How Disney Found an Icon in Tinker Bell

Mickey Mouse and his pals are recognized, rightly, as the mascots of the Walt Disney Company. With that said, another character has long embodied the magic of Disney’s stories. You see her wave her wand atop castles at theme park fireworks shows, and you see her star in her own animated adventures. But just how did Tinker Bell become such an icon? We share the fairy’s tale here.

A Light on a Curtain

Peter Pan began not as a Disney animated feature, but as a 1904 play by JM Barrie. The character of Tinker Bell was always depicted as a tiny fairy. Due to the lack of five-inch-tall actors in the world, Barrie and co. got creative in portraying her. A stagehand would reflect lamplight off a little mirror and point it from offstage at the stage’s backdrop. All the while, an assortment of bells represented her voice, which only Peter could understand. The show became a phenomenon, and audiences loved Tinker Bell as well.

For a figment created by special effects and co-stars’ reactions, she had a big personality. In Barrie’s mythology, fairy bodies are so miniscule that they can only hold one emotion at a time. She could be quite sweet, but also fiercely protective of her friend. Perhaps the play’s most famous scene is her death. As her light dims and blinkers, the actors implore the audience to clap their hands and chant, “I do believe in fairies! I do! I do!” Even over a century later, it works without fail.

Disney Magic

Among the play’s many fans was Walt Disney. In fact, an adaptation of Peter Pan was supposed to be the studio’s second film after Snow White. After many delays, the film finally came out in 1953. In a cast of colorful characters, Tinker Bell is the indisputable breakout star. The medium of animation finally allowed her to be depicted in a humanoid body. Better yet, she’s easily the most dynamic character in the movie, expressing a wide range of emotions from bitter jealousy to remorse to impish cheer.

If Walt was a little cold toward the final product, he was definitely warm to Tinker Bell. He was so taken with her that he made the character a co-host in his Disneyland TV specials. She sprinkles him with pixie dust and helps promote the various areas of the then-nascent theme park. This is arguably the point where she goes from another film character to a new company mascot. This is when the connection between Tinker Bell and Disney magic is firmly sealed.

Pixie Hollow and Beyond

Starting in 1961, Tinker Bell has been a staple at Disney Parks fireworks spectaculars. Every night, she flies in on a zip line, tapping the castle with a magic wand (which, incidentally, she never had in the movie). You can also find her in all kinds of Disney media. Since 2006, she has even starred in her own film series, following her adventures in Neverland’s Pixie Hollow. Far from diminishing her as a character, all these things only make her all the more special to Disney fans.

Tinker Bell Merchandise at Your WDW Store

Fans of Tinker Bell can find all kinds of goodies based on the character right here at Your WDW Store. We have over 650 different items, ranging from pins and collectibles to purses and jewelry and so much more. Our selection will make you clap your hands and believe.