Peter Pan (1953)
Critics Consensus: Though it doesn't delve deeply into the darkness of J.M. Barrie's tale, Peter Pan is a heartwarming, exuberant film with some great tunes.
No Top Critics Tomatometer score yet...
Disney's animated telling of the J.M. Barrie story chronicles the adventures of Peter, Wendy, Michael and John Darling as they must square off against Captain Hook on the enchanted island of Neverland.
- Animation , Kids & Family , Musical & Performing Arts , Science Fiction & Fantasy
- Directed By:
- Wilfred Jackson , Clyde Geronimi
- Written By:
- Milt Banta , William Cottrell , Winston Hibler , Bill Peet , Erdman Penner
- In Theaters:
- Feb 5, 1953 Wide
- On DVD:
- Mar 6, 2007
as Capt. Hook/Mr. Darli...
as Mr. Smee
as Mrs. Darling
as Michael Darling
as Indian Chief
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Critic Reviews for Peter Pan
I always thought Peter Pan was supposed to be about childhood innocence. Pan and Tinkerbell were not sweet and cuddly, they both came across as selfish, cold and really unlikable bullies.
plays as less of a child fantasy of soaring adventure than it does as a retrograde narcissistic adult male fantasy of being desired and pursued by every female in the room
Years later it's still a treasure, because of Disney and his artists' talent for creating memorable characters.
Not an especially mature film, probably the most "kiddie movie" of all the 1950s Disney features.
Definitely a Disney classic but misses out much of the darker side of J.M.Barrie's fantasy tale.
Disney's depersonalizing habit of putting different teams in charge of different sections of the story really shows up here.
Ornamented with some bright and lilting tunes, it is a lively feature-length Technicolor excursion into a world that glows with an exhilarating charm and a gentle joyousness.
The Walt Disney Company has broken the vaults wide open to add a plethora of fascinating historic artifacts to make this new Platinum Edition a must-own for any Disney collector.
I have to give a special shout-out to Tinkerbell, a Disney creation that I never fully appreciated as a child.
...if we must have only one enduring account of Barrie's creations, we could do worse.
The boomers love it; they can have it.
Perhaps Disney's most underrated work.
A cavalcade of classic songs, unforgettable moments, gorgeous handcrafted animation and, unfortunately, some racial stereotypes.
Audience Reviews for Peter Pan
Though it is supposed to be an adventurous story of youth and innocence, it is marred by the fact that Peter Pan and Tinker Bell come off as truly unlikable characters, and it must be a sign that it isn't really working the way it should when you see yourself rooting for Captain Hook.More
"Peter Pan" is one of the more definitive tales in the Disney universe, and also one of the most memorable With characters that have definitely become well known throughout the years, this film holds it's name up very high. While not quite having a long enough run time to distinguish every detail for story, it does it well enough with it's time, creating a beautiful and magical universe. There is quite a lot of slapstick humour throughout this film, and it will have anyone laughing, due to it's cleverness. "Peter Pan" may not be a perfect film, but it's a very very good one!More
Peter Pan is one of the first Disney films that I saw that appealed to me, but compared to others, didn't really stand out. I for one, thought that Finding Neverland was a better film, as I much preferred the story of how the character of Peter Pan came into being. I'm not saying that I hated this film, I found it very good, entertaining and fun, but compared to other films that Disney has made in the first few years they operated, I find this film to be good, but not as good as previous Disney features. Peter Pan has all the unique ingredients that make up an effective, entertaining, and engaging Disney film. I found this film to be good, but not as good as others in Disney's back catalogue. Nonetheless this is still good entertainment for the entire family, and it should be seen by every Disney fan out there. The film has a great story, despite its limitations. The film manages to be a good take on the classic tale. Peter Pan has great characters brought to life by a good cast of voice talents. This is a childhood favorite even if I don't see it as good as previous Disney films. A terrific film despite its flaws, Peter Pan is nonetheless a great family adventure that will bring on a good viewing experience. Enjoyable and fun, Peter Pan is a must see film, and though not as great as the first few Disney films, it still belongs among the best that Disney has produced. A fun film to watch even with the fact that I didn't enjoy it as much as Pinocchio and Snow White.More
Disney has a reputation for taking much-loved works of fiction and crowbarring them into marketable narrative and musical conventions. We may think this is a recent development, something that began with the Disney renaissance of the late-1980s and eventually led to Tim Burton's hugely disappointing Alice in Wonderland. But Disney has been taking flagrant liberties with author's works for decades prior to this. You only have to look at P. L. Travers, who made millions in royalties from Mary Poppins but felt betrayed by Disney's decision to add songs and animation to what she felt was an inherently dark and spiky work.
It is interesting that Peter Pan, a pet project of Walt Disney which was 14 years in the making, should also be at least partially guilty of this tendency. There is much to enjoy in this adaptation of J. M. Barrie's stage play, and the term 'Disneyfied' does not entirely apply due to certain sections which remain offensive. But for all the entertainment it provides, especially to younger children, it's not first-rate Disney by quite some distance.
Walt Disney had his eye on adapting Peter Pan since 1935, having been utterly entranced by the stage play from a young age. After four years of pestering, Great Ormond Street Hospital in London (who held the rights in accordance to Barrie's will) finally allowed Disney to make the film. Like PIXAR today, it took many years for Disney and his animators to work out how to translate the story to the big screen. This process was further delayed by WWII, when the studio was taken over by the US government and used for producing propaganda.
