Fortunately, the Disney Insider has done some sleuthing and learned, more or less, everything you ever wanted to know about Tinker Bell.
Tink originally appeared in J.M. Barrie's play, "Peter Pan." Well, sort of - onstage, the pixie never appeared in person, but was traditionally represented by a beam of light. When Walt Disney decided to film "Peter Pan," how to represent Tinker Bell was one of the great dilemmas to be resolved. Ultimately, Disney and his animators decided to put the mischievous fairy on the screen - but to keep with tradition in having her "voice" be a tinkling bell that only Peter can understand.
Although Tinker Bell's vavoom figure and winsome blonde appearance have led generations of moviegoers to compare her to Marilyn Monroe, animator Marc Davis actually modeled her on actress Margaret Kerry. The Studio was quick to point out that although Tink might LOOK like Ms. Kerry, her capricious and sometimes downright mean personality had nothing to do with the actress!
"Peter Pan" was a hit, but it was Tinker Bell who went on to become a cultural touchstone. The pixie proved so popular that she became something of an ambassador for Disney. In the process, her image has become less jealous pint-sized femme fatale and more dispenser of pixie dust, although that touch of mischief still remains part of her appeal.
These days you can see Tink at the opening of "The Wonderful World of Disney," in the air at Disney theme park firework shows, and on every Disney DVD. She's prominently featured in the 50th Anniversary parade at Disneyland, "Walt Disney's Parade of Dreams," and Tinker Bell costumes and toys rival Disney Princess gear in popularity among little girls.
Although she's a beloved and instantly recognized character, there are many unanswered mysteries about Tinker Bell, stemming all the way back to "Peter Pan." Where did she come from? Who are her friends? Where does Tinker Bell go when she isn't hanging out with Peter Pan and the Lost Boys? These are questions that are never answered by Barrie, or by the film. But Tink is such a vivid presence that for more than 50 years, children have wondered about her.
These burning questions led the Disney team to develop a detailed story about Tinker Bell and the world from which she comes. Tinker Bell's world will be unveiled in a story first introduced in the novel "Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg" (available this month) by Gail Carson Levine of "Ella Enchanted" fame. The books feature illustrations by David Christiana. There's also a global Web site at DisneyFairies.com where we can meet the fairies and a get a glimpse of their world and pastimes.
"I was so glad when the people at Disney Publishing invited me to be part of the project," Ms. Levine commented. "To enter the world of Peter Pan and weave in a new landscape has been an enormous honor. I'll be thrilled if readers join the fairies' quest and go on clapping and believing and keeping Never Land young forever."
We learn that Tinker Bell is, in fact, a talented tinker - good at mending metal objects with her little hammer. This refers all the way back to a little joke in Barrie's Peter Pan - Peter claims that Tink is a common "tinker" sort of fairy. Tinkers, in Victorian England, were traveling tinsmiths.
By exploring Tink's world, the artists of Disney hope that they will give the enduring fairy new dimension - and a new place in the hearts of children (and adults) everywhere. If you believe in fairies, clap your hands for Tinker Bell!