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  • Writer's pictureCollin Souter

Week # 19: "Peter Pan"

(Originally published on 5/13/22)


5/8/2022

Peter Pan

Run time: 77 min.

Release Date: February 5, 1953.

Where/when I first saw it: On video, I think

How I watched it today: Blu-ray, Sunday evening

We want to like “Peter Pan.” We want the experience of watching it to capture the magic of its era when animation like this was still new and full of wonder. The idea of eternal youth, being able to take flight and to always be the hero against the villains is fundamental to childhood fantasies that it’s no wonder the story itself (or at least, the general concept of Pan himself) has endured for well over a century. Disney was a natural fit for an adaptation of John Barrie’s play and he certainly knew how to cast the voices, drawing from his stable of on-screen and off-screen talent (Bill “Droopy” Thompson as Smee remains the most delightful part of the whole thing).


But we don’t live in a world where we can enjoy Disney’s “Peter Pan” anymore. Not sure how much I really enjoyed it in the first place. I always enjoyed the set-up, but never could get into all the Captain Hook stuff. Nothing in the film ever got me emotionally or got me truly excited and now, Pan himself comes off as a bit of a bore. The Tinkerbell character is the true star, of course, and always has been. Her eternal glow and aura of pixie dust remains one of the studio’s crowning animation feats for this era.


Of course, the film’s main roadblock for enjoyment comes midway when we meet the Indians. There’s just no way to spin it. The buffoonish depiction of them sinks the movie and it gets increasingly difficult to look past it the longer it goes on. Sure, there are ways to look beyond the surface and put things into historical context in order to enjoy something that has questionable content. It was acceptable at the time and Disney meant well. Sure. For me, though, in this case, it’s not enough. Maybe if Peter and Wendy had more of a real connection to one another, or if something more was at stake in the storyline, maybe I could look past it, but I just don’t have it in me and, ultimately, the film doesn’t draw us in beyond just looking at the kids flying and enjoying themselves.


“Peter Pan” has small moments of joy and wonder, but there are other reasons it doesn't hold together beyond the obvious. Still, it’s interesting that after “Alice In Wonderland,” Disney wanted to once again take normal, everyday characters (Wendy and her brothers) and plunge them into a fantasy world where they might not escape. Where he might not have wanted to consider the early Disney features as “kids’ movies” and while he definitely got sidetracked by WWII, he most certainly had kids’ imaginations on his mind during this time.

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