Ginni Mack, Disney Ink & Paint Veteran and “Tinkerbell” Model Passes Away – Animation Scoop

Ginni Mack, Disney Ink & Paint Veteran and “Tinkerbell” Model Passes Away

Ginni Mack, a veteran Disney studio ink and paint artist – and the original model for Tinker Bell – has passed away. Disney historian and Mack family friend, Mindy Johnson, has reported that Mack passed on Wednesday August 23rd at age 90.

Mack made numerous contributions to the studio – and the classic films they produced. She was married to background painter Brice Mack (who passed away in 2008). In addition to color styling, Ginni Mack was instrumental to the development of Disney’s digital ink and paint system in the 1980s.

Ginni Mack with Walt Disney in 1950

Johnson released the following obituary on behalf of the family.

Helen Virginia Gilliland, was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and grew up in the small town of Walters, OK. At age ten, Ginni went to live with her Aunt in Los Angeles, and the rest of her family soon followed. Settling in Glendale, CA, Ginni attended Glendale High School, where her sharp mind and noted artistic talent thrived as she achieved the highest SAT score in her class for mechanical aptitude – higher than any of the men in her class. Ginni could do just about anything and her talents served her throughout her life. Whether fixing cars, doing electrical work, or making furniture, décor, jewelry and clothing, Ginni was a true creative!

In June of 1946, at age 18, Ginni was hired at Walt Disney Studios as a Painter in the Ink & Paint Department. Her keen color sense was soon recognized and she was put to work in the Paint Lab, known as the legendary ‘Rainbow Room.’ Specializing in Mix & Match, Ginni’s talents and artistry contributed to many of the early Disney animated films of the post-war era and the resurgence of animation in the early 1950s.

When Walt Disney was developing the characters for his animated version of Peter Pan (1953), Ginni was asked by legendary animator, Marc Davis to serve as the original model for the tiny pixie, Tinker Bell. Ginni’s genuine twinkle and signature blonde hairstyle (usually tied in a bun with side-swept bangs), proved to be the inspiration for the final form of tiny Think.

Ginni painting Bongo, circa 1946, for FUN & FANCY FREE.

Following an earlier marriage and divorce, Ginni met Brice Mack, a background painter and story artist, who also worked for Disney Studios. This fun-loving couple became an integral part of the Disney culture and were well known and loved by everyone, including Walt Disney, himself. Married in 1958, Ginni and Brice enjoyed a loving 40 year marriage until Brice’s passing in 2008.

After leaving Disney late in 1952, Ginni worked for other animation studios, including ERA Productions, an animation production company her husband Brice started.

In 1959, Ginni and Brice’s son, Kevin, was born and she dedicated herself to raising him. When Kevin left for college in 1977, Ginni was sought-out as part of a select group of talented Ink & Paint artists to return to Disney Studios to save animation with the production of Pete’s Dragon (1977). As Paint Supervisor, Ginni oversaw the color and artistry of many later animated films during her second tenure at Disney, and was involved with the early development and testing of CAPS, Disney’s Computer Animation Production System for digital Ink & Paint, before her retirement in 1991.

In 2012, Disney historians, Mindy Johnson, Joe Campana and Didier Ghez confirmed Ginni as the original model for Tinker Bell, who was featured in early studio publicity photos, but unidentified for over 60 years. Ginni was officially ‘revealed’ as the model for Tinker Bell by author, Mindy Johnson at Disney’s Destination D event at Disneyland in 2012 and was subsequently featured in Johnson’s book, Tinker Bell – An Evolution, about the history of the legendary character. This led to on-camera interviews for the Disney Animation Oral History program, the Studio Archives and autograph signings as well as panel discussions at a wide range of Disney events. In recent years, Ginni did further appearances and panel discussions illuminating the history of the Ink & Paint Department and is strongly featured in Mindy Johnson’s latest book, Ink & Paint – The Women of Walt Disney’s Animation.

Ginni with her friend, Disney historian Mindy Johnson

Ginni had a profound impact on a great many people and is fondly remembered, not only for her pioneering work in animation and as the original model for Tinker Bell, but as an extremely bright, creative, kind and beautiful lady who loved to laugh, and make others laugh with her quick wit, amazing stories, and wonderful sense of humor.

Ginni is survived by her son, Kevin (Martha Snow) Mack; grandsons, Jonathan (Natalie) Mack and Ray Mack; Stepsons, Brice (Sandi) Mack and Greg Mack; and Step grandson, Dan Mack. Jonathan and Natalie are expecting Ginni’s great-granddaughter in October. Ginni was preceded in death by her husband, Brice Mack and her stepson Greg’s wife Carol.

Ginni with her Oscar winning special effects producer son, Kevin Mack

Jerry Beck

Jerry Beck

Writer, cartoon producer and author of more than 15 books on animation history. A former studio exec with Nickelodeon and Disney; currently on the faculty at both CalArts in Valencia and Woodbury University in Burbank.
Jerry Beck
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  • Tony Montealegre

    What a touching to a Disney pioneer!