June 20, 2006

Tinker Bell Finds Voice in Actress Brittany Murphy

By Sarah Coffey

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Peter Pan's feisty, but previously mute, flying fairy sidekick has finally found her voice.

Actress Brittany Murphy will be the Walt Disney Co.'s first-ever voice for Tinker Bell, giving the gift of speech to the precocious winged creature who until now communicated via facial expressions and jingling.

The iconic green sprite is returning to the screen in a direct-to-video film slated for release next year as part of Disney's new "Fairies" line of products, which the company touted on Tuesday at the Licensing 2006 International Show in New York.

Decked out in a tight pink dress and pink Christian Louboutin heels, Murphy, the star of "8 Mile" and "Just Married," looked every bit the curvaceous Tinker Bell vixen as she smiled for a throng of cameras at the event.

"How could one possibly say no to Disney and being the voice of Tinker Bell?" the 28-year-old actress said in an interview with Reuters. "I thought maybe I'm too spunky or gritty, but that's who Tinker Bell is."

The creation of author and playwright J.M. Barrie, Tinker Bell spent the last hundred years fluttering about Peter Pan, jealous of Wendy Darling but never speaking up -- until now.

"Anyone that can steal the screen without a single word of dialogue certainly deserves a film of her very own," said Disney Studios Chairman Richard Cook.

Murphy, whose earliest childhood memories include listening to her mother read Barrie's book, said she thought it important for the famous fairy to finally have her own voice.

"She's such a strong, vibrant, feisty personality, an incredible role model for young women," said Murphy, who also provides the voice for the character Luanne Platter on the animated Fox television show "King of the Hill."

"She's been jingling for 50 years and communicating all of her thoughts and all of her strength and all of her humor through jingling light. Finally, she's able to communicate through words," she told Reuters.

Disney's "Fairies" merchandise franchise rolled out last fall and follows on the success of the company's "Princess" line, which reached sales of $3 billion in fiscal 2005.

Disney expects the Fairies line, aimed at girls aged 4 to 11, to generate at least $1 billion in annual sales within 4 years, Disney spokesman Gary Foster said.