Prior to getting a copy of Peter Pan for Christmas this year, it had been a number of years since I’d seen the film, so it was nice to sit down and revisit one of my favorite Disney films. Very loosely based on J.M. Barrie’s novel, Peter Pan follows the Darling children: Wendy (Kathryn Beaumont), John (Paul Collins), and Michael (Tommy Luske) as they fly off to Neverland with Peter Pan (Bobby Driscoll) and Tinkerbell for a series of adventures.
Upon arriving at Neverland Peter has to deal with his long-time nemesis Captain Hook (Hans Conried), who is bound and determined to get revenge on Peter for cutting off his hand some years ago and feeding it to the Crocodile, who has been following him ever since in anticipation of getting the rest of him someday. The scenes with the Crocodile are probably my favorite apart from the flying sequences. You’re never quite sure when or where the Crocodile is going to show up, and Hook’s reactions are priceless each time he hears the “tick tock” of the clock inside the Crocodile’s belly.
Speaking of Captain Hook, he’s one of my favorite Disney villains. Hook was created at a time when Disney took a more comedic approach to their villains, so despite his many, MANY threats (including shooting a pirate in the middle of his cadenza), you never really get the impression that Hook is a major threat, because Peter will always find a way to get the upper hand. Also, I have to add that Mr. Smee is also one of my favorite characters: he’s so nice and polite that one wonders how he ended up on a pirate ship. Throughout the story, Smee tries again and again to get Hook to give up his pursuit of Peter Pan and go back to sea, and finally at the end he gives up and heads off in his own boat.
The film does contain a number of what are now considered troubling sequences with Indians (the film employs practically every stereotype associated with Native Americans). As a child these scenes didn’t bother me because I didn’t know any better, and even now I don’t let it bother me too much only because I remind myself that the film was made in 1953 when things were very different culturally. Years afterward the animators admitted that if they could do it all over again they would animate the tribe differently.
I feel very badly for Wendy throughout this film: she’s so eager to head off to Neverland but her adventure is hardly what she expects. First of all, she gets shot down (literally) by the Lost Boys; then the mermaids (whom she expressly wanted to see) try to drown her while Peter laughs; and worst of all, Peter ditches Wendy to celebrate with Tiger Lily. It’s no wonder Wendy decides to head for home not long afterward. I do like the reveal at the end that George Darling (the father) vaguely remembers going on his own adventure with Peter Pan and the flying pirate ship. It’s a twist that breaks the trope of parents reassuring the child that whatever happened was “just a dream.” Because in this case both parents take notice of the flying ship, which means Wendy was telling the truth!
One last thought: I love the scene at the end when Tinkerbell covers the pirate ship with pixie dust and it flies into the sky.
What do you think about Disney’s Peter Pan? Was it a favorite when you were growing up? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!
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