Tinker Bell and Me:
Adventures of a Disneyland Dresser #1
by C.A. Jaymes
Photo by steven lozano on Unsplash
I was employed in the Wardrobe Department at the original Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California from December of 1977 to August of 1985. During that time I worked in many areas of the department dressing performers in parades, stage shows, and other entertainment venues throughout the Park. But one of the most interesting assignments I ever got handed was the summer I was tapped to dress Tinker Bell every night before she was pushed off The Matterhorn.
It was the summer of 1983, and as I had done every summer since I’d started at the Park, I was working as a wardrobe crew member on The Main Street Electrical Parade. The parade crew reported for work at 4:00 p.m., changed into our costumes (ugly blue polyester pant suits), collected a couple of bins of freshly laundered sweat socks, T-shirts, and towels, loaded them into our utility truck, then drove via the backstage perimeter road to the parade warehouse where the floats and costumes were stored.
At the parade warehouse, we would put away the laundry, then begin handing out costumes to the parade performers as they began arriving. About 30 minutes before the parade began, the performers boarded trams and were driven to the “step off” area which was backstage near the It’s a Small World attraction. Once the performers were dropped off, they would report to their respective floats which had already been driven from the warehouse and parked in parade order on the service road.
The wardrobe crew followed behind them in our own specially-designed tram called the “head cart.” The head cart carried costume heads and battery packs along with our crew. As soon as we parked, we disembarked and got to work. Battery packs were inserted into hidden pockets of each performer’s costume, plugged in, and inspected to make sure every light was working. We also helped performers finish dressing. If a performer’s costume included a character head, it wouldn’t be put on until right before show time. The heads were often cumbersome, heavy, and difficult to get into. Zipping and fastening the cumbersome costumes also required assistance. That was our job.
Tinker Bell, however, did not get dressed at the step-off area. She dressed inside The Matterhorn. As soon as we finished getting everyone suited up and the first float had driven through the gate, I would grab a navy blue garment bag containing Tinker Bell’s costume, slip out the gate, and hot foot it over to The Matterhorn. When out in the park, I was supposed to keep my head down, move fast, and not draw any attention to myself.
When I arrived at The Matterhorn, the ride operator on duty would greet me and wave me across the bobsled track when it was safe for me to pass. From there, I entered The Matterhorn through a “secret” entrance and climbed up a series of staircases to Tinker Bell’s “green room” where I helped the woman playing Tinker Bell into her costume. After she was suited up, I took my garment bag and skedaddled over to the backstage area behind Main Street where the parade ended, so I could help the performers out of their costumes.
The year I was chosen to dress Tinker Bell was a special year, because the park had a brand new Tinker Bell. Her name was Gina Rock, and she had previously been an aerialist in circuses. I doubt she would remember me as I only dressed her for a few weeks that summer. But I was there for the dress rehearsal, and that is one of my fondest working-at-Disneyland memories.
On dress rehearsal night after I’d helped Gina into her costume, she asked me if I could run down into the park and watch her as she made her flight. Specifically, she wanted me to watch and see if she released her “fairy dust” at the right time. I wasn’t exactly sure what I was looking for, but she was so beautiful and vivacious, and I wanted to help, so I hurried out of The Matterhorn and down Main Street.
I was the only one in the Park because it was closed for our rehearsal, but the fairy lights were on and blinking in the trees lining Main Street. I stood at the top of Main Street and looked up at The Matterhorn. All the spotlights were trained on Gina as she began her flight. She flew across the sky, tossing her handful of sparkling fairy dust up into the air at what I thought was the perfect moment. My assignment finished, I ran backstage to the “landing” platform where the stage hands “caught” Gina in a giant catcher’s mitt of a mattress. As soon as she was back on the ground, she asked me about the fairy dust. I told her it had been perfect.
I don’t know how many people can say they’ve had a private Tinker Bell performance at Disneyland, but I can, and it was pretty darn awesome.
This article was written by C.A. Jaymes and shared here with permission. If you would like to see the original article, click HERE.