Margaret Kerry is known best for her role as the live-action reference model for Tinker Bell in Walt Disney’s animated feature, “Peter Pan”. She also worked as the live-action reference model for the Red-Headed Mermaid in the lagoon sequence. With Disney’s “Peter Pan” being recently released on Blu-ray, Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Margaret about her role in the film and working with Walt Disney himself.
MG: How did you end up working as the model for Tinker Bell in the Walt Disney Pictures animated feature, “Peter Pan”?
MK: It may sound like I am going too far back but it is really not. I was adopted when I was 3 1/2 years old by this wonderful couple that were old enough to be my grandparents. They had no idea what to do with a tiny kid. They thought that I cute as a button and talented, so they started training me in acting. I got into Central Casting and I started working at 4 years old. I started in a movie called “A Midsummer’s Night Dream” and I made $8.50 a day, which was a lot then. So my mother became a “Hollywood mother”, but she really wasn’t very good at it [laughs]. I remember the first time I walked onto Warner Bros lot, it was terrifying. I worked with Meglin Kiddies, which is the group that MGM hired for their films. Producer Al Burton started out and put me down as a co-host of a local show where we found talented high school kids and put them on the show. At the same time, I was working in radio and was cast as the eldest sister on “The Ruggles”. I also had done the Eddie Cantor movie “If You Knew Susie” and you can see me on YouTube dancing up a storm. Next, I got hired to do a movie at Fox. So while, I was working at Fox I got the call if I wanted to try out for the reference model of Tinker Bell. Also while I was working at Fox, I was with a choreographer named Roland Dupree, whom I ended up getting him the reference model for the character Peter Pan. So all come around that is how it happened.
MG: Can you reflect on your experience working with the legendary Walt Disney?
MK: I have worked at almost every studio in town by the time I was working at Fox. So I was pretty well-versed at what studios were like. When I got the call from my agent that I might have a chance at working at Disney Studios, Michael I can’t tell you how exciting that was. During those times, Disney was the premiere studio to work with. It was just thrilling. In fact, I was just there a few days ago and it is still just as thrilling. Everything is for the employees. Creativity is blessed there. And Mr. Disney himself was just great. You will see in my book (more on that below) photo archives found two photos with him working on the same sound-stage as Buddy Ebsen. He would then come over and chat with Marc Davis, who was the animation director of “Peter Pan” and I got to chat with him at least five times. There were people who worked in the studio for over a year and never even met Walt. So I was so fortunate. I went to school with both of his daughters at Monticello School for Girls, while they were there for a short period. So I spoke to him about that and it was like I was the only person in the whole world. It was such a great experience.
MG:How long did you work on the film?
MK: It was about 9 months. But I wasn’t there every day. I also voiced the red haired mermaid in the lagoon along with June Foray and Connie Hilton. I said lines like “Oh Peter, we just wanted to drown her.” We also did the live-action work and had our legs bounded together and we had to slither around. It was just fabulous.
MG:Where you ever approached to model for any other Disney films after “Peter Pan”?
MK: I got married and had a family. When I met Jodi Benson, from “The Little Mermaid”, I told her that I was the great-great-grandmother of Ariel and we had a great laugh. But I ended up going into voice over. I speak 21 different dialects and 48 different voices. So I worked on shows like “Clutch Cargo” and “Space Angels”. So my primary focus was voice-over and radio. But they keep calling me back each time they re-release “Peter Pan”.
MG: Tell us about your autobiography “Tinker Bell Talks: Tales of a Pixie Dusted Life”?
MK: I am shooting for Valentine’s Day 2013, but of course you never know what can happen with printers. There are 110 chapters, none of which are over six pages. There are 80 photos and some really fun stories. Did you know I produced an animation short for George Clinton from Parliament-Funkadelic. In 10 days, I produced seven minutes of animation for one of their concerts. There is a funny story about that because this as well. Since my boss (at the time) did not get the cash for the animation when it was delivered, I had to go and track down this group of people on the Sunset Strip. There are all these very tall black men around me and I am only 5’2 [laughs]. I walked up to them looking to get paid. We had a great laugh and they were such nice people. Those are the some of the stories included. It has been great fun to work on.