Behind The Scenes Magic of Disney Fairies Secret of the Wings

I’ve heard of movies taking years to create and perfect but I never really understand the amount of work that entails until I visited Disney Toons Studios. There I was able to meet with some of the phenomenal people who created Disney Fairies Secret of the Wings. They were gracious enough to chat with us and by the end of the day one thing was clear – an amazing movie such as this isn’t made without a personal and emotional investment.

Some of the first people we met with was art director Fred Warter and lead lighting and rendering  specialist Nickie Huai. Fred and Nickie spent hundreds of hours, over 1.5 years, simply perfecting Tinkerbell and Periwinkles sparkling wings. As I sat watching the movie the wings sparkled so beautifully, so perfectly that it felt like it was meant to be. It may sound naive but the wings were done so well, that it never occurred to me that the final product wasn’t the first and only version of sparkling wings.

The team used the mantra “Always look to nature… and make it magic,” in an effort to stay focused on the goals of they’re finished project. They studied things from nature like insect wings. Then Nickie took that product and perfected the actual sparkle and iridescence.

Nickie took what I did with the wings and made it come alive. – Fred Warter

The team had a lot of different versions of the wings, and even some they had thought were the finished product. However, when they took them to John Lasseter (Producer) he had his own mantra “Can we do something more? Go back to nature and see what you can come up with.”  His incessant need for perfection combined with Fred and Nicki’s dedication and creativity the wings came out perfectly after exploring many options. I have to admit, I don’t think anything but what they came up with would have sufficed. The wings were always too something until they were just right.

While at Disney Toon Studios, I also had the opportunity to see how voice over animation works first hand. The folks at Disney allowed us to do some voice over work as Tinker Bell and Periwinkle. It went something like this:

Tink: “Um, I’m Tinker Bell”
Periwinkle: ”I’m Perriwinkle”

Tink: “So you must have been at the border?”
Periwinkle: “Yeah, I was hoping to see the animals cross.”

After a few takes, and more than a little help from audion engineer Paul McGrath we finally got it just right! As an audio engineer at DisneyToon studios Paul was responsible for mixing original dialogue, re-recording sessions, and more. It was a magical experience hearing my voice where Periwinkles should have been, although I must say she has a much more fairy like voice.

When I had the chance to meet director Peggy Holmes and producer Michael Wigert, I was nervous! The movie was so
phenomenally done, so in tune with the magic of Disney I was a little awestruck by the film and the people so largely responsible for creating it. However, it was long before their passion and excitement put me completely at ease.

I was enamored by these two. They were so passionate, so emotionally invested in this movie. The fact that Producer Michael Wigert cried the day he saw Periwinkle come to life is a true testament to everything they put into Secret of the Wings.

“Our intent is not to make a movie just for little girls.” Michael Wigert
“ A story that touches all was a huge focus here.” Peggy Holmes

It was obvious that the movie was not a 9 to 5 project. There were so many little things shared with us that attested to this. For example, Michael Wigert is a father and when we asked if he saw his daughters in this movie he shared with us that like Tinker Bell his daughter has an impetuous streak.

Peggy Holmes has worked with Walt Disney Studios as a dancer, actress, choreographer and even though she was director for Secret of the Wings she had couldn’t help but allow her background in dance to influence the movie (and for the better I say)!

“I just can’t help it! Dance is a part of me. When you’re dancing and moving so fluidly it’s like flying.” Peggy Holmes

Lastly, but certainly not least, we were able to meet character designer Ritsuko Notani and associate producer Lorri Broda.

Ritsuko has been the principal designer of all the major and supporting Disney Fairies including Tinker Bell. However, her recent masterpiece was the creation of Periwinkle. Even aspects of Periwinkle were inspired by Nature. For example, inspiration for Periwinkles outfit came from Lambs Ear Leaf, a plant known for growing in cold climates. Her hair is modeled after frost flowers. It’s not an actual flower, it’s frost that freezes in a way that looks like a flower.

Are you blown away yet? I was. I would have never thought of such things for inspiration but how perfect they were. One of the most special parts of the day was being taught to draw Periwinkle by Ritsuko Notani herself! There is something you need to know, I can’t draw. I can’t even draw a straight line. I was sweating bullets about drawing, and then showing everyone my Periwinkle but you know what, I did it! It wasn’t half bad either.

I never wanted to leave Disney Toon Studios. I just wanted to hang out with everyone I had met to learn more fun trivia and experience the magic. If you only take away one thing from this I hope you’re impacted by the emotional investment and dedication that went into Disney Fairies Secret of the Wing. It’s more than a 90 minute film, more than a story of sisters, more than a movie for young girls. It’s every element of the magic of Disney.

Thank you Disney for covering my expenses on this trip. No other compensation was received and as always opinions are 100% my own. 

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Ashley spends her days avoiding run-ons as she turns words from yellow to chartreuse and wearing out the M & N keys writing about Travel, DIY, and Tech. She hopes to inspire the masses to travel and LIVE happily one InstaTweetPin at a time.


  1. November 1, 2012 at 6:03 pm — Reply

    What an amazing tour! thanks for sharing a bit with us!

  2. November 1, 2012 at 6:15 pm — Reply

    I bet this was an amazing experience

  3. November 1, 2012 at 8:34 pm — Reply

    That’s so cool! I love Peggy Holmes. She had so much energy and enthusiasm!

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