Peter Pan will make you feel young again. As I would consider it to be the definitive take on the boy who never grew up. Peter Pan was a project that Walt Disney wanted to make right after Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It was originally based on a stage play by J. M. Barrie titled Peter Pan; or, the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up. Which was shortly adapted into the children’s novel Peter and Wendy (that I partially read). Although the original story was a bit darker and sort of tailor made for theater, Disney still wanted a hand in another adaptation.
Paramount had the live-action film rights, but not the animated film rights. I honestly don’t think any property has had as many cross media reinterpretations as Peter Pan. Of course the story had to be Disneyfied a bit to keep characters like Peter or Tinker Bell more likable. Just like Cinderella and Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan was one of the three feature length animation projects that needed to be put on hold until the war ended. Eventually becoming the fourteenth Disney animated film overall…
Peter Pan is actually one of my personal favorite Disney movies. I watched it on VHS numerous times when I myself was a kid who wanted to hold onto his childhood. Mostly because Peter Pan was very much targeted at a male demographic. I loved the swashbuckling action and greater focus on physical comedy. Along with a healthy dose of Disney magic that gave it the classic feel. Peter Pan begins with three Darling children named Wendy, John, and Michael. Wendy Darling is arguably the star of the story. In London, England during the 1900’s, Wendy lives in the nursery with her two brothers who are looked after by their St. Bernard nursemaid Nana. Despite her father’s insistence that she should grow up, Wendy encourages her brothers love of stories about Peter Pan.
Peter Pan is one of the most famous characters in all of fiction. He quickly became an icon for Disney as well. A leafy green outfit with a feathered hat makes sense, but I never understood why he has pointy ears. As a boy who never grew up, Peter is full of childlike mischief. Most plays cast a woman to play Peter, but Disney mainstay Bobby Driscoll got the part instead. Peter flies into the Darling house in search of his lost shadow. Waking Wendy in the process. She desperately wants to see Neverland, so Peter decides to take her there to become their mother. Something that makes Tinker Bell jealous. Tinker Bell is a fairy with a blonde 50’s style bun and leaf dress who never leaves Peter’s side. Tink was different than other female Disney characters at the time. She was a curvy cutie who was sassy and showed jealousy without having to say a word. Tinker Bell was so popular that she became the magical face of Disney during all of its studio intros.
In the most famous scene in the movie, Peter helps Wendy, John, and Michael to fly with him to Neverland. All it takes is faith, trust, and a little pixie dust. By taking the second star to the right and straight on till morning, Peter and company arrive at Neverland. A mythical land where you never grow up. Just like in the original story, Neverland is an island populated by pirates, mermaids, indians, and the Lost Boys. Children dressed in animal skins that were also taken by Peter.
The first true male Disney villain and Peter Pan’s archenemy is Captain Hook. A flamboyant pirate dressed in red with a hook for a hand. Something that Peter cut off and fed to a crocodile as a practical joke. Captain Hook is easily one of the funniest Disney villains along with his bumbling first mate Mr. Smee. Although generally realistic, their antics are very exaggerated in a more cartoony way. Especially when the ticking crocodile attacks. Not that Hook doesn’t have his cold hearted moments. Like shooting one of his shipmates mid-song.
When Tink goes too far, she’s banished by Peter. Who proceeds to take Wendy to see the mermaids. Meanwhile, John and Michael take the Lost Boys to find the indians. Mermaids are beautiful, but show their true colors when they casually try to drown Wendy. The indians are easily the most controversial part of the movie. Along with some stray sexist remarks, the indians are obviously racist caricatures drawn to look as red as possible. It’s outdated, but far too important to cut out. I’ll at least say that they are depicted as clever warriors with a sense of honor. When the lovely daughter of the Chief Tiger Lily is kidnapped, Peter comes to the rescue.
After a bonfire celebration that didn’t age well, Wendy reminds everyone of their mother. Which leads to a raid that nearly ends Peter’s life. Until Tink gets caught in the crossfire (“I do believe in fairies”). With Wendy and the boys taken to Hook’s ship, Peter Pan faces the old codfish once and for all. Peter wins the duel and sprinkles the ship with pixie dust. Flying Wendy, John, and Michael back to their family. Peter Pan takes flight with gloriously fast paced animation and plenty of memorable sword fights. The best remembered songs include the villainous sea shanty “A Pirates Life,” the catchy “Following the Leader,” the mildly uncomfortable “What Made the Red Man Red?,” and the inspiring “You Can Fly!” Peter Pan never gets old.