Peter Pan (1953)

Peter Pan is a movie based on J.M. Barie’s 1904 play “Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up”. It’s Disney’s 14th animated feature film about a boy who along with his friends visits the island of Never Land to stay young. Released in 1953, the film gained much success and positive reviews from the fans. 

Its impact was such that even today people like to dress up as Peter Pan at special occasions like Halloween. From the plot to the film’s response, let’s take a look into what made it so special. 

Plot

The movie starts in London, England in 1900 with George and Mary Darling’s preparations to attend a party, which is disrupted by their boy’s antics, John and Michael, who are seen acting out a story based on Peter Pan. Their elder sister Wendy tells them stories about Peter Pan every night while George is fed up with the stories and states that Wendy has become too old to stay with the boys in the nursery. 

That night, the boys and Wendy are given a visit by Peter Pan himself who teaches them how to fly with this pixie and unwilling friend, Tinker Bell. Peter Pan takes them to the island of Never Land. 

At Never Land, a ship captained by Captain Hook is anchored along with his mate Mr.Smee. Captain Hook intends to take revenge from Peter Pan for cutting off his hand but is fearful at the same time about the crocodile consuming the rest of him. It is the same crocodile that ate his hand. Upon Peter Pan’s arrival with the group, the pirates start shooting at them with canons. As a result, Peter Pan sends the Darlings to safety while baiting the pirates. 

Meanwhile, Tinker Bell grows jealous of Pan’s attention to Wendy and plans mutiny. He persuades the Lost Boys that Peter Pan has ordered to shoot down Wendy. However, Tinker Bell’s treachery is soon found out and Peter Pan banishes her. 

John and Michael along with the Lost Boys set off to find the island’s Indians who instead capture them and blame them for capturing the chief’s daughter, Tiger Lily.

In the meantime, Peter Pan takes Wendy to see the mermaids but they flee in terror as Captain Hook arrives at the scene. Both Peter and Wendy realize that Captain Hook had captured Tiger Lily to force her to disclose the hideout of Peter Pan. 

As a result, Peter manages to free and return her to the tribe while they honor him. As a result, Hook then takes advantage of Tinker Bell’s jealousy of Wendy and tricks her into sharing Pan’s location. 

Not long at Never Island, Wendy along with her brothers grow homesick and plans to return home. They invite the lost boys and Peter Pan to return to London and be adopted by the Darling parents. 

While the Lost Boys agree, Peter Fan refuses since he does not want to grow up. The pirates wait to capture the Lost Boys while leaving behind a time bomb to kill Peter. Tinker Bell learns of the plot and snatches the bomb from Peter’s hand just in time. 

The bomb explodes and Peter helps Tinker Bell from the rubbles and confront the pirates together. They manage to release the children before being forced to walk the plank. Peter fights with Hook, who lands in the water and is chased by the crocodile while Peter Pan commands the ship to London. 

However, the Lost Boys change their mind and ask to return to Never Land. Upon George and Mary’s return, they find Wendy sleeping at the open window of the nursery. Wendy then wakes up and shares the exciting adventures. 

The parents look out the window and observe a pirate-like ship in the clouds. George by now had softened his position about Wendy staying at the nursery and recognizes the ship from his childhood. 

Critical Reaction

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The film received a mixed response from the critics. While some stated that the film lacked faithfulness to the original play, others were off the view that the film did not feature any changes to the original story. The overall quality of the movie was termed splendid while the music received a 50-50 response. 

The animation of the movie was so good that it was termed Disney’s another masterpiece by several critics. The movie even caught Michael Jackson’s attention who at the time renamed his state “Never Land”. 

The movie also did quite well financially by earning more than $6 million in distributor rentals from Canada and the United States. Furthermore, it has been estimated that the movie managed to collect $87.4 million as lifetime domestic gross.

Controversy

Peter Pan was regularly criticized for its stereotypical treatment of the Indians. In the song “What Made the Red Man Red?” the Native Americans were called “Injuns” while their skin color was attributed to being kissed by women. 

Years after the movie’s production, Marc Davis, one of the supervising animators of the film stated that he was not sure whether the team would be able to showcase the Indians in such a way today than the way they did back then. Although the Indians were excluded from the 2002 sequel but included in a tie-In video game.

Final Word

Today, Peter Pan has become a worldwide phenomenon. From video games to theme parks, Peter Pan is a very well-liked figure amongst children. Even though it has been decades since the film was released but its popularity is strongly felt in different parts of the world. Since the Peter Pan fever does not seem to calm down, who knows the character might return to the big screen in the future.