What if the world we live in was a place where we never had to grow up? In Neverland, you would not have to. Peter Pan, the excellent Disney masterpiece from 1953 based on J.M. Barrie’s novel, proves just that. From its magical beginning to its hopeful end, this brings nothing but sheer happiness throughout.
The opening credits reveal some names you might recognize. Just to name a few…Milt Kahl, Wolfgang Reitherman, Mary Blair, Ollie Johnston, Ward Kimball, and the list goes on. The talent provided for this film is absolutely endless. And let’s not forget the incredible Jud Conlon, who organized the vocal arrangements for this film. Conlon also provided arrangements for Alice in Wonderland. There are a couple more Alice references, as I will further explain toward the end.
I love many scenes of this film, but I cannot leave out the very first scene in the beginning. This is breathtaking as it gives quite an impressive view of an animated crane shot of London. This immediately brings you to the Peter Pan attraction in Walt Disney World, and you almost feel as though you are in the attraction vehicle, flying over the buildings. Also, I feel that I must make mention of the battle between Peter and his shadow in the nursery. This is extremely well done, especially the way Wendy sews his shoes to the feet of the shadow. It was simply amazing and the animation for this particular scene was well crafted. The way Peter’s movements proceeded to match his shadow was excellent.
Of course, there is never a true Disney film without some humorous moments. I found the treasure map drawing on the father’s shirt to be absolutely darling (no pun intended). Michael’s following the Lost Boys and unknowingly climbing his way over the animals also brings a laugh. There is also a fantastic scene where Captain Hook nonchalantly shoots a singing pirate on the ship, and all you hear is the poor man falling into the water. However, what tickles me the most is on Mermaid Lagoon, when the feisty mermaids are attempting to pull Wendy in the water. They do not succeed, but when Peter questions their motives, one of the mermaids responds with, “We were only trying to drown her.” Oh, is that all it was? No harm, no foul! Great moment.
There is always a turning point of a film where you think to yourself, “NOW I get what is happening.” Not that Peter Pan is a particularly complex film. However, as Peter is about set to take Wendy and the kids to Neverland, she mentions the motherly figure. Peter makes a comment of, “Good, you can be OUR mother.” This is like a bell going off in the head. Peter not only has 0% romantic interest in Wendy as you might think (as we find out, he kind of digs Tiger Lily), but he looks at her as being a mother to the Lost Boys and himself.
The voice actors could not have been more perfect for this film. I particularly love Kathryn Beaumont who provides the talent of Wendy, and who also voiced no other than…wait for it…remember the reference I mentioned?...Alice herself for Alice in Wonderland. The sweet Bobby Driscoll, who sadly did not live a long life, voiced Peter Pan. Driscoll appeared in the much loved film Treasure Island portraying Jim Hawkins. Something new that I learned…the voice of both Captain Hook and Mr. Darling is the same person, a man by the name of Hans Conreid. I also want to make mention of one of my favorite characters in the film, Mr. Smee, who is voiced by Bill Thompson. Name/voice sound familiar to you? This might be because he also voiced Uncle Waldo in The AristoCats, Hubert in Sleeping Beauty, Jock in Lady and the Tramp, and the White Rabbit & Dodo bird in Alice in Wonderland. This is among many other films/shorts which his voice talent appeared.
Similar to the rest of the film, the music is breathtaking. My favorite song is “Second Star to the Right.” I actually listen to this on a regular basis. “You Can Fly” perks up my heartstrings. “Pirate’s Life” is a great addition to the film, and “Your Mother and Mine” puts tears in my eyes every time, sung ever so lovely by Miss Kathryn Beaumont.
During every Disney film I watch, I always take note of who my favorite character is and what my favorite scene is. For the character, I’m a bit stuck. I love them all. Peter Pan signifies the youthful individual within each one of us. Captain Hook is my second favorite villain (Jafar from Aladdin is my absolute favorite). Mr. Smee is fantastic. I like Tinkerbell simply for her determination and hostility. Wendy, John, and Michael are adorable. The Indian Chief, Tiger Lily, and the tribe are all wonderful additions, as are the Lost Boys. Nana is absolutely precious. However, if I had to choose my favorite character, I think it would be the Crocodile (or should I say Clockodile?). After all, he is in my most favorite scene in the entire film. This is toward the end where Peter Pan calls Captain Hook a codfish and the codfish jingle begins. The scene proceeds to show the Crocodile bouncing back and the forth in the water, enjoying the melody. To me, this is a heartwarming scene and such a great, humorous way to wrap up Hook’s possible lack of a future.
As you all may know about me, I’m a crier. I become emotional at just about anything and everything. However, there are only two moments in the film where I get choked up. First, the scene where Peter, Wendy, John, and Michael fly over London and land on Big Ben while “You Can Fly” plays. I cry simply because it brings me to WDW’s Philharmagic attraction and I feel swept away to the sights and sounds of the happiness. The other emotional scene for me is at the very end, when Mr. Darling sees the ship passing over the moon, and says the following: “You know, I have the strangest feeling that I've seen that ship before. A long time ago, when I was very young.” This puts a lump in my throat, as I’m sure it does to many others. I am actually getting misty-eyed as I write of this endearing scene, which means a lot to me personally. This is a constant reminder that although we do have to accept responsibility and “grow up” at some point, we will always maintain the child-like quality in our hearts. Thankfully, Walt Disney has helped with this by giving us Peter Pan. Thank you, Uncle Walt, for making such a beautiful film that speaks to all of us.
My Rating: 5/5 stars.
Second star to the right and straight on till morning!