Clothing the invisible

Clothing the invisible

Ever since Peter and Wendy, the first play about Peter Pan and his companions, designers have had to answer an interesting question. How do you provide a stage presence to someone like Tinker Bell? How do you “costume” a character that tiny? How do you make that character without removing their sense of otherness? Providing a “costume” for these characters is based in technology.

The first incarnation of Tinker Bell was created with a light, and didn’t even have a voice that could be understood by the audience (Davis). This showcased technology with new lights, while also giving something for people to project a character onto. Even newer productions often use lights in various configurations of lights, such as Pan, a production in Australia, which used lights on wires to create a puppet Tinker Bell. About the only thing modern stage productions have added is a voice, even though this often adds complications of having to track “her” around (Ciddor).

The most significant strides in advancing Tinker Bell have been in movie adaptations. The Disney animated studios were the first to give her a body, even though she was still silent. Later movie adaptations, such as Universal Studio’s 2003 live action Peter Pan, often use a combination of lights (Gray), blue screen work, and CG animation( Zahed). These adaptations are often beautiful, the technology blending seamlessly with the live action and creating a character beautiful and otherworldly, too tiny to be real, and yet for a moment, all too real.


Ciddor, Andy and Molloy, Jacqueline. “The Peter principal”. Entertainment Design, Aug2000, Vol. 34, Issue 9. Accessed online at: on 12/11/13.

Davis, Tracy. “Do You Believe in Fairies?”: The Hiss of Dramatic License. Theatre Journal 57.1, 2005 pg 71. The Johns Hopkins University Press. 2005. Accessed online at: 12/11/13

Gray, Simon. “Flights of Fancy”. American Cinematographer. January 2004, Vol. 85, Issue 1. Accessed online at: on 12/11/13.

Zahed, Ramin. “Sprinkling Pixel Dust: ILM animators teach Tinker Bell new ways to fly in Peter Pan”. Animation. January 2004, Vol. 18, Issue 1. Accessed online at:  on 12/11/13.


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