In celebration of the 60th anniversary DVD release of Peter Pan on February 5, 2013, we thought it would be fun to do a quick question and answer session with the voice of Wendy, Kathryn Beaumont. She was 12 years old when chosen by Walt Disney to be the voice of Wendy in Peter Pan. She also portrayed Wendy on film—but only for the benefit of the Disney animators, as a live-action reference model for their work. Prior to that, in 1949 Disney cast her as the voice of Alice in his animated adaptation of “Alice In Wonderland.”
Born in London, Beaumont was spotted by a MGM talent scout and came to the U.S. under contract to that studio. There, she appeared in various films including “On an Island with You” starring Esther Williams (1948), and a non-credited part in the 1949 film “The Secret Garden” with Margaret O’Brien.
Beaumont attended the University of Southern California where she earned a degree and teaching credential. She continued to work for Disney each summer during college. On the completion of her studies, and for the next thirty years, Beaumont devoted her time and energy to being a teacher in a local elementary school.
In 1983 she returned to Disney to promote the re-release of “Peter Pan.” She also resumed her voice-over career recording as Alice and Wendy for theme parks, attractions, video games and television programs. In 1992, she created a new audio track for Disneyland’s “Fantasmic!” It is Beaumont who calls out to Peter Pan during the pirate sequence each night entertaining millions of park visitors each year.
On October 16, 1998, the Walt Disney Company named Beaumont a “Disney Legend.” Honored at the annual ceremony on the Studio lot, she took her place among the stars of the Disney Landscape.
Beaumont continues to remain active with work for various divisions of the Walt Disney Company including Disney Art Classics and Consumer Products.
Q: WE SUSPECT THAT YOU HAVE WONDERFUL MEMORIES OF WORKING ON “PETER PAN.” WOULD YOU SHARE SOME OF THEM WITH US?
KB: Oh, it’s hard to pinpoint. Basically, it was just a wonderful experience. It was totally different from playing the role of Alice in “Alice in wonderland,” because there were other characters. There were my character’s brothers in the movie. There was Peter. There were the Lost Boys. All these wonderful actors that I was able to play off of. Whereas with Alice, a lot of times the recording was done alone. So it was nice being able to interact with other actors who were in the story.
Q: THAT IS GENERALLY HOW ANIMATION VOICE-WORK IS DONE TODAY; THE ACTOR IS IN THE BOOTH ALONE.
KB: That’s what I’ve come to understand. They go into a booth and read their lines and they listen to the other person’s recording of their speeches. In “Peter Pan,” Hans Conried played the father and he would be on the stage with the microphone. We would have our scripts and we would play the scene together. And each time we played the scene, there would be a subtle change. He might have a different way of saying the line and I would play off of that. So it was dynamic. I would react accordingly. So that was exciting to me. It was different each time we did a take.
Q: THROUGH THE YEARS DID YOU REMAIN FRIENDS WITH THE OTHER CAST MEMBERS?
KB: Well, you know, we were working together but I basically was the little child and everyone else was the adult. So they went on to their other projects. And, of course, many of them didn’t really live in this area and you lose contact through the years. But, every once in a while I do see some of the people I worked with. When we do have a chance to meet, it’s very exciting and I enjoy that.
Q: DO YOU HAVE ANY MEMORIES OF WALT DISNEY HIMSELF?
KB: Yes, and I found Walt to be such an easy person to be around. I felt so comfortable with him. Having come from another studio, my experience was feeling that it was just a workplace, and I expected that would be the atmosphere at every studio. Until I came to Disney, and I realized, my goodness, this is very, very different. There’s a whole different atmosphere here. Walt himself was visible, where the head of the studio at MGM was not. At Disney, his presence was felt. You’d see him walking down the hall. He’d join the line in the cafeteria at lunchtime. He would pick up a tray, get his lunch and find a place to sit down with someone and just chitchat. I think the whole idea was that we were all team members. It was everyone sharing responsibility and sharing creativity.
Q: YOU MUST FEEL PLEASED TO HAVE HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO KNOW MR. DISNEY.
KB: Oh, it was a wonderful opportunity to get to know him. How lucky and fortunate I am. All those years have gone by and I can say yes, I did really did get to know Walt Disney personally.
Q: TELL ME HOW YOU FEEL ABOUT BEING A “DISNEY LEGEND.”
KB: I have to say that it makes me feel very proud that I had the opportunity and the good fortune to have this wonderful experience as a young child. And every generation, from my time to my grandchildren’s time, they have kept it alive all these years. And I think it’s because of Walt being such a wonderful artist and storyteller, and the team that he worked with that created these marvelous films that are timeless. That’s a wonderful legacy and I’m so proud to be a part of it.
Q: DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE SCENE IN “PETER PAN”?
KB: Well, I thought the flying scenes were fun … after I got used to being afraid of being up high and looking down from the rafters above the stage. I enjoyed that. And I enjoyed working with everybody, and how nice everybody was. The animators made me feel a part of the team, seeing the dailies and seeing what the rough drawings were like. They’d let me have a look during recess time and see what the progress was. And they gave me an education so I really have a much better understanding of what the process was.
Q: IN ADDITION TO THE VOICE OF WENDY YOU WERE ALSO THE LIVE-ACTION MODEL FOR THE CHARACTER, WHICH IS WHY YOU HAD TO FLY. PLEASE TELL US ABOUT THIS STUNT WORK.
KB: Drawing the human figure is challenging for the animators. So, acting out these things for the artists, they were able to watch and see how the body moved in different kinds of emotions and situations. They had to be able to make all the characters look realistic and natural. So that’s what it was all about.
Q: YOU MUST RECALL THE THRILL OF THE FIRST TIME YOU ATTENDED A COMPLETE SCREENING OF THE FILM.
KB: I do remember going to see the full film but it wasn’t completely done. Some of it had the music added in. Some of it did not. And then were a few shots that were still the rough drawing. So it was sort of a mix. I found that fascinating. You know, to not just see it in its completed state. It is fascinating to see it at that stage.
Q: DO YOU WATCH “PETER PAN” OCCASIONALLY?
KB: Oh, I have over the years, certainly. It’s such a wonderful story. And, you know, as a child, you see some things and when you’re more mature you see more of the nuances. It gives you a great appreciation for how amazing and truly talented these storytellers were.
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