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Peter Pan: Kathryn Beaumont Recalls Fond Memories of Wendy and Tinkerbell

The timeless classic never seems to be growing up. It is immortalized forever.

Disney is celebrating the sixty-fifth anniversary of its animated film Peter Pan. The studio has brought the film into its Walt Disney Signature Collection by releasing it on digital download and Blu-ray today. There are two hours of bonus features and never seen before extras, including songs not in the film.

At a press event for its release at Walt Disney Studios, LRM sat down with Kathryn Beaumont, who voiced Wendy in the original movie, for a roundtable interview. Mindy Johnson, a Disney historian, was also in attendance for the interview.

Peter Pan is available today on Blu-ray, DVD and digital download. Get your copy today.

Read the interview transcript below.

Could you talk about your experiences?

Kathryn Beaumont: What specific thing? I did the voice work. I did the recording. There was just myself with the microphone and my script. The nice thing is that the other characters were there to read their parts as well. I’m understanding that today–it isn’t that way. You can [do your voice] and you do your part. You don’t actually connect with another human being. You just do your part. Listening to what the other person was doing.

In my day, we would all be together. As a result, everything stays dynamic. You could talk about it. What if we said it this way? Or how would it feel if? Would it be more realistic if? We would change things and that was why doing it in those old days at the same time. [Laughs]

Now the microphones were all in different places. A couple of people that microphone would be over here. in a room about this size. Then there would be maybe on the other end [of the room], a couple of other people, but we could see each other. We could communicate.

Do someone make a mistake?

Kathryn Beaumont: When someone make mistakes, you just take it over. [Laughs] That’s a project recording works.

How does it feel that you were like the original motion capture a technique [for this animation]?

Kathryn Beaumont: Motion capture is a whole lot different. [Laughs]

Well, I mean you had to perform for all of this.

Kathryn Beaumont: Of course, I didn’t know the difference. It was a whole new experience. It was doing the voice work recording. After the recording was finished, then a few couple of weeks later, then you did the light action. That was like doing the film. [Laughs] It was filmed in on a set with the lights and all with that. The difference was there were hardly any props. There was no stage. It was just very, very plain. A few boxes where you had to imagine on what you were doing or what you were stepping over. Like [we will be] stepping over a brook or doing something like that. That’s how they got to see my movements. They could watch it and then do the drawing.

That’s basically what we did for the live action.

Oh, that’s awesome. What is it like for your relatives to go back and watch it now to see your mannerisms being animated?

Kathryn Beaumont: At this point in my life, a lot of the relatives are no longer with us.

Mindy Johnson: Kathy was an educator for a number of years. You had a few students who responded to you from time to time. [Laughs]

Kathryn Beaumont: It’s always a walking into a shop or a place and then there’s this young girl or young lady who comes in to say, “Oh, Ms. Beaumont., you and my teacher in fifth grade.” [Laughs] Of course, we’d have a lovely conversation and she would also remember my past students.

Mindy Johnson: You’ve had a few little students who would come along and a little shy young…..not sure they would see the film.

Kathryn Beaumont: There was one particular, It was a little boy. It was around Easter. He was hanging around the door at the end of the day. I thought, “Well, this isn’t a kid who was hoping to help.” Usually, they hang around, because they want to help. I can’t remember his name now. [I asked,] “Did you want to help with something? I can show you?” He was standing there like this. [Motions] He says, “Well, did you do Alice? Are you the voice in Alice? I saw Alice yesterday, Alice in Wonderland.” I had to tell him and that was the end. He couldn’t handle it anymore. He just turned around and bolted out the door.

However, he came back the next day, everything was fine. He came into the classroom. It was close to Easter. He had brought a little furry rabbit as a little gift. [Room expresses glee] Obviously, it was all his own thinking. That was very precious.

What I’m saying is that I have a lot of very precious memories [Laughs] of my work in the classroom and my work for Disney.

Was the work you did on the Peter Pan overlapped at all with Alice in Wonderland?

Kathryn Beaumont: No, no. With Alice there were several years involved. I was 10 [when it started] And then when we were working on the voice work through probably close to 14 years old. Then that was all finished, they were doing the actual animation and that part of it. My part of that recording stuff was over, but they will already starting the story for Peter Pan. When they started that story, then I started doing the recordings for that. The sequence was really a lengthy period. [Giggles]

What was it like to go back and do the role over again thirty years later for rides and other things?

Kathryn Beaumont: I know! That was very exciting, because I thought after all these years it’s not gonna work. [Laughs] I’ve even said, “Well, I’ve talked an adult voice now.” What would you just raise your voice a little bit. Yes, but even if I raised my voice or just still not going to work. Let’s try it and see. All right, we will go and do that.

