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Peter Pan (1953 film)

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1952 Peter Pan promotional poster
1952 Peter Pan promotional poster

Walt Disney's Peter Pan is a 1953 American animated feature produced by Walt Disney and based on the play Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up by J. M. Barrie. It is probably the most familiar version of the story. This is due its popularity with larger audiences than would be inclined to read the book or see a stage production, and the repeated re-releases of the film and other exploitation by Disney in the decades since its debut.

It is the fourteenth film in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series and was originally released on February 5, 1953 by RKO Pictures. Peter Pan is the final Disney animated feature released through RKO before Walt Disney's founding of his own distribution company, Buena Vista Distribution after the film was released. Peter Pan is also the final Disney film in which all nine members of Disney's Nine Old Men worked together as directing animators. The film was entered into the 1953 Cannes Film Festival.

A sequel titled Return to Never Land was released in 2002, a spin-off series of direct-to-DVD Tinker Bell films began in 2008, and a spin-off TV series Jake and the Never Land Pirates was begun in 2010.

Contents

Plot

Disney's Peter Pan
Disney's Peter Pan

In Edwardian London in the neighborhood of Bloomsbury, George and Mary Darling's preparations to attend a very important party are disrupted by the antics of the boys John and Michael, acting out a story about Peter Pan and Captain Hook, told to them by their older sister Wendy. The father angrily declares that Wendy has gotten too old to continue staying in the nursery with them, and it's time for her to grow up. That night they are visited in the nursery by a pixie named Tinker Bell and cocky Peter Pan, who teaches them to fly and takes them with him to the island of Never Land.

A ship of pirates is anchored off Never Land, commanded by Captain Hook with his sidekick Mr Smee. Hook boldly plots to take revenge upon Peter Pan for cutting off his hand, but he trembles when the crocodile that ate it arrives; it now stalks him hoping to taste more. The crew's restlessness is interrupted by the arrival of Peter and the Darlings. The children easily evade them, and despite a trick by jealous Tinker Bell to have Wendy killed, they meet up with the Lost Boys, six lads in animal-costume pajamas who look to Peter as their leader. John and Michael set off with the Lost Boys to find the island's Indians, who instead capture them, believing them responsible for taking the chief's daughter Tiger Lily.

Meanwhile, Peter takes Wendy to see the mermaids, where they see that Hook and Smee have captured Tiger Lily, to coerce her into revealing Peter's hideout. Peter and Wendy free her, and Peter is honored by the tribe. Hook then plots to take advantage of Tinker Bell's jealousy of Wendy, tricking her into revealing the location of Peter's lair. The pirates lie in wait and capture the Lost Boys and the Darlings as they exit, leaving behind a time bomb to kill Peter. Tinker Bell learns of the plot just in time to snatch the bomb from Peter as it explodes.

Peter rescues Tinker Bell from the rubble and together they confront the pirates, releasing the children as they are about to be forced to walk the plank. Peter engages Hook in single combat as the children fight off the crew, and finally succeeds in humiliating the captain. Hook and his crew flee, with the crocodile in hot pursuit. Peter gallantly commandeers the deserted ship, and with the aid of Tinker Bell's pixie dust, flies it to London with the children aboard.

Mr and Mrs Darling return home from the party to find Wendy not in her bed, but sleeping at the open window; John and Michael are asleep in their beds. Wendy wakes and excitedly tells about their adventures. The parents look out the window and see what appears to be a pirate ship in the clouds. Mr Darling, who has softened his position about Wendy staying in the nursery, recognizes it from his own childhood, as it breaks up into clouds itself.

Production

Disney had been trying to buy the film rights to Barrie's play since 1935. He finally received them four years later, after he came to an arrangement with Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, to whom Barrie had bequeathed the rights to the play. His studio started the story development and character designs in the early-1940s, and intended Peter Pan as a follow-up to Bambi, but the Second World War forced the project to be put on hold. Just like Pinocchio before it, the original pre-war character designs for Peter Pan were very different from the final product. The original version had Nana go to Neverland with Pan and the Darling children, and had a much darker ending. It was not until after the war that the actual production of the film commenced.

Margaret Kerry was Tinker Bell's live-action reference model, contrary to a legend that it was Marilyn Monroe. Margaret Kerry posed for reference film shots on a soundstage; the footage was later used by supervising Tinker Bell animator Marc Davis and his team when they drew the character. Kerry also provided the voice of the red-haired mermaid in the film. Like Kerry, Bobby Driscoll was both the live-action reference model, mainly used for the close-up scenes, and the voice actor for Peter Pan. Peter's flying and action reference shots, were provided by dancer and choreographer Roland Dupree. Kathryn Beaumont, the voice of Wendy Darling, also performed for the live action reference footage. In an interview, she said she had to hold out her arms and pretend to fly for all the scenes requiring it.

