SUSPENDED ANIMATION #234
So what do Disney’s version of Tinker Bell and alcohol have in common? A very special cocktail created in Tokyo in 1990 and a little-known story about it involving a legendary Disney animator.
The Old Imperial Bar is located in the Imperial Hotel Tokyo. The hotel was dedicated on November 3, 1890 in the Ginza area near the Imperial Palace. It was built specifically to accommodate the increasing number of foreign guests, in particular the influx of Western visitors, to Japan.
The hotel has gone through some re-design over the years, including work done by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright in 1923. During World War II, there was damage done to the hotel. In addition, after the war, it became obvious that the hotel’s remaining 280 rooms were not enough to make the business financially viable.
In 1968, some parts of the historic building were removed to a museum outside of the city of Nagoya and a new high rise structure was built in its place that operates successfully to this day.
However, the Old Imperial Bar still retains original interiors, chairs, carpet designs, ash trays, glass and other elements from the Frank Lloyd Wright period.
In 1990, to celebrate the hundred year anniversary of the hotel’s dedication, which included the Old Imperial Bar, a competition was announced to create a unique signature cocktail to commemorate the event.
All of the bartenders eagerly took up the challenge and, eventually, nearly 180 original cocktails were created and submitted.
One of the bartenders, Hiroshi Nishiwaki, loved his young daughter dearly. She was a huge fan of Disney and her favorite character was Tinker Bell. So, to honor her, Nishiwaki worked at developing a cocktail inspired by Tinker Bell.
He eventually came up with a new cocktail based on white rum with a slightly green color with a green cherry at the bottom that he dubbed the “Tinker Bell.” He won the first prize over the other entries and the cocktail was officially added to the menu of original cocktails offered by the bar.Special stiff cards advertising the “Tinker Bell” cocktail were put on the tables of the Old Imperial Bar as well as all the other bars and restaurants in the hotel. They were to be used as coasters for the drink.
One day, shortly after the competition in 1990, an old, slightly overweight American came into the Old Imperial Bar and took a seat at a table near the bar counter. The gentleman was obviously used to the finer things in food and drink and had an educated palate.
He asked the bartender for a recommendation for a cocktail, and the bartender quickly suggested the “Tinker Bell” and briefly explained how it had just won a position on the menu after stiff competition.
The old man listened patiently to the story and then smiled.
“Do you know who I am?” he gently enquired. “I am the father of Tinker Bell.”
The man was Disney Legend Marc Davis. Although he had retired from the Disney Company in 1978, he remained active as a consultant with the business, helping with the development of attractions at Florida’s Epcot, as well as Tokyo Disneyland. He had just been named a Disney Legend in 1989 and was on a visit to check things out at Tokyo Disneyland.
In a 1992 interview, Davis remembered, “I’d work out at Tokyo Disneyland all day and I’d come in – by myself –and staying by myself at the hotel. I’d go to the Imperial Bar and have a couple of drinks and sometimes, if they weren’t busy, they’d go get me a sandwich or something at some other place. If they were busy, they’d make a reservation for me and someone would take me there and introduce me. I became friends with the manager of the bar.”
Marc was quite sophisticated when it came to drinking, unlike many of his Disney peers who were content to drink just about anything with alcohol in it.
“Drinking was the inmates’ prevalent habit,” recalled Disney Legend Jack Kinney, about his time working at the Disney Studio. “We worked together. We played together. We drank together. Maybe more ideas were quenched than born in our frequent forays to favorite bars for liquid inspiration.”
Disney Legend Grim Natwick told animation historian John Canemaker that “His [Marc’s] gin martini has long been recognized as the finest martini west of the Mississippi. Never to have tasted a Marc Davis martini is to have been denied an experience unparalleled in drinking tradition.”
Of course when he was at that Tokyo bar, Davis ordered a “Tinker Bell” and, by all accounts, enjoyed it. When he finished, he flipped over the small rectangular advertisement card and on the blank back side proceeded to draw a simple sketch of a full figured Tink hovering in the air and facing to the right.
“I made a scribble thing,” recalled Davis. “The next day I came in, it was framed. It was behind the bar!”
He had autographed the drawing and it is still hanging in the bar, although time, light and heat have discolored and faded the artwork so that the image and signature are just faintly visible.
Davis stated, “In their winter magazine, they did a three page article on me as their ‘unknown celebrity’. Howard Green at the studio supplied them with several photos. It was a nice article. I was very touched by it. So I did a drawing for them. I took the little photograph they have of the drink and then I did a Tinker Bell posed at the top kneeling on the rim.
“I kind of dedicated it to the 100th anniversary of the Imperial Hotel. I put the names of the director of the hotel and my friend Mr. Ito who runs the Old Imperial Bar and sent it over. I guess between getting it framed and sending it with air mail over there, I think I spent $150 on the darn thing, you know? They found a special place for it. It was a wonderful thing to happen.”
The large colorful piece of original artwork from Davis resembled a similar image from the official model sheet for the animated feature where Tinker Bell is kneeling and both her arms outstretched forward.
Marc did the drawing in pen and water color. At the bottom of the drawing, he inscribed it “Happy 100th Birthday Imperial Hotel! Marc Davis.”
The bar matted and framed the drawing and it hangs behind the bar counter. Visitors can see it if they ask and if they are especially polite, can hold it and have a picture taken with it.
The cocktail became so popular that the bar created a non-alcoholic companion named “Cinderella.”
If you Google “Tinker Bell Cocktail,” you will find that many places have created their own versions. However, the following recipe is the one served at the Old Imperial Bar and the one that Marc Davis enjoyed.
Tinker Bell Cocktail
1.2 oz White Rum
0.3 oz Peach Liqueur
0.3 oz Parfait Amour or Violet Liqueur
0.02 oz (1 teaspoon) Lemon Juice
Garnish with a green mint cherry in bottom of glass and rim the glass with sugar.