“I was born in 1929 and I think I may have caused the Great Depression because everything went downhill right after that,” jokes Margaret Kerry. Margaret’s contagious joy can be felt through the phone, but like many Disney princesses, she had a share of hardships as her story began. Shortly after birth, Margaret lost her mother and was quickly adopted by a sweet couple, who Kerry remarks were, “old enough to be my grandparents.” In the good company of cartoon royalty before her, an unfortunate beginning didn’t stop her from ending up in “the happiest place on earth.” Suddenly tasked with taking care of a toddler, Margaret fondly remembers her adoptive parents, and how suddenly, “they had this adorable little thing and well, what do you do with a child as cute and bouncy as I was? Put her in show business of course!”

And so began Margaret’s decades-long career at the ripe age of four years old, cast as a fairy in the 1935 film adaptation of A Midsummer’s Night Dream. This first fairy role would ironically foreshadow her career-making turn as the iconic Tinkerbell. Landing the role as one of the most recognizable characters of all time, however, almost didn’t happen. While working as the assistant dance director at Fox Studio, Margaret’s agent asked if she might sneak away for the day to audition for the live-action reference model ofa “little fairy.” It was seconds away from the big dance number and though interested, she couldn’t just abandon her place on the soundstage choreographing all those dancers. Then her agent said it was for Disney. “I’ll be there.”

 Adding that life-like buzz to Tinkerbell’s motions was possible due to the energetic live-action modeling of Margaret Kerry. Margaret in her ‘racy’ bathing suit acts out various scenes for Disney’s artists to reference.

That’s how everyone felt about Disney back then Margaret remembers. This was the Golden Age of Hollywood and if the king of cartoons called you didn’t pass that up—not even for the big dance number. Margaret arrived at the Disney lot and gave her name to the security guard. “Gosh, if you don’t think that’s exciting! My name was on the list!” She walked into the office of Marc Davis, legendary animator and one the Disney’s Nine Old Men, and found him surrounded by giant pictures of a certain familiar fairy taped all over the walls. Davis asked Margaret to act out the comedic scene when Tinkerbell lands on a mirror that, to her confusion, plays a carnival funhouse illusion trick on her, showing much bigger hips. 

“Can you come back next Tuesday?” Davis asked, confirming that Margaret had nabbed the role of a lifetime as the inspiration for the unforgettable character in Disney’s new film Peter Pan. And she did, going back the following week in a one-piece bathing suit which was, “quite racy back in those days.” Margaret had the advantage of being an actress and a dancer, so beyond simply posing for a drawing, she could animate (pun intended) her movements. She added that special something to the character; fairy dust perhaps. Davis was no longer simply sketching a model, but breathing life into a character.

The sassy yet innocent and magnetic personality everyone has come to love as Tinkerbell is a direct reflection of Margaret’s joyful interpretation.

Outfitted in her suit and some ballet slippers, the studio washed and set her hair in the classic Tinkerbell bun and sent her out onto the soundstage. Davis explained the scene and Margaret asked “Mr. Davis what do you want her to be like?” To which he replied, “Margaret, we want her to be you!” Margaret recalls thinking, “Well, gosh-golly I think I can do that!” Davis never stopped her interpretation of little tink and allowed Margaret creative control over the artistry she interpreted from the scenes. Margaret imagined Tinkerbell as a young girl from a magical land, unaccustomed to the modern world. “When she landed on that mirror, in my mind, she had never seen one before and therefore had never seen herself. So, when she landed it was this moment of wonderment and amazement, like ‘Oh wow, that’s what I look like!’”

Though Tinkerbell has defined a lifelong journey, Margaret counts more than 600 animated cartoons with 48 distinctly different voices in her credits. As well as a turn on The Andy Griffith Show and The Little Rascals. Magically matched forever to the sparkling fairy who made her famous, Margaret is writing a book about her life that may or may not be in the talks of becoming a major motion picture. And whoever gets the wonderful task of putting her life into motion will have plenty of material to work with.

Not only was her career a whirlwind of enchanted success, but she’s found love again with a story today’s screenwriters could only dream of coming up with. Seventy years after their first date, one of Margaret’s boyfriend’s from yesteryear took a serendipitous walk while in Amsterdam with friends. Passing a bookshop featuring fairy toys in the window he turned to his friends with the tale of how he had once dated the original Tinkerbell; none other than Ms. Margaret Kerry. Well, on a life’s too short whim, he managed to track her down and reach out, which Margaret received as a call from France on her 90th birthday. As luck (or pixie dust) would have it, her next book signing was in North Carolina—just a few hours drive from where her Prince Charming lived. They planned to meet after the signing and according to Margaret, in true fairytale fashion, “It was love at second sight.” They were married on Valentine’s day and the rest is history.

Margaret and Robert, a long-lost love she married nearly 70 years after losing touch, sit in front of a bouquet from their first wedding anniversary on Valentine’s Day.

Still tap dancing and performing into her nineties, Margaret has kept that same girlhood charm and optimism from her Disney days. Or perhaps more fittingly, her Peter Pan days, carrying on the marvel of a ‘never-grow-up’ mindset. Asked why she loves her so, Margaret explains, “Tinkerbell flies off to Neverland’s second star and it’s always faith and trust and a whole bunch of pixie dust and it’s all going to be okay.” SRQ