine green shoes, and wings so fine that she spins and preens over them whenever she steps in front of a mirror. She can only hold a single thought in her head at a time, making her very selfish and very vain. Yet, Tink remains one of the most beloved characters in Disney animation.

Perhaps she was in danger of dying out. After all, 1953 was a long time ago, and not everyone watches old movies anymore. Or perhaps the Disney animators finally stumbled across an idea that most fans knew all along would be a success, stories about just Tinker Bell. For whatever reason, the Disney Fairies movies debuted in 2008, starring the world’s favorite fairy in her element. The films are a rousing success. Tinker Bell is born from a child’s first laugh in the very first film and where Walt Disney had given her a form, now his writers have given her a voice. Tinker Bell’s attitude is lively and vivacious, occasionally careless, and she never stops talking. Humans hear her as the tinkle of a bell, but to other fairies, she has a real voice.

The change is… magical! Tinker Bell is transformed from a character almost inconceivably selfish into someone audiences relate to and understand. She is softened by her fairy friends of Pixie Hollow and made complete by them in a way that Peter Pan was never able to portray. Tinker Bell was always forgotten and ignored by Peter, and her rage and mischievous behavior stemmed from jealousy and hurt because of Wendy. It’s a relief to see Tinker Bell happy and fulfilled through her adventures in Pixie Hollow. Her friends offer her support and compassion, and never forget her or cast her aside as was Peter’s habit. In fact, he is hardly missed at all. Oh, perhaps in the first film the audience might ponder the whereabouts of Peter Pan, but this is her story, not his.

And because it is her story, the audience gets to know her. Yes, she gets angry sometimes and even makes foolish mistakes. Of course she does, she’s Tinker Bell! Mistakes are part of her genetic design. But she is now more than just that voiceless fairy who flicked a wand before a Disney film. She has her own hopes and dreams that aren’t defined by Peter Pan or Captain Hook or anyone other than herself. In her first film, Tinker Bell, she discovers how much she loves tinkering and her place in Pixie Hollow. In Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure, she nearly goofs up a major project entrusted to her, and realizes she can trust her friends in a time of crisis. She is captured by humans in Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue after befriending a little girl, and she discovers that disobeying orders has dire consequences in Secret of the Wings. Next on the agenda for Pixie Hollow is The Pirate Fairy to be released this spring where Tink will encounter a very young James Hook (voiced by Tom Hiddleston). Each film adds new layers to Tinker Bell’s personality and her story.

The best part of all, though, is the care that the writers and designers have taken in making the Disney Fairies films into high quality entertainment that pleases both children and adults. The Tinker Bell of Peter Pan is mostly one-dimensional. This new and improved Tink exists outside of Peter Pan, with her own friends and her own life. Silvermist, the water fairy, is always a little on the ditzy side, but with a good heart. Rosetta, the garden fairy, offers sarcastic commentary couched in a southern accent. Fawn, the animal fairy, is the playful extrovert who loves and nurtures animals. Iridessa, the light fairy, supports her friends even when she doesn’t always agree with them. Terence, the dust-keeper fairy, could be Tink’s love interest if he ever worked up nerve enough to ask her. And Vidia, the fast-flying fairy, starts out villainous and must be redeemed. The fairies are unique, just as Tink is unique. These movies have taken a single character, sprinkled her with pixie dust, and let her fly. ♥




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