- Directed by Hamilton Luske, Clyde Geronimi, and Wilfred Jackson
- February 5, 1953
- Based on J. M. Barrie’s 1904 play Peter Pan, or the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up
- Narrator-Tom “not TIM” Conway
- Peter Pan-Bobby Driscoll
- Wendy Darling-Kathryn Beaumont
- Captain Hook, George Darling-Hans Conried
- Mr. Smee-Bill Thompson
- Mary Darling-Heather Angel
- John Darling-Paul Collins
- Michael Darling-Tommy Luske
- The Lost Boys (Slightly, Cubby, Nibs, and the Twins)-Stuffy Singer, Robert Ellis, Jeffrey Silver, and Johnny McGovern
- The Mermaids-June Foray, Connie Hilton, Karen Kester, and Margaret Kerry
- Chief of the Native Americans-Candy Candido
- Pirate and Native American Choruses-The Mellomen (Thurl Ravenscroft, Bill Lee, Bob Stevens and Max Smith)
The Darling children are whisked away to the magical realm of Neverland.
This story while a fun and family friendly adventure is also about growing up. It’s about reaching the point in your life where you must put your childhood behind you and move on. Yet you might still want to hold onto a little bit of that youthful wonder.
Disney’s Peter Pan starts out with Wendy not wanting to grow up and leave the nursery. Her father is pushing hard for her to have her own room while her mother is more willing to let her hold onto her youth. Two different philosophies. One of not quite letting it go and the other is of completely abandoning it.
There is the implication, though nothing is directly stated, at various points in the story that girls are smarter than boys and that’s why there are no Lost Girls in Neverland. Thus Wendy is framed as the film’s source of maturity and levelheadedness. The parent. Peter is the impulsive child. That’s all wrapped in a story with elements that kids of the time might find exciting or even exotic. We have pirates. We have Native Americans. We have man eating crocodiles. All dangerous and exciting stuff.
Some have made statements concerning elements of this adaption. I admit I have a bit of a problem with the song ‘What Made the Redman Red?’ sung by the Native American tribe. It’s a little cringe but mostly because it’s just bad rather than anything else. It is of the same quality as ‘Indian Outlaw’ which came out decades later. Disney can certainly do better and definitely has before and since.
In keeping with the tradition established by the play, Hans Conried is both the voice of the father AND of Captain Hook alluding to Wendy working through her feelings over being told to leave the nursery. Her father is Hook. Hook is a mean adult figure trying to destroy joyful youth and her father is a mean adult trying to destroy her youthful world.
But that gets upended a little bit in a moment towards the very end where the father sees framed against the moon a cloud that looks like a pirate ship and swears he had seen that ship before. Did the dad travel off to Neverland and because he grew up a little bit too much forget? But he hasn’t grown up entirely either and that youthful nature and the understanding that comes from it of Wendy allows him to relent a bit. Wendy for her part understands that it’s time to move on.
And that’s what you get by digging below the surface. On the surface Disney’s Peter Pan is just a fun adventure. And perhaps that’s the main reason this still has resonance today. There’s something for kids and something for adults in it. Heck there’s even something for kids becoming adults. It’s much more than a disposable family friendly adventure story. You can take it at face value or enjoy it for the substance just below what a shallow look will give you.
The fun and bouncy nature found in all classic Disney movies like this makes it all go down easy. That along with memorable characters and talented voice cast helps make this special. Ultimately the story makes you feel good regardless. It’s as much comfort food as it is a good snack.
Disney’s Peter Pan is a classic piece of animation that certainly deserves its love. With great dialogue and memorable characters this is a film you will revisit again and again. I certainly recommend this version of the story!
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