Original 'Peter Pan' star shares personal memories of Walt Disney: 'He was one of the gang'


Kathryn Beaumont was barely a teenager the first time she met Mr. Walt Disney, but the memory is still clear as day.

"I was so in awe of [Walt]. My mother and I went to his office -- and he opened the door, which floored me!" Beaumont told AOL as she reflected on that moment in the early 1950s. "He brought me in, showed me a place to sit next to him, and we sat down and started our conversation." (A photo from that same meeting is in the gallery below.)

More than six decades after she voiced Wendy Darling in the original "Peter Pan," Beaumont's voice is still instantly recognizable. Airy with just a light English accent, it's comforting yet upbeat, nearly spellbinding.

"He was head of the studio, but he was one of the gang," Beaumont recalled. "He would come into the cafeteria, go through the line, and just sit down next to whomever -- wherever there was a place for him to join."

See Kathryn Beaumont with Walt Disney:

That assessment is consistent with those of other voice actors who worked with the iconic figure, says Disney historian Mindy Johnson.

"He was a very hands-on producer and very personable, particularly with voice talent. The voice was the link, the connection between the artistry and the audience -- a large part of encasing this illusion of life," Johnson told AOL. "[Actors] had a lovely bond with Walt as they were shaping the films."

"Peter Pan" came out in 1953, just two years before the official opening of "Disneyland," a major focus for Walt during the later years of his life. But, Johnson noted, even while designing the massive park, he still made time to focus on the film: "'Peter Pan' had been in development for nearly fifteen years, so this was a story he'd been cultivating for quite some time."

Despite her enchanting experience working on the film, Beaumont, who also voiced Alice in "Alice in Wonderland," would soon step away from the glare of Hollywood, choosing instead to become an elementary school teacher (where, every so often, students and their parents would recognize Ms. Beaumont's voice as they watched their favorite Disney films.)

Beaumont was still a teenager when Walt passed away in 1966. "Oh, I was very saddened," she said. "He was somebody I got to know who was very special."

In celebration of the 65th anniversary of "Peter Pan," Disney just released its Peter Pan Signature Collection on Blu-ray so fans young and old can experience the magic for themselves.