Friday, April 9, 2010

Peter Pan (1953)

After telling my friend the plot of a short film I'm making for my stop-motion animation class, he immediately became transfixed with the idea of watching Disney's Peter Pan (I think it was the importance of a self-aware shadow in my story), and soon enough we found ourselves at Blockbuster. After a showing of Zombieland, we settled down to revisit this "classic". Hah. Adapted from JM Barrie's lovely play, the story follows the Darling children Wendy, John, and Michael as they scuttle off to Neverland with Peter Pan, an impish eternal youth. He wishes for Wendy to be a mother to his gang of Lost Boys, telling them stories and tucking them in and whatnot. While visiting this magical haven of mermaids, fairies, and Native American stereotypes, the Darlings are caught up in the age-old battle between Peter and a motley crew of pirates led by Captain Hook.

Yeah, so this movie is just not really very good. I always loved the story of Peter Pan as a kid, and I've seen various iterations over the years, most of which I've continued to enjoy. This one did not age well. The script isn't particularly involving, the characters aren't very funny or likable, and the few musical numbers aren't exactly sing-along fun. The endearing trickster spirit of Peter is replaced by mean-spirited douchbaggery, prompting us multiple times to proclaim in surprise, "Wow, Peter Pan is just a dick." The only characters I could get behind were John, whose top hat, cool glasses, and authoritative way of speaking I found charming, and Tinker Bell, whom I felt quite sorry for- not only does she look uncomfortable in that outfit, but she's treated as a salt shaker by most of the cast and she can't even speak to defend her (supposedly PMS-induced) actions! Not sure how she became such an icon of Disney magic, as she's barely in three scenes.

While I recall my imagination being captured by the early scenes of the Darling children learning to fly (my main dream as a kid), I really didn't remember much else about Peter Pan. I guess this is a good thing, since a good chunk of it is just a huge stereotype of American Indians. There's a lot of talk about "what makes the red man red" and various deep-throated "Hoooows" and face painting. I think the worst part is that almost all of the Indian characters are literally drawn exactly the same way, as if to say, "If you've seen one, you've seen 'em all". Yeesh. I know it was the 50's, but that doesn't make it excusable when watching it today.

This movie's mostly just lame. The animation is very good (I especially liked the scenes of Peter fighting with his shadow), and there are some good comedic moments with Nanny (the Darlings' dog) and Smee, but for the most part it's not worth watching. The fact that I barely remembered any of it from childhood viewings is indicative of the kind of impact it has. It's not the worst thing ever, but it's not very special.



  1. I loved this movie as a kid, but it hasn't aged quite as well with me. I haven't seen it in ages though, but this was always a favorite of mine. I throughly enjoyed the 2003 updated version with Jason Isaacs as Hook.

  2. This movie was tainted for me at an early age by Hook. Damn.

  3. What makes the red man red? Racism.

    Shouldn't we be thankful that this awesome move spawned this vomit: