Tinker Bell: An Evolution Book Review

Written by George Taylor. Posted in Disney, Disney History, Features, Imaginerding

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Published on October 14, 2013 at 1:30 am with 3 Comments

It seems as if Disney Editions is publishing one flagship title a year. Last year, it was the spectacular Poster Art of Disney Parks. When word came that Disney was releasing a book detailing the history of Tinker Bell, I had my fingers crossed for the best.

Last year, the Walt Disney Family Museum imprint released two incredibly detailed and incredibly enjoyable books about Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs written by JB Kaufman. Both titles set the bar incredibly high for animation-related books and I wondered if Disney would create something equally compelling with their look at Tinker Belle. Anyone doing research on any aspect of the Disney Company understands and has dealt with the difficulty of accessing material from the archives. It’s pretty much understood that if the Disney Company isn’t making money off of your publication, then you aren’t gaining access to the archives.


Tinker Bell: An Evolution is a deeply satisfying book about the iconic Disney pixie. It’s relatively easy to compare this book to JB Kaufman’s Fairest One of Them All since it features a similar progression in looking at Tinker Belle’s history pre-Disney, the development of the Peter Pan film that launched her and everything post Peter Pan. It’s a style that works very well, especially with a character that Disney did not create.


The book is comprised of three acts that follow Tinker Bell’s origin, Peter Pan and everything after the film, which does include the recent Pixie Hollow films. The meatiest chunk of the book (over 110 of the 192 pages) is dedicated to the Peter Pan animated film released in 1953. This does make the most sense since creation of the pixie within the confines of the film is most directly tied to the company.


Act I – The World’s Most Famous Fairy is a wonderful look back at JM Barrie and the creation of Peter Pan. It’s not exhaustive, yet covers enough of Barrie’s life and work to create an understanding of why and how the author created the pixie. There were several eye-opening moments in the text and many photos from Barrie’s life that help propel the story. We learn how the Scottish Travelers and the young boys of the Llewelyn-Davies family influenced Barrie’s earliest works and the specific tales and characters in Peter Pan.

The development of the play is fascinating, especially seen in today’s light. Peter Pan was continually worked on and added to by Barrie during the first few years. As it gained tremendous popularity and made its way to larger stages and film, we follow the various stars and theaters where it was performed. The 1924 silent version by Paramount Pictures was lauded for the special effects (groundbreaking for the time) and directly influenced Walt Disney when making his animated version.


Act II – the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up specifically focuses o the development of the Peter Pan film (over an almost 20 year period) and, of course, more specifically the creation and evolution of the Tinker Bell we know and love. Marc Davis, the legendary animator and Imagineer, is credited with her final look. He gladly steps in to share his influences, which include many of the animators that had a hand in Tinker Bell’s design, including Bianca Majolie, David Hall, Mary Blair and John “Jack” Miller.


There’s even discussion about the many different starlets of the time that would serve as Tink’s live action reference.The concept artwork in this section is truly astounding with drawings, paintings and sketches that show every aspect of the pixie including different hairstyles and outfits that matched the times. I’d estimate that there are three to four (if not more) images per page. There are also interviews with Ginni Mack, Margaret Kerry and Kathryn Beaumant, who all influenced Tinker Belle in different ways. Most fans of the film and the pixie will enjoy this section.


Act III – Flying to New Horizons covers everything after Peter Pan to the Pixie Hollow films. A large part of this section is dedicated to Tinker Bell at Disneyland through promotional material and in-park appearances. It’s almost mind-boggling to see on how many Disneyland items Tink showed up. We also see other products that Tink helped hawk (Peter Pan peanut butter) and her limited comic book appearances.


The last section, which thankfully is rather small, looks at the current state of the pixie. I won’t comment on the latest Pixie Hollow releases (mainly because I have no interest in them) but very few pages are dedicated to them. Granted, the concept artwork is beautiful but it seems like a cash grab to me; a way to keep Tinker Bell in the public eye and create another franchise as the Princesses.

