Margaret Kerry’s Tinker Bell Ballet Slippers

Posted on Fri, 12/08/2023 - 12:41

On view in December 2023. 

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of The Walt Disney Company, The Walt Disney Family Museum is showcasing objects from the museum’s collection which highlight important moments in Walt’s career. These objects, which include recent acquisitions and fragile materials that have never been publicly displayed, will rotate periodically throughout the year.  

Actress and dancer Margaret Kerry (b. 1929) wore this pair of ballet slippers while serving as the live-action reference model for the character of Tinker Bell in Peter Pan (1953).

Since the making of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), Disney Studios artists would used live-action references to help capture lifelike motion. Filming human actors—often with costumes and props—allowed animators to study and reproduce the movement of actors’ bodies and clothing in animated form.  

In a recent interview, Kerry recalled animator and Disney Legend Marc Davis giving her carte blanche in developing the character’s personality: “I said to him, ‘Mr. Davis, what do you want Tinker Bell to be? Do you want her to be ditzy like Betty Boop, or do you want her to be a know-it-all, like, queen of the fairies?’ He said, ‘Margaret, we want her to be you.’ And I said, ‘Golly gee, I think I can do that!’” To help guide the movement of the diminutive Tinker Bell, Disney artists filmed Kerry dancing and acting out scenes from the film alongside larger-than-life set-pieces and props. “One time they told me that I was going to get this great big pair of scissors,” Kerry remembered. “And I was supposed to be opening up—frantically trying to open up—the drawer that Tinker Bell was caught in, that she’d been slammed into. She was looking for Peter’s shadow. And they gave me scissors that were about twelve feet tall. They could hardly stand up by themselves!”

Interview with Margaret Kerry

Video file

–WDFM Collections Department

Image sources (in order of appearance):

  • Margaret Kerry’s Tinker Bell ballet slippers, c. 1951; Collection of the Walt Disney Family Foundation, Gift of Rick Law