tek's rating:

Peter Pan (G)
AFI Catalog; Disney Fairies Wiki; Disney Movies; Disney Wiki; IMDb; Neverpedia; Rotten Tomatoes; TCM; TV Tropes; Wikipedia
streaming sites: Amazon; Disney+; Google Play; iTunes; Movies Anywhere; Vudu; YouTube

Caution: spoilers.

Well. I've never read the original story by James Barrie. I suppose I should eventually. But I've seen a few things that were based on it, of which this is the one I mostly think of when I think "Peter Pan." Dunno that it's the most faithful adaptation, but it's a fun story, with some good animation and good songs (especially "You Can Fly!")

Um. Well, the movie was made in 1953, while the original story was from 1904 or something. I've no idea when the movie was set. But it starts in London, at the home of George and Mary Darling, and their three children, Wendy (Kathryn Beaumont), John, and Michael (and their dog Nana, who serves as a nursemaid to the children). Wendy always tells her younger brothers stories about Peter Pan, and all three of them are great fans, and believe he's real. Their father, on the other hand, believes Peter Pan is absolute poppycock. He decides Wendy is getting too old to stay in the nursery with her brothers.

On her last night in the room, Peter Pan (Bobby Driscoll) actually shows up, looking for his shadow, which apparently Nana had taken from him, and Wendy was keeping it safe, in the hope of meeting Peter. When he shows up, Wendy sews his shadow back onto his shoes. She also tells him she has to grow up tomorrow, which she isn't looking forward to. And of course Peter himself never grows up, because he lives in Never Land. So he invites her to come back with him, and she insists on taking her brothers with them. Peter shakes some pixie dust from his fairy friend, Tinker Bell, onto the children, which along with thinking happy thoughts, allows them to fly. And so they all fly off to Never Land.

Tink, it should be mentioned, loves Peter, though he doesn't seem to understand such things. Tink is jealous of Wendy. I should also mention Tink doesn't talk, or rather she communicates by shaking her head and gesturing, though what she's saying is understood by Peter and the Lost Boys (Peter's friends, with whom he fights pirates). The pirates are led by Captain Hook, who is obsessed with defeating Peter, who had cut off his hand and fed it to a crocodile some time ago. And now the crocodile always chases Hook, wanting to eat the rest of him. His crew all seem to hate Never Land and Hook's obsession with Peter. The only one who's firmly on his side is the comical Mr. Smee, though even he, like the crew, would prefer to leave Never Land and get back to regular piracy. Anyway, when Peter, Wendy and the others first get to Never Land, Peter fights Hook (or at least taunts him), and tells Tink to take the kids to safety, but instead she tries to get the Lost Boys to shoot Wendy out of the sky. However, Peter shows up in time to save her. When he finds out what she's done, he banishes Tink forever (or at least a week).

Peter takes Wendy to see the mermaids. They all like Peter, and would just as soon drown Wendy. (It's amazing how much fun she seems to have in Never Land, in spite of pretty much everyone she meets wanting to kill her.) Meanwhile, the boys go out looking for Indians (whenever this was set, it was long before the term "Native Americans"). John, leading the Lost Boys, plans a strategy to capture the Indians, but the boys end up getting captured instead. Normally, they'd then be set free, as it's just a game the Lost Boys and Indians play, capturing and releasing each other. But this time the Indian chief believes his daughter, Princess Tiger Lily, has been captured by the Lost Boys, so he plans to burn them at the stake unless they return her. Of course, it's actually Hook who's kidnapped her, trying to force her to reveal Peter Pan's hiding place. Luckily, Peter notices Hook and Smee rowing her to a cove, and Peter rescues her. For which the Indian chief is of course grateful, and names Peter "Chief Flying Eagle." And of course, Wendy gets jealous of Peter and Tiger Lily, and also isn't pleased being excluded from the boys' fun, since she's a "squaw."

Meanwhile, Hook comes up with another new plan. He sends Smee to capture Tink, who he then tricks into revealing the location of Peter's hiding place. Wendy decides she wants to go home, but first she sings to her brothers and the Lost Boys about mothers. (Before even leaving London, she had tried to explain about mothers to Peter, who had no idea what they were, and he decided Wendy should be the mother to him and the Lost Boys.) Anyway, now it seemed like even John and Michael were starting to forget their mother. But Wendy's song made them want to go home, and the Lost Boys wanted to go, too. But Peter was upset by the idea of everyone leaving (and growing up). And then... Hook and his pirates kidnapped Wendy, John, Michael, and the Lost Boys, and left a bomb for Peter (disguised as a present from Wendy).

Back on his ship, Hook offered his prisoners the choice of joining his crew, or walking the plank. And of course, Wendy decided to walk the plank... Meanwhile, Tink escaped and tried to warn Peter about the bomb. She ends up saving him, but it seemed like it could have cost her her life. And I must say, while I have no clear memories of any particular version of the story, I do vaguely recall Tink dying or being near death and somehow being revived by children's belief in fairies, or something. I dunno. But that doesn't happen here, which slightly surprised me. At least Peter realized how important Tink is to him, and I guess he saved her after she saved him. But then she's just fine. There was this nice dramatic little scene, and then... it just seemed to me the impact was kind of diminished by not having a clear explanation of how she was fine.

But anyway, Peter and Tink head to Hook's ship, and there's a big fight, and everyone gets rescued. Peter becomes the ship's captain, with Hook and all the pirates gone, chased by the crocodile. And Tink sprinkles pixie dust on the ship so Peter can fly it to London, to return the Darling children to their home. After which there's a cozy little scene with Wendy, her mother and father, and Nana. And even her father seems much mellower than before. He decided Wendy doesn't really have to grow up just yet, though ironically, she's decided she's ready, after all. In spite of how much she loved the adventures that only a child could have in Never Land. (But hey, I guess it's only natural that crushing on Peter would make her want to grow up.) Still... I don't suppose anyone can watch a movie like this without feeling like a child, which is nice. And I guess that's all I can say about the plot....

Well. I'm sorry to have basically told you everything that happened, but I assure you, it's much more fun to watch than it is to read about. There's some beautiful animation, I felt, and some quite enjoyable voice work all around (I especially will never get tired of hearing Wendy say the word "lagoon," but I like the way she says pretty much everything, even "mm-hmmm" when telling her parents about her adventures). I couldn't even manage to find the Indian caricatures offensive at all (and I did try). Anyway, however much the story might diverge from the original book, however simple it all is, however short... yeah, it's pretty fast-paced, always moving from one situation to the next quickly and rather seamlessly. What was I going to say? Oh yes, it's just really fun. And I think there are some deeper themes in there, that aren't nearly as obvious here as they are in some interpretations, but they're still there, if you look for them. Certainly there's a fair amount of violence, however cartoonish. And Tink... oh, Tink... she can't help but be a sex symbol, what with such a short skirt and all... definitely some risqué stuff, for a kid's movie. (The mermaids were rather risqué, too.) And um... I guess that's all I can think to say for now, though I feel like I should say more....

animation index
classics index
pirate index
tek's nostalgia

Peter Pan
movies: Peter Pan (1953) * Hook * Return to Never Land * Peter Pan (2003) * Finding Neverland * Tinker Bell * Pan * Peter Pan & Wendy
TV: Neverland (2011) * Once Upon a Time * Peter Pan Live! * The New Adventures of Peter Pan