On a side note, this is the second book this year from Disney Editions that has a very odd picture. The Roy E. Disney book is really good, but many of the photos are fuzzy or pixielated (see what I did there?). I ran across the photo below on page 186 of the Tinker Bell book and I couldn’t believe that Disney published it.


I only re-sized the photo like all of the other images on this page. It looks like Disney pulled this image from a website. How odd.

Overall, I loved this book. It’s a very detailed look at our favorite pixie and the cultural phenomenon that she is. I would love to see someone tackle Peter Pan (and many of the other animated features) in the same vein as JB Kaufman, but this is a great book for Tinker Belle fans or anyone with an interest in Disney animation history.

This book is going to be under a lot of Christmas trees this year.

Are you going to pick up this book?

ImagiNERDing is written and edited by George Taylor

About George Taylor

George has been obsessed with Disney theme parks since the first time he saw a photo of the Haunted Mansion in the early 70s. He started writing about Disney in 2007 and has amassed one of the world's largest Disney-related libraries.

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  • http://doombuggies.com Jeff Baham

    Great review. I really enjoyed the book. I’m guessing those pixelated pictures are pre-production errors, and the proof versions of the images were printed instead of the higher resolution photos that should have been linked to them – which are surprising editorial oversights. Still, I thought it was a comprehensive, well-written look at the famous pixie. I do wish that there was more information in this book about the reference filming that must have been done for the animation. Even in 2013, it seems like Disney is still reticent regarding reference film. It’s a shame, because the interpretation from the observed live action to the actual animation is as intriguing and artistic a part of the process as any, and I wish we could have insight into that element of the production of Walt’s classics. I bring it up in this case because over the years, photos of Margaret Kerry acting out Tinker Bell’s antics are so widely published that it begs the question – where is the live action reference film that these stills are clearly illustrating?

    At any rate, a worthy addition to any animation library, with really fun illustrations.

    • Atomobile

      Jeff, I agree with you regarding the pixellation of the image. In pre-press, all of the images look clear and sharp onscreen. It isn’t until you send it to print that the actual source photos are integrated and printed at full resolution. Unless you do a post-press check of every image (Which editorial is supposed to do, but is always one of the most lax aspects of modern printing) you can’t even see if there is a problem. Having one or several images get unlinked either through not being copied to the correct directory before sending to print, or a renaming error (sometimes caused by crossing computer OS platforms) is not uncommon to have this happen. Interestingly, in listening to an interview with Bob Gurr who was describing how HE basically self-published his own book, he hinted at how these kinds of errors creep in through lack of experience with these nuances in “publishing by the author.” Simply said, the author doesn’t know what to look for and can miss errors and only do the best they can. This means that even books published by “professionals” are little more than “fan-books” anyways.

      Even if this was published by Disney, officially, it’s narrow interest and short run of numbers equate to a specialty book and probably didn’t get even the kind of attention that a 1950′s Donald Duck comic book would have had.

      This is a great and comprehensive review and makes me interested in getting this book. That said, I AM a fan of the latest “money grab-princessy” version of Tink and Pixie Hollow (and it really IS a calculated reach into parent’s pockets for sure. Alas, its not too hard to be TOO cynical about Disney these days.) and hope that there is at least a reasonable amount of information about how Tinker Bell was translated into 3D for the series. My greatest joy with the new movies isn’t necessarily that we get “more Tink” but that we get a good looking facsimile of her in 3 dimensions. Something that has been difficult in the evolution of the technology until recently. That it is at least well animated and acted makes it that much better of a title, but truly, the characters might as well be in a totally different universe from Peter Pan at this point, and Tink is somewhat a different character than Tinker Bell. The progenitor’s simple and jealous nature and ease to anger are pretty much tacked on for continuity to the newest iteration of this classic character.

      Thanks for bringing this book to light George!

  • michael darling

    I see what you did there.