The Walt’s People series by Didier Ghez (nine volumes released so far) is a fascinating collection of interviews from people that worked with Walt or were heavily involved in the Disney Company. The fact that Didier has been able to compile so many interviews that would otherwise sit in the private collections of researchers is astounding and a boon to Disney enthusiasts, historians and researchers. Most of the interviews focus on animation and the art from the Disney Company; occasionally, you find an amazing nugget that relates directly to the theme parks.
Margaret Kerry, live-action model for Tinkerbell, was interviewed by Jim Korkis. From page 185 of Volume Nine:
Image via WikipediaTinker Bell was just going to be a fun secondary character that Disney was going to have in one movie. Then all the things changed when Disneyland started.
I’m told that so many of the people at the Studio thought Disneyland was going to lose money or even go bankrupt. So they went to Roy and said, “Roy, would you tell him that we’re asking him not to use our big characters that we can license and make money off of, so when Disneyland flops, we can get the money back?”
Roy evidently talked to Walt in a much nicer manner than I just did, and Walt understood and got back to Roy and said, “Tell ‘em I’m going to use Jiminy Cricket and Tinker Bell.” That’s why when Disneyland opened you saw Jiminy Cricket and Tinker Bell everyplace. But you didn’t see a lot of the big licensed characters. He also made Tinker Bell the one who came in to everybody’s household once a week and took children on a magical trip to someplace on the Disneyland television program. Kids got to know her, and before you know it, there were all these books and merchandise.
Fascinating to think that Tinkerbell and Jiminy Cricket were minor players, once, and that Disneyland was a complete unknown.