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Nana is the nurse of Wendy, John, and Michael Darling, hired by their parents to look after the children on George Darling's modest income. Even though he is somewhat embarrassed (sometimes angry, as in the 2003 Warner Brothers film) to have a dog in his employ, Nana is good at her job. In the original stage direction of the play it is stated that "She will probably be played by a boy, if one clever enough can be found, and must never be on two legs except on those rare occasions when an ordinary nurse would be on four." In fact, she was played in the original production and most subsequent stage presentations by a man in a dog suit. George Ali gave an impressive performance as Nana in the 1924 silent film adaptation.
There has been considerable confusion about what breed of dog Nana is. This is compounded by people getting confused about what breed of dog J. M. Barrie and his wife Mary had.... because they had two. In the script for the play, Barrie specifies that Nana is a Newfoundland. (Luath, the Barries' dog at that time, was a Newfoundland.) This is confirmed in the text of the novel Peter and Wendy. However, when Barrie first conceived Peter Pan, his dog was Porthos, a Saint Bernard. Porthos and Luath were superficially similar in appearance. In Disney's animated adaptation, Nana was clearly depicted as a Saint Bernard, and the dogs who played Nana in P. J. Hogan's 2003 adaptation were also Saint Bernards.
In the Disney's film, a dog performing the role of a human servant was second nature for the animators to present. They didn't stay true to Barrie's stage directions, but she makes limited use of her paws (except for walking). Still she is smart enough to serve the children's medicine and to put the blocks A-B-C in the correct order.