Into the studio, we recorded and they were very happy with it. They said, “I want you to also do another ride.” [Laughs] There was an Alice in Wonderland thing and then there was a Peter Pan ride. It went from one to another. So that was wonderful. It’s nostalgic. It feels so wonderful to still be part of it. As you know, my life has totally changed. It was lovely to be able to go back to that day.

I had the privilege of speaking with Peter [Behn] and Donnie [Dunagan], who voiced Bambi and Thumper, when they had their anniversary. Pretty much, I want to ask you the same thing, which was basically with the new media digital up–how does that sit with you to know that it’s going to be forever immortalized?

Kathryn Beaumont: We don’t know what technology is going to bring then. Each new thing that they come up with a improves, changes and fine. I mean, that’s part of what technology is all about. The fact that they’re still showing it and putting it in a new media is wonderful. So I’m really happy about it.

How were you cast?

Kathryn Beaumont: I was over at MGM studios and Disney was looking for an English voice. I was asked to go and read. Then I was asked to go back again and then a third time. [Chuckles] I was under contract to MGM. The contract was coming due. At that point, Walt Disney wanted to have me as Alice. They then negotiated with the studio MGM who let the contract go, because it was an option time. It worked out okay. [Chuckles] So it just let it drop. They had their contract worked out so I could start working on Alice. That’s how that evolved.

What was your involvement with the Tinkerbell?

Kathryn Beaumont: Oh my gosh. Yes! How did you know about that Tinkerbell thing? [Laughs]

Some of us watch a special features, but I understand that you were involved with Tinkerbell. I’m actually curious just, because they pushed the Wendy thing on you.

Mindy Johnson: It certainly was Wendy as your primary role, but Tinkerbell had not been embodied before. Certainly, in the play, it was a flash of light. Walt Disney started developing Peter Pan in 1935-ish around that time period. One of the things that needed to be flushed out with this story was how do we portray Tinkerbell? There’s about 13 to 15 years of exploration into her as a redhead and a brunette. Over the course of that time, fashions change, hairstyles change. In bringing the film up in the 1950s, Mark Davis was working through all the earlier pieces of artwork and there are many! He took bits and pieces and he found a young inker and painter at the studio. Her name was Jenny Mack, who was the original model for Tinkerbell. She wore her hair in a little bon bun and had bangs off to the side. There are a couple of photographs of her–modeling. They needed to figure out then how is this little character going to move since she’s not just a flash of light, but a fully embodied being.

Mark designed her to be a little girl from the waist up and a woman from the waist down. She’s a complex blend of emotion and attitudes. This crazy combination of little girl and woman was a key part to that. Kathy was on contract at the time, certainly working on Wendy. They had her come in and do some work.

Yes! They had me do some light action scenes. The basic stage that just to see the movements.

Mindy Johnson: You worked with the large scissor props.

Kathryn Beaumont: Yes! There’s various different things. I don’t remember all about it.

Mindy Johnson: They had a drawer. Tink was stuck in the drawer,

Kathryn Beaumont: I’m not sure that I was in that part. Maybe I was. I don’t know now. They couldn’t decide quite how they wanted to picture Tinkerbell. So they thought, well, I’ll move a little girl that she’s not. They didn’t want to be a sexy person.

Mindy Johnson: She’s a troublemaker.

Kathryn Beaumont: She was pixie. She was full of vim and vigor. [Laughs]

Mindy Johnson: She’s a pantomime character. The physicality of her was important.

Kathryn Beaumont: Yes, that was important.

Mindy Johnson: Not only, Jenny, as a physical reference. But Kathy and Helene Stanley.

Kathryn Beaumont: I remembered that.

Mindy Johnson: [Stanley], who did a number of things. There were a couple of other ladies.. Then [there was] also Margaret Kerry.

Kathryn Beaumont: While they were searching, they were trying to figure out wanting do with this Tinkerbell character.

Mindy Johnson: She’s part of this incredibly complex blend to define the smallest character in the Disney cannon at that point, who then went onto embody all of the magic and wonder in the Pixie dust at the companies. You can see the time and care that Walt put into her and Kathy’s contribution that nobody knew about. She didn’t talk about it all. They happened to be having lunch while I was researching my book and she just mentioned, “Well, you know what? I did a little bit for [Tinkerbell] and nobody knew this.

Well, your secret is safe with us in this room. [Laughs]

Peter Pan is available today on Blu-ray, DVD and digital download. Get your copy today.

Source: LRM Online

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