Tinkerbell may still need claps to survive, but she’s going digital for NBC’s Peter Pan Live! “We’ve been doing research on the best presentation for Tinkerbell,” executive producer Neil Meron told EW earlier this month, “and I don’t think we can do a flashing light in a table lamp.”
So gone are the days of Mary Martin talking to a twinkling “jug.” As Meron explained, “Tink is going to be computer generated and manually guided around the screen by a technician. The actors won’t be able to see her, but that technician will be able to move Tink with the actors and change her size and color to indicate what she’s feeling.” She will still, however, be represented by light. “Everything else looked old fashioned,” Meron said. “We wanted to see if we could do Tink with new technology.” Learn more about Tink’s creation in an exclusive clip from The Making of Peter Pan Live! documentary airing tonight, Nov. 26.
But Peter Pan Live! isn’t just giving audiences a more technologically sophisticated Tinkerbell experience. It’s also building on the foundation established by last year’s Sound of Music Live! “The lesson we learned from Sound of Music is that we really like moments of theatricality, like when a wall blew up or curtains parted to reveal a festival,” Meron explained. “Peter Pan gave us an opportunity to do a little bit more of that because of the magic it involves. That’s the biggest difference. We allowed ourselves to be even more theatrical.” To that end, Meron said, that they wanted to be more dynamic with camera moves: “The set we have for Peter Pan allows us to move more within the scene, so I think that will be a marked difference in terms of how it looks on TV.”
“Dynamic” is also how Meron described one of the show’s other hallmarks: the flying. By staging the show in an aircraft hangar as opposed to on a proscenium stage, the producers were able to make Williams’ flight seem more free-form, rather than simply back-and-forth. Then it was just a matter of working with Williams to make the flight look athletic. “Cathy Rigby [who played Peter on Broadway and in tours] set a bar for the flying because of her gymnastic skills,” Meron said. “Allison is an actress, not a gymnast, and Cathy is both, so we’re aiming to kind of split the difference.”
When asked whether fairy dust was also getting an update, Meron chided: “Fairy dust is not a special effect! Fairy dust is real! Come on!”