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A Second Look: Peter Pan
In 1953, Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, and Hamilton Luske released Peter Pan, based on the play Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up, by J. M. Barrie. Starring Bobby Driscoll, Margaret Kerry, Kathryn Beaumont, Paul Collins, Tommy Luske, Hans Conried, Heather Angel, Bill Thompson, Robert Ellis, Jeffrey Silver, Johnny McGovern, Tony Butala, June Foray, Candy Candido, and Tom Conway, the film grossed $87.4 million at the box office. The film was not nominated for any awards, but did get a sequel in 2002 called Return to Never Land and six spinoff films in the way of the Tinker Bell film series.
In turn of the century London, children Wendy, Michael and John are visited in the nursery by Peter Pan. He teaches them to fly with the help of Tinker Bell and takes them to the island of Never Land, where they run into the Lost Boys, Captain Hook and Indians.
Peter Pan is another very well-done entry into the list of animated Disney films. What’s really interesting is that there’s quite a bit of evidence pointing to how the entire story could have all been just a dream, ending with Wendy waking up at the window when her parents come back from their party. What also points to this interpretation seems to be just how much of a children’s fantasy Never Land and Peter Pan are. The pirates are mean and nasty to the children, but aren’t too vicious and savage, just like a child would envision them. Further, there’s the portrayal of the Indians. Their wigwams and the war bonnet on the chief looks like it came out of the Great Plains, making them Blackfoot Indians. However, they also have totem poles which are reminiscent of the tribes in the Pacific Northwest and Tiger Lily has a feathered headband which were worn by the Northeastern tribes. This is evidence for it being a dream as it’s a representation of how a child from the 1900s would believe Indians to look. The pirate ship also has a cloud formation at the very end, with George saying that he remembers seeing something like it when he was very young, which could also demonstrate that he had similar dreams when he was a child. That shows how he was also a kid who didn’t want to grow up, but eventually had to, just like Wendy will have to. Also note how Peter Pan doesn’t enter the story until the children have fallen asleep.
As a character, Peter is actually pretty interesting. He’s supposed to be a child who never grew up, but seems to have a cruel streak, seeing as how he cut off Captain Hook’s hand and fed it to a crocodile and then thinking it’s funny when the mermaids try to drown Wendy. Yet, he’s shown to value honor before any sort of reason, shown when he refuses to go back on his word and not fly when the situation would call for it during his fight with Hook in the climax. Peter also demonstrates quite a bit of cunning, seen during the time Captain Hook and Smee try to interrogate Tiger Lily. He figures out the way to get her out of that situation rather easily by impersonating Captain Hook’s voice and would possibly have driven Smee insane had Hook not figured out what was going on.
Speaking of Captain Hook, he’s a really good villain, going so far as to shooting one of his men for singing while he plots against Peter Pan. That’s actually an interesting nod to his character in the original play and book where he kills one of his men for ruffling his collar. However, even though he does kill that pirate for singing, it’s notable that his men don’t really fear him and openly express their dislike of his staying in Never Land. He’s also really good at feigning any sort of honor he might have as a person. He will give his word, such as not laying a finger or a hook on Peter and not harming a hair on his head, but his honor only stops at his exact words, seeing as he’s perfectly fine with sending him a bomb. But this demonstrates the cowardice that Hook is in this version. It’s also seen during his fight with Peter, when he cheats to get the advantage.
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