We know, we know. We haven't been around in a while. We're terrible, horrible naughty little boys.

Hey, what a great segue to.....

Peter Pan (1953)

Soundtrack/Score/Music: 6

Story/Screenplay/Narrative: 8

Characters/Characterization/Voice-Acting: 7.5

Art Direction/Design: 9

Themes, Archetypes, and Artistic Interpretation: 7

From RM:

So, Peter Pan. Hurrah for boy films! No icky girls here, just poorly crafted sexist archetypes. You know, how we all saw women when we were eleven. Or still do. Who am I to judge?

Anyhow, Peter Pan is the story of, you guessed it, Peter Pan, the mythical boy who never grew up and adventurer par excellence of Neverland, mythical land that.....never grew up, I guess. Anyhow, he has this fan club, comprised of the Darling children: Wendy, Michael and John. One evening Peter arrives to retrieve his shadow, which was taken from him by Nana, the underpaid and, we can only assume, illegal alien St. Bernard nanny and nursery maid. As Wendy helps him reattach it, our hero learns that she is moving out of the nursery and "growing up" tomorrow, as per her father's wishes. Peter, who enjoys listening to her stories every night (it was during one of these sit-ins that his shadow was taken), decided to take her back to Neverland so she can keep telling him stories. Unfortunately, this means taking along the baggage that is Michael and John as well, but Pan takes this in stride. Not so cheery about these turns of events is Tinkerbell, the pixie partner of Peter Pan, as well as the embodiment of sex in this film (trust me). She gets jealous and tries to have Pan's private platoon of pre-adolescent punks (the Lost Boys), shoot Wendy down. Pan discovers her plot, and banishes her for the weekend.

So, Captain Hook. He's hanging out in Neverland, despite the protestations of his crew and first mate, Mr. Smee, because he's out for Pan's blood for making an adult with a vast array of weaponry look like a total idiot. He schemes and plots, and manages to kidnap Tiger Lily, the princess of the Indian Tribe that resides on the isle. He tries to get her to reveal Pan's Private Pad, but to no avail. Pan procures the princess from her purloinment predicament and returns her to Big Chief Basso, and there is much rejoicing, except for a jealous Wendy.

Wendy is ready to go home, as are Michael and John, but Pan performs a perfectly portentous hissy fit, and sulks in his room while they leave. Little does he know that Hook has hoodwinked Tink, and has gotten the slighted sylph to reveal Pan's personal penthouse, which he has snuck upon, kidnapped the Lost Boys and the Darlings during their exeunt, and dropped a bomb disguised as a gift for Pan to pry open and go pow.

Thanks to some heroics by the bashful brownie, Tinkerbell, Pan is saved from a perfectly putrid pow-ing. He rushes to the ship where everyone is captured, wins the day, and returns the Darlings home, with Wendy ready to face her future unafraid. Hurrah!

So, quick out of the way, the song "What Makes the Red Man Red?" is pretty bad in terms of contemporary views of racism. But for back then, as much as I hate to justify racism historically, this was pretty common fare for how Native Americans were portrayed. The Mary Martin musical version of Peter Pan, which came out around the same time as this film, has the equally distressing song "Ugh-a Wugh-a Wigwam", so I refuse to see this as racist as say, Song of the South. I'd rather talk about sexism, because boy, do chicks take it on the chin in this film. Wait, that sounded bad.

Um, women are not portrayed as the powerful protectors of life and goddesses of beauty that they should be. No, that sounds pandering.

Look, ladies, you get burned in this film. Wendy is a wet-blanket mommy figure, Tink is a insanely possessive seductress (not that she and Peter would ever work, see below), Tiger Lily doesn't say one Goddamn word, and the Mermaids act like the Cheerleaders from Hell. And it's not pleasant. But, to be fair, this movie is seen from the world of a ten year-old boy. And ten year-old boys are both bigoted and sexist. Not that they intend to be cruel. But they like dropping everything down to a common denominator: Cowboys and Indians. Cops and Robbers. Boys and Girls. Us and them. It's just sort of how they work. So for a movie that is, essentially, a defense of the ten year-old, it's both fitting and a little disconcerting. But too bad. You get yours back when we get Eric in The Little Mermaid.

From Wiry:

You can fly! You can fly! You can fly! Just sprinkle yourself with pollen and think happy thoughts... or something...

Peter Pan was definitely among my top Disneys as a kid. Clearly I was a bit of an odd duck of a boy in that my favorite scene to re-watch was the seagull shaving scene, but I think, broadly speaking, this is a boy's film. Watching it again now, I realized how long it's been since I've checked in with the whole Peter Pan mythology. I missed Finding Neverland, and I don't know that I ever saw Hook other than in the theaters.

But the story of Peter Pan is really one of the best "growing up" mythologies we have. The shame I think of the Disney version is that it introduces much of the darker aspects of the tale without really exploring them (I know, I know, this is the infamous Disneyfication factor that rears its ugly head all over the place). For example: at the end of the tale, Peter decides to take Wendy and the Darling brothers (who, it should be noted, later appear as singing chipmunks in another franchise) back to London. But why? Earlier, he scorns the whole notion of leaving Neverland and growing up. While I don't think Peter's a bad person per se, he is a bratty boy who doesn't really grow up. In other words, he doesn't change. While that leaves the burden of interesting character development on others, I think it's sort of necessary for Peter to be fascinating but static - the cyclical nature of the tale (only barely hinted at in this version at the end by Mr. Darling, but fleshed out more fully in the Disney sequel and most other adaptations of the story) means Peter must always exist as a spirit of childhood. But, if he happily delivers anyone who wants to grow up home, one wonders why he keeps pulling kids to Neverland in the first place. I don't think it's a stretch to say that Peter wants always-present company. Without the Lost Boys, he has no one to lead. I think he enjoys the mother-factor with Wendy, but only insofar as she maintains the status quo.

Really, the only other characters who seem cut from the same cloth as Peter are Tinkerbell and Captain Hook: the former will always love him, the latter will always hate him. But neither can ever fulfill their ultimate end-goal. A romance between Tinkerbell and Peter is impossible both biologically and psychologically - while Peter may be able to admire her beauty, he can't really have an emotionally-invested relationship (or sex, even though Tink oozes sexy). And Hook will always threaten Peter, but the fact that Peter can fly, coupled with the ineptitude of Hook's crew, renders Hook relatively harmless.

On the whole, I think this adaptation does a good job up to a point with the material it's working with. It brings up some interesting ideas but it doesn't always follow through. The interpretation of Hook and mother-Smee is excellent. The tunes are catchy but not particularly substantial or emotionally engaging. The character design and voices are, as you probably are already aware, spot-on - there's a reason these interpretations of the characters come to mind first when Pan's on the table. And, even though I find the ending broadly unsatisfying from a character perspective, the visual of Tinkerbell whizzing all over Hook's ship to make it fly through the sky is most assuredly priceless.

Final Grade: B

Current Standings:
1.) The Lion King
2.) Sleeping Beauty
3.) The Hunchback of Notre Dame
4.) Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs
5.) Peter Pan
6.) Lady and The Tramp
7.) The Great Mouse Detective
8.) Pinocchio
9.) The Jungle Book
10.) The Black Cauldron
11.) Mulan
12.) The Three Caballeros
13.) Treasure Planet
14.) Saludos Amigos
15.) Fun and Fancy Free


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