The voice of Wendy Darling discusses the special experience of watching the newly restored Platinum Edition
One would think that having done the voice of Alice in the seminal Disney film Alice in Wonderland, that voice over artist/teacher Kathryn Beaumont would have completed her quota of big time life experiences. How then can one explain her voicing Wendy Darling in the beloved tale of the boy who will never grow up, Peter Pan? It seems clear that Beaumont has lived a charmed life, and it's fascinating to think that she was a part of two classic Disney productions that will live forever in people's hearts and their home video collections.
We recently had a chance to catch up with Mrs. Beaumont to discuss the release of the Platinum Edition DVD of Peter Pan.
What's it like being part of such an iconic film?
Kathryn Beaumont: It's a very exciting feeling, I'll tell you. I never expected when I was asked to do these parts that they would continue to have a life all through these decades. I just feel very fortunate that I was part of them. With what was going on with the making of the film and all of that; even to today. I'm just very proud to be a part of it all.
How did you end up getting cast in Peter Pan?
Kathryn Beaumont: I was already at the studio and I was doing the part of Alice in Alice in Wonderland. During that time they were developing the story for Peter Pan. That was going to be Disney's new animated feature. It was in story development... and when they finished with Alice in Wonderland they went right into working on Peter Pan. Then they needed the characters and when I finished with Alice I was already about the same age that Wendy was, preadolescent, it was a role for another British person, which again I had the accent... they just felt it was an easy transition.
That was unique for me because from what I understand I'm one of the only people that Disney had do two characters. A lot of the other characters who did voice work did one character. That's another wonderful part to my experience.
And these just weren't any two characters...
Kathryn Beaumont: (Laughs) No... they were such classic stories, both of them.
What was it like working with Walt Disney?
Kathryn Beaumont: It was such a wonderful contrast. I was a little girl. I had not much to compare with. I got to MGM Studios. I was under contract for awhile. I learned what studio life was like and what was expected... within the industry. I accepted that. Then I got the contract for doing the work on Alice in Wonderland and I went over to the Disney Studios. It was just a whole completely different atmosphere. It was very relaxed. There didn't seem to be a situation where you were aware of profits or the head of a studio. The head of the Studio at MGM, as it would be at most studios, you didn't get to know that person because that person was doing other kinds of work. He was sort of invisible.
Walt was not invisible at all. He was one of the employees of the company almost! You saw him almost everyday. He would come down to the cafeteria and go through the line at lunchtime, find a place at the table to sit, wherever there was availability. He would often sit in on the conferences... sometimes he'd come down when the recording was being done. It wasn't that he was overseeing something and mandating, he was just interested in what was happening with the production and how it was coming along.
One time I was working on a scene, the way the dialogue was going, the director wasn't sure that he had the right interpretation. So he had me read it one way then he had me read it another way and he said, "Something's not quite right. I'm just not getting this. Why don't we call Walt and see what he thinks?" Well, in 5 minutes the head of the studio was down there. He says, "Okay boys, what's your problem? Lets listen to this." He listened to the two interpretations and he said, "I don't know what you're thinking it's the first one. Why were you so worried in the first place?" (Laughs)
That was my experience, growing up and seeing how he was as one of the creative forces in the studio working.
What did you think of the story Peter Pan when they first brought it to you?
Kathryn Beaumont: Oh, I loved it, but you know, Disney had been working a long time on that story. Fine-tuning and getting it just right over years. They even thought of changing the positioning of some of the acting or some of the parts of where the story took place. On the DVD, there's a lot of explanation about that because they had a special feeling for Peter Pan and it had been a story from his youth. And over the years, he always had it in his mind that he would make this Peter Pan.
The DVD, for me anyway, was so impressive because there was a lot of that stuff that I really wasn't aware of. I was presented with, "Oh this is is just a fabulous story. I really love it, it's a wonderful adventure. It's just great." Learning about how it came to be that way, with the Disney creators, is what's so great on the DVD. I learned a lot about it myself. (Laughs) Watching it!
What is your impression of the new, digital version on the DVD?
Kathryn Beaumont: It's wonderful. The film has been restored to it's original color and it's so sharp and clear. Disney Animation has always had these wonderful artists who create gorgeous backgrounds, lots of detail. There is so much richness in all of the scenes that now that it's restored, it's so much more noticeable because of how beautiful it is. They've also restored the sound so you have a clearer tonal quality; as you know it's enhanced so that you get both of those plus this marvelous story with loads of humor and lots of adventure. It's just really a great experience.
Why do you think Peter Pan still resonates with so many people?
Kathryn Beaumont: It's one of those stories that's timeless. The situations, the adventures that they go through. If you see the film you don't look at it and think, "This is something that might have been true in the Fifties or the Forties or... it's dated to a particular time." It doesn't have that feel. It's got something for everybody today. I think, probably, that is because it's such a beautiful story. It touches on the concept of growing up and how we sort of remember, even as we grow up and we mature, we know we have to get up there and take responsibility. You have that nostalgic feeling as an adult to think about the times when you were free. When you could have fun and you didn't have to take responsibility. Adults watch it and feel the nostalgia for that, and children enjoy it for the marvelous adventure; the wonderful things you can do and have fun with as a child. It does have something for everybody doesn't it?
What are you currently doing now?
Kathryn Beaumont: (Laughs) "What am I doing now?" Well, as an adult I did go to a career change and I became a teacher. I taught for well over thirty years and then I retired. Right now I am retired and I'm just enjoying that. I have done a little voice work for the rides and for some of the TV shows. It's wonderful to go back and revisit something I did as a child that I also found very fulfilling. It's a very special situation for me and I'm so glad to be part of it.
The Peter Pan: Platinum Edition comes to DVD March 6 from Buena Vista Home Entertainment.
Dont't forget to also check out: Peter Pan