Cast and characters

  • Bobby Driscoll as Peter Pan: The protagonist, Peter Pan is the boy who never grows up. Like Tinker Bell, Peter can be very hot-headed. He is also commanding, but very brave. Peter can be quite mean at times, for instance - laughing at Wendy as the mermaids nastily tease her. Despite this, he is caring, especially when it comes to Tinker Bell's safety. He finds enjoyment in fighting Captain Hook, and was responsible for the loss of his left hand. *Tinker Bell: a hot-headed pixie and Peter Pan's closest friend. She is very envious of the relationship formed between Wendy and himself. Her jelousy causes her to have Wendy nearly stoned to death, and eventually even tell Captain Hook Pan's hideout, tricked into thinking his intention is to capture Wendy, not Peter. When she realizes what she has done, she tries her best to warn Peter of a bomb Hook has left for him addressed as if from Wendy. Unfortunately, Peter won't hear of it, and she manages to push the bomb away from him the very moment it explodes, thus rescuing Peter's life courageously, almost at the cost of her own life. When Peter searches for her desperately in the ashes, she reflects a change of attitude towards Wendy and the boys, telling him he must rescue them first from Captain Hook's ship (of course he rescues her first). Towards the end, Tink helps the Darling children return home by sprinkling pixie dust all across the pirate ship Peter Pan has just inherited, now to be called "Captain Pan".
  • Kathryn Beaumont as Wendy Darling: The eldest of the Darling children; adores Peter Pan. She is twelve years old turning thirteen, which is what drives her moody father to move her out of the nursery, so she may mature. She is a very feminine character, with somewhat motherly care for others. She reminds the lost boys of their own mothers. She was the first one of the Darling children to ask to return home. She has a soft spot for Peter and envies the attention he pays Tiger Lily; she has reason to dislike Tinker Bell, but thinks her lovely anyway (namely after the latter calls her a "big ugly girl"). She has a very tame personality, wanting the best for everyone and grudging no one: even when the mermaids tease her nastily, she worries about the danger of their teasing more than their nastiness itself. She is naive and wise both, and mature; and very trusting and faithful to her standards of conscience.
  • Paul Collins as John Darling: One of Wendy's two younger siblings, the older Darling son. He is eight years of age, and acts very mature for his age, in a sophisticated way unnatural to his age group. He is an analysing thinker and good at strategy, for instance when he takes lead over the lost boys in capturing Indians and in fighting the pirates on board the ship. He wears large lousy glasses, is tall and slim. It is interesting to note that all the Darling children wore their nightgowns to Neverland, but he added a black top-hat and a walking stick, showing exaggerated maturity.
  • Tommy Luske as Michael Darling: The youngest Darling child of the three, about four years of age. Carries a teddy bear with him and is very sensitive. He is also a little clumsy, yet a very playful boy.
  • Hans Conried as Mr. Darling: The Darling children's father. He is a very moody and dramatic figure. In the beginning of the film he is called "a practical man". He has had enough of the boys listening to Wendy's imaginary tales about Peter Pan, and in a moment of frustration he demands that Wendy's room be parted from the boy's room, saying she "has to grow up". He is easily irritated at the mentioning of Peter Pan, and expresses his dislike in a rage of temper. However, when cooled down in the end of the film, he changes his mind about Wendy's "crazy stories". He later remarks having seen a pirate ship such as Peter Pan's when he was very young himself. In contrast to his moody outbursts, he is gentle at heart - when he punishes the children by taking Nana the dog outside, he feels sorry for her and soothes her to comfort her.
  • Heather Angel as Mrs. Darling: The Darling children's mother. She is much calmer and more understanding of her daughter's stories than her husband is, although she takes them with a pinch of salt - saying Peter Pan is "the spirit of youth". When her husband is overwhelmed with frustration at the children, she tries to sooth him, and later on assures the children that their father doesn't really mean what he says when he is angry, and that he truly loves them very much, which is true. She is a wise, lovely woman, and kind at heart.
  • Nana: The Darlings' nursemaid, a St. Bernard dog. She is an unnatural dog, taking care of the Darling children and cleaning up after their continuous messes. She is very sufficient at her work, and possesses much tolerance to the messes she must cope with. She is the family's darling pet, a general favourite - so much that separating her from the children for one night was considered a great punishment.
  • Hans Conried as Captain Hook: The antagonist of the film; a pirate captain who seeks revenge on Pan for having his left hand chopped off and fed to the Crocodile in fair battle. He is a dangerous villain, with no conscience to recommend him, yet is dependant on his personal assistant, Mr Smee. He also turns out to be very childish in his fear of the crocodile which wants to devour him.
  • Bill Thompson as Mr. Smee: Hook's first mate and the comic relief in the story, Mr. Smee is always being bossed around by Hook. The frustrated and bored crew men tease him by belly jabbing, locking him up in a treasure box tied, hooking his shirt on the wall and throwing knives at (almost) his belly.Still he loyaly serves his captain and is always by his side.
  • Corinne Orr as Tiger Lily: The Indian Chief's daughter. She is kidnapped by Hook who is determined to discover where Peter is. However she is faithful to Peter and refuses to speak even in the face of certain death. Peter rescues her, an act which is greatly rejoiced in celebrations by her people. She then dances with Peter and nose-kisses him (the Indian way of kissing), and arouses Wendy's jealousy. The way Disney portrayed the Indians of Neverland is somewhat controversial, sometimes being regarded as offensive; their portrayal in Barrie's book, Peter and Wendy, has also been regarded as stereotypical. Tiger Lily is mostly taciturn and speaks solely once and another quick cry from help until rising water cuts her off.
  • The Crocodile: A crocodile who swallowed an alarm clock and is after the remains of Hook; Pan had cut off Hook's hand and threw it to the Crocodile. That little appetizer was so successful that he's been following Hook ever since. In comics published later on, his character was known as Tic-Toc the Croc. In the books Peter and the Starcatchers/Peter and the Shadow Thieves, he was called Mr. Grin. Interestingly, the Croc in Barrie's book was a female, not a male as shown in this movie.
  • The Lost Boys: Pan's right-hand boys, dressed as various animals. Their names are Slightly (fox costume), Cubby (bear costume), Nibs (rabbit costume), Tootles (skunk costume) and the Twins (raccoon costumes). Their origin remains a mystery in the movie, especially since they claim to have once had mothers of their own. They are very savage-like boys, who get into fights easily with each other, but when they have a common goal to strive for, they act as one. Tootles is the only one to never talk, though his silence is never explained.
  • June Foray, Connie Hilton, Margaret Kerry, and Karen Kester as Mermaids: These mermaids are feline-friends of Peter and are very interested in his heroic stories of himself. They are resentful of Wendy and try to drown her although Peter insists they "are only having fun". They are frightened away when Captain Hook is rowing nearby. The mermaids appear to be in their mid-teens, with very womanly exposed bodies, resembling women in two-part bathing suits or something of the kind.
  • Verna Felton as Squaw
  • Bill Thompson as Other Pirates
  • Candy Candido as The Indian Chief
  • Tom Conway as Narrator
  • The Mellomen as Pirate Chorus

