ANIMATION ANECDOTES
December 5, 2015 posted by

In Her Own Words: Margaret Kerry

tionkerbell-margaret-kerry

By the age of five, Peggy Lynch was already performing in episodes of the Little Rascals/Our Gang film comedies.

She was cast in the movie If You Knew Susie (1948) as star Eddie Cantor’s daughter. During the filming of the movie, Cantor decided that Peggy needed a more theatrical name to stand out in the entertainment business and she officially became “Margaret Kerry”.

Left To Right: Margaret Kerry, Joan Davis, Eddie Cantor and Bobby Driscoll in "If You Knew Susie". (click to enlarge)

Left To Right: Margaret Kerry, Joan Davis, Eddie Cantor and Bobby Driscoll in “If You Knew Susie”. (click to enlarge)

In 1949, she started playing the role of the eldest daughter of actor Charlie Ruggles in an early television situation comedy entitled The Ruggles (1949-1952). During this time, her agent contacted her about doing the live action reference modeling for the character of Tinker Bell for Disney’s newest animated feature in production, Peter Pan (1953).

Margaret is currently finishing up her autobiographical scrapbook entitled “Tinker Bell Talks: Tales of a Pixie Dusted Life” and has a website.

In October 2003, I talked with Margaret about her work as we spent an afternoon at the World Showcase at Epcot in Florida.

JK: So your agent calls you out of the blue one day with an offer to model for Tinker Bell?

MK: I had an agent who sent me over for the Disney audition for “Peter Pan”. They were looking for a young girl who was comfortable with dance movement. How do you audition for animation and for a character who doesn’t speak? At home I had a room set up…my dance room…with all these mirrors and a bar, etc.

tinker_bell_margaret1So, I got this little record player and put on an instrumental record and I worked up a pantomime of making breakfast to the beat of the record. You know, carrying eggs and maybe dropping one, closing the refrigerator door with my foot, etc. As much variety of movement as I could do in the context of a little story.

So the next day I went to the studio and took the record player and put on this 45 rpm record and did this mime. I choreographed a whole three-and-a-half minute routine to this old record.

JK: Who was there at your audition?

MK: I believe there were three people there. Marc Davis and Gerry Geronomi and somebody else I can’t remember right now. Anyway, I remember after I did my prepared pantomime, we chatted for a little while and then they gave me some direction of “look up as if you see such and such”, etc.

One time they said, “What would it look like if she landed on a mirror and saw herself?” I figured the pixie had never seen her reflection in a mirror before, so I began to groom myself, taking the time to truly give myself a once-over. When I got to her hips, I pretended to measure them, then–upset by how big they were–stormed off. They liked that.

JK: What was it like performing Tinker Bell’s movements?

MK: I was isolated on a great big soundstage at the Disney Studio that seemed to go on forever. There was no one for me to react to. I had to imagine almost everything. There was an occasional prop like huge scissors or a wire frame keyhole or something. Most of the time it was just me pretending to be looking up from under something or walking around.

tink-sissorsYou remember the scene where she falls over backwards in Wendy’s dresser drawer? Well, they had me falling over backwards onto a mattress. Well, the mattress was about half an inch thick, or at least it seemed that thin, and I went over backwards, and I went “thud”. The look on my face of surprise and pain was identical to the one Tink has in the finished film.

JK: So who else was there watching all of this?

MK: Two or three prop men to help move things around, a 35mm camera set up with a camera man, a lighting crew who adjusted not only the lights on the floor but also overhead in the cat walks. They would do my hair up and then I would go on the soundstage in this one piece bathing suit.

Marc Davis would show me the storyboard, and Gerry Geronimi was usually there. Wilfred Jackson, who was also another director on the film would come by as well. They would tell me what they wanted Tinker Bell to do, and then we would talk it over and I would put some of my ideas in with it and they would film that.

margaret-cclose-upJK: How many times did you have to do a scene?

MK: They called me ‘Two Take Tink’ because I would get it right the first time and then they would have me do it a second time for “safety”. I was so young and foolish. I could have made a lot more money messing things up so they would have to do it over and over.

JK: You look pretty cute in those still shots taken during the shooting.

MK: At the time, I was five foot two and my measurements were a 35 bust line, my waist was 25 inches and my hips were 36 inches. I was a babe. I had just won the World’s Most Beautiful Legs contest but, of course, I never told Walt about that.

JK: You also did some live action reference for red-haired mermaid in the Mermaid Lagoon.

Tinkerbell-comicMK: I did a voice for one of the mermaids and they encouraged us to ad-lib and come up with our own lines and I ad-libbed a little lisp for mine. There were three of us. June Foray and Connie Hilton and me. They tied our legs together, and they had us sliding and slipping all over this built-up area that was supposed to be rocks that we were sitting on. We were in one piece bathing suits on these wood planks with cloth. And we had the most fun.

JK: During the filming was there any moment with Walt himself that sticks out in your mind?

MK: I do remember one time pretty clearly of him being in the projection room that they called “the sweat box” when they were showing pencil tests of what Marc Davis had done.

Mr. Disney walked in late. And it was an amazing revelation to me because I was used to studios like Fox where if the head of the studio walked in there was big ceremony and such. You got the feeling you should bow down or look away or something.

But I’m sitting there very excited to see the rough animation like everyone else and Mr. Disney came in and a man behind me turned around and said something like, “Walt, you don’t have a seat. Take mine so you can see.” Mr. Disney just said, “No, you were here on time. I’m fine.” So he just stood back there when they ran this thing.

4 Comments

  • Very interesting to hear just what Margaret did as audition. The resulting drawings of Tinkerbell are so smooth, gliding and flitting around so nicely, that you can hardly imagine someone actually posing and dancing as model, but obviously, this sort of procedure must have been done in animation more times than we imagine. I wonder what OUR GANG comedies she starred in; any idea?

  • This time of year, it’s not uncommon to see Margaret Kerry grace your television screen in the 1960 “Christmas Story” episode from The Andy Griffith Show. Kerry played Bess Muggins, the moonshiner’s wife.

    Great post today, Jim!

  • Perhaps it’s because Tinkerbell is blonde but I always saw a lot of Barbara Eden in her. Barbara’s Jeannie and Tinkerbell seem to share little personality traits especially their expressions when annoyed or angry. And we wouldn’t like them when they get angry. . .

  • Those old Disney artists were given an awful lot of useful reference! The giant props leave very little to the animator’s imagination. Forget the “Illusion of Life.” They were filming live action with drawings as the special effects at this point.

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