Peter Pan, released in 1953, is one of the most famous Disney movies to date. People almost always think of Tinkerbell when the topic of Disney comes up, since the feisty fairy was an unofficial mascot for the company, spawning a cgi set of sequels. The boy who wouldn’t grow up has flown his way into the homes and hearts of thousands. Despite criticism, I believe this movie will stand the test of time.
The beautifully animated film follows Wendy, John and Micheal Darling, three children who strongly believe in Peter Pan. He is the hero of their childhood games, and inspires them to fight pirates, and bury ‘treasure’ (their father’s cufflinks) on a regular basis, to their father’s irritation. On the night our story takes place, the fuse has finally blown, and George Darling, voiced by Andrew Airlie, insists that Wendy, the eldest Darling child, is to have a room of her own the very next day.
This, of course, upsets her, she then commits an act that no child has ever committed: begs to keep sharing a room with her brothers. But Mr. Darling’s only response is locking the family Nanny/dog Nana outside for the night and heading off to a work party with the children’s sympathetic mother. At this tragic moment, possibly the only tragic moment of the entire film, Peter Pan flies in, searching for his shadow. From the moment we meet him, he’s casually interacting with magic, as a child who knows nothing else would. We find out that he flew away as a baby in the book, despite this not being mentioned in the movie, it explains his childishness at moments where even a level headed preteen would handle things differently.
Our protagonists meet, Peter has caught his shadow! But having no way to put it back on, he tries, in a word, to soap it on. Wendy sews it on for him, and in thanks, the Darlings are shown how to fly “think of a wonderful thought”. With faith, trust, pixie dust and happy thoughts, the four children, a disgruntled fairy who was locked in a drawer as Wendy and Peter almost kissed, and the story take flight.
I admit, the film would need serious reworking if it were to be released today, the red indians would have to be replaced. I watched that scene open mouthed, asking incredulously “who greenlit this?” It may be faithful to the book, but JM. Barrie had written the book when Queen Victoria had still ruled. Walt Disney played Pan in the play as a child. At the time, not only was this mocking acceptable, it was considered almost humorous.
If I had to single out a certain scene as the funniest, Pan’s remarkable imitation of Hook to save Tiger Lily, being discovered by the actual Hook, confusing poor Smee, is my absolute favourite scene. All in all, Peter Pan was a good time, if a little tedious around the middle, it soon picks up with the thrilling climax on the ship of the memorable and terrifying Captain Hook. Would I recommend this film? Yes, if you skip past the red indians, it is a highly enjoyable film.