Crew

The movie was adapted by Milt Banta, William Cottrell, Winston Hibler, Bill Peet, Erdman Penner, Joe Rinaldi, Ted Sears, and Ralph Wright from the play and novel Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie. The film was directed by Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, and Hamilton Luske.

  • Animated By Hal Ambro, Bob Carlson, Eric Cleworth, Hugh Fraser, Jerry Hathcock, Bill Justice, Hal King, Don Lusk, Fred Moore, Cliff Nordberg, Ken O'Brien, Art Stevens, Harvey Toombs, Clair Weeks, Judge Whitaker, Marvin Woodward.
  • Directing Animators: Milt Kahl (Peter Pan), Frank Thomas (Smee), Wolfgang Reitherman, Ward Kimball, Oliver M. Johnston Jr. [as Ollie Johnston] Jr, (Captain Hook), Marc Davis (Tinker Bell), Eric Larson (George Darling), John Lounsbery, Les Clark, Norm Ferguson.
  • Effects Animators: George Rowley, Joshua Meador, Dan MacManus, Blaine Gibson.
  • Edited By: Donald Halliday.
  • Sound Director: C. O. Slyfield.
  • Sound Recording: Harold J. Steck, Robert O. Cook.

Music

The songs in Peter Pan were composed by Sammy Fain, Sammy Cahn, Frank Churchill, Winston Hibler and Ted Sears. Oliver Wallace composed the incidental music score.

  • Orchestrations: Edward Plumb.
  • Vocal Arrangements: Jud Conlon.
  • Music Editor: Al Teeter.
  • "The Second Star to the Right" - The Jud Conlon Chorus and The Mellomen
  • "You Can Fly!" - The Jud Conlon Chorus and The Mellomen
  • "A Pirate's Life" - Mr. Smee; The Pirates
  • "Following the Leader" - John and Michael Darling; The Lost Boys
  • "What Made the Red Man Red?" - The Indian Tribe, (Candy Candido and The Mellomen)--This song has become very controversial due to its racist stereotypes of Native Americans; lyrics and actions in sequence suggest that Indian men maintain a permanent blush due to their constant pursuit of Indian women.
  • "Your Mother and Mