The first of the recommendations following Snow White for the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film gets underway with 1953’s Peter Pan. J.M. Barrie’s tale of pirates, fairies, children who never grow up, and the boy who leads them comes to animated life in this Disney film. It’s fun, almost lighter fare than Snow White, and while the villain, Captain Hook (Hans Conried) is fairly dastardly, I don’t think he’s anywhere near as frightening as Snow White’s witch.
The children of the Darling family, residing in London, get drawn into a song filled adventure as Peter Pan (Bobby Driscoll) with his stalwart companion Tinkerbell at his side, show up in their room one night in search of his shadow. From there, he takes Wendy (Kathryn Beaumont), who has been told its last night in the nursery – puberty is coming on, John (Paul Collins) and Michael (Tommy Luske), on a flight over night-time London, to the tune of You Can Fly, and on to Neverland, much to the chagrin of canine nursemaid Nana.
Once there, after taking the second star to the right, and straight on until morning, they encounter the lost boys, Indians, mermaids and Hook, with the delightful character, Smee (Bill Thompson) at his side. Hook may be my favorite Disney villain, he’s a wonderful character, conniving, vicious, and a classy dresser, but he has a terrible fear of Tick Tock the crocodile, who claimed his left hand and is always wanting to snap up the rest.
There is adventure as they duel with pirates, there’s jealousy as Tink is envious of Wendy, there’s drama with a kidnapped princess, Tiger Lily. The real drawback to the film is the admittedly poor representation of the Native Americans, although technically they aren’t in America… still the song What Makes the Red Man Red is a little troubling.
Wendy, who is on the cusp of puberty, brings a whole new element to Neverland, jealousy, and betrayal. Not only is Tinkerbell particularly jealous of her, and tries to have the lost boys hurt her, but the mermaids Peter and Wendy go to visit, definitely have their fins out of joint over her as well. Peter, like a typical guy, is completely oblivious.
Consequently, betrayal come into play in a place that never existed before. Adulthood, is peeking over the edges of the fantasy land. The story, or parts of it, serve as an allegory for growing up and putting the things of childhood away, but as we learn by the end of the film, maybe just some of them.
Tink is kidnapped by Hook, as the first move in a play that could rid Neverland of Peter for ever, as he plays on her jealousy and emotions. And from there, we race to the film’s conclusion as Peter and Hook face off one final time…
This one still looks great and is a lot of fun. The characters are lovingly created and the film and many of its moments have become nothing short of iconic.
Not my favorite Disney film, but probably very near the top.