Peter Pan has become an integral part of the Disney stable and brand. The story of the boy who never grew up reflects Walt Disney's belief in retaining a childlike sense of wonder about the world around us, and not trying to bury our childhood and the lessons it contains. Tinkerbell has become an emblem of Disney in and of herself, appearing in several versions of the animated logo. The film is directed by three talented men who were present in some form throughout the Golden Age - Clyde Geronomi (who directed Cinderella and Alice in Wonderland), Wilfred Jackson (Song of the South) and Hamilton Luske (Pinocchio).
The relationship between the stage play and the finished film is an interesting one. The film retains certain conventions of Barrie's story, such as having Mr. Darling and Captain Hook being voiced by the same actor (Hans Conried in a good performance). But while it has always been traditional on the stage for Pan to be played by a girl, this is the first instance in which he was played by a boy, namely Song of the South star Bobby Driscoll.
The theatrical aspect of the film is maintained through the continued use of rotoscoping, a technique pioneered by Disney's rival Max Fleischer but used by Disney to great effect on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. This involved actors, including most of the voice cast, acting out their scenes on minimal sets built specifically for the film. The performances were filmed or photographed, and the animators would then use these recordings as a starting point for their drawings, allowing them to animate human movement more believably.
It is easy to forget how close the relationship between theatre and film was throughout the early days of cinema. Alfred Hitchcock famously complained that when sound first came in, studios all too often just filmed theatrical performances and put them in cinemas, creating what he called "photographs of people talking". Many great stars of the Disney Golden Age came from variety and music hall, and film work was, like television after it, viewed as inferior compared to a successful stage career. It is therefore fitting that aspects of Peter Pan are theatrical in nature, either in the storytelling or in the exaggerated characters.
The storytelling in Peter Pan is incredibly breezy. Coming in at just shy of 80 minutes, it bustles through the story at a fair old pace, never stopping for a breather or getting bogged down in unimportant details. This is again largely a reflection of the time, when feature-length animation was relatively new. Snow White was famously dubbed "Disney's folly", with his contemporaries believing that the only way to make money from cartoons was through shorts: it was possible to make a lot very quickly, rather than putting all one's eggs in one basket. Disney proved them wrong by obeying the maxim of Mark Twain: he put all his eggs in one basket, and he watched the basket.
The downside to Peter Pan in terms of pacing is that it does end up skimming over the surface instead of getting to grips with the substance of the story. It doesn't have any of the real darkness of Barrie's play, with the parents appearing uppity rather than overtly threatening. While Hook and Mr. Darling are played by the same actor, there is no attempt to explore the implications of this. Barrie characterised Hook in such a way that he came across as an exaggerated version of Wendy's father: the character represents both children's fear of adults and their accompanying resistance towards growing up. The film doesn't refute this idea entirely, but it doesn't give much time to it either.
The only instances where the film begins to get a real grip on the source are doing the songs, and even here there is a problem with convention. 'Your Mother And Mine', sung by Wendy to the Lost Boys, is both a very tender paean to parenthood and a poor man's 'Baby Mine' from Dumbo. The pirates' songs are really good fun but they are also generic, being close to anything else being churned out at the back end of Tinpan Alley. You could almost call the songs unnecessary because they don't bring out the story enough to warrant a place, but as with Dumbo they make the grade on a level of pure enjoyment.
The film is at its best with the musical slapstick sequences - something which is both its biggest strength and its greatest weakness. The confrontations between Hook and the Crocodile display great use of percussion to comic effect, with our villain defying death in a series of hilarious ways. These sequences are structured with a real sense of rhythm and comic timing, so that even at their most cartoonish (running on water), they depict real emotions and really enjoyable peril. The weakness derives once again from the fact that they are typical of Disney and not of the story itself; once again, we allow them because they are enjoyable in their own right, but it doesn't enhance the adaptation.
There are other problems with Peter Pan besides its concessions to convention. The biggest of these is the portrayal of Native Americans, an issue that would rear up again when Disney made Pocahontas in the 1990s. I tackled the issue of on-screen racism in my review of Gone with the Wind, arguing that mitigating racism as a product of its time does not entirely excuse the reprehensible nature of some depictions. Apart from the stereotyping of Native Americans in general, matters are made worse by the musical number 'What Made The Red Man Red?', which explains Indians' red skin as being a perpetual blush caused by their pursuit of women. It is interesting to note that Disney re-edited Song of the South to remove certain racist slurs, and yet nothing has been done with Peter Pan.
The only way to genuinely enjoy Peter Pan, in spite of everything I've mentioned, is to view it as 'the Disney version' of Barrie's work, rather than any kind of definitive adaptation. Subsequent adaptations have had their problems too (some, like Hook, more than others), and as a Disney film first and foremost it delivers. The animation is beautiful with a great choice or colours, the music is well-arranged and judges the mood very well, the characters are impish and interesting, and the action sequences are exciting. For introducing young children to Disney, it is a reasonable place to start, particularly for those who might not stomach the darkness of Pinocchio.
Peter Pan is not quite the Disney classic that it is made out to be. While it has much in the way of magic and wonder in and of itself, its differences and distance from the source material prevent it from being the definitive take on J. M. Barrie's much-loved character. Aspects of it have dated, and fans of Pinocchio or even Dumbo may feel a little short-changed. But for pure enjoyment and entertainment, it has stood the test of time, and will continue to satisfy young children who never want to grow up.
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