Watching Walt Disney's Peter Pan may make viewers young
and old wish they, too, could fly with the help of nothing more than happy
thoughts and pixie dust. But, for Kathryn Beaumont, watching the 45-year-old
classic, coming out on video again Tuesday, brings back real childhood memories
Ms. Beaumont provided the voice of Wendy, the eldest of
the Darling children, in the animated James M. Barrie tale of an imaginary boy
who doesn't want to grow up. As a 12-year-old girl, Ms. Beaumont also was the
Disney artists' physical model for her character.
"They asked me to do a little live action for the
animators as inspiration," Ms. Beaumont recalls, her soft voice still
reflecting her English roots. "It was basically an empty stage, except for
the cameras and some lights. There were boxes and stands that you imagined were
various pieces of scenery. The animators were able to watch it and learn how the
human body would move and react."
The animators wanted to study the children and costumes
as they would appear in the flying sequences, both in the Darling nursery and in
mythical Never Land, so Ms. Beaumont and her young co-stars - Tommy Luske as
Michael and Paul Collins as little John - were hoisted on cables and swung
"Most kids would say, 'Oh gosh, I get to be strung
up on this wire - what fun,' but I was a little nervous," she says. "I
was hooked up with a harness and was thinking the stage looked so far down
Before making Peter Pan, Ms. Beaumont did the title
voice in Alice in Wonderland, and, as a young Disney contract player, she also
appeared in two of its early television specials.
But soon after Pan, she resumed her regular schooling,
which she was happy to do without having become famous as an actress.
"In a sense, the roles that I did were somewhat
anonymous because I lent my voice, not my physical being," says Ms.
Beaumont, now a retired elementary school teacher. "When I went on to
school, it became a past experience."
Sometimes her previous career became known to her
students when Alice or Pan was re-released and an alert child recognized the
voice belonging to the woman who now answers to Mrs. Levine.
"I really had some wonderful experiences as a
teacher, so that has been very gratifying for me," she says.
Now in her late 50s, Ms. Beaumont seems happy with how
her life has turned out. But Peter Pan might be disappointed to see his beloved
Wendy grown up.
(Cincinnati Enquirer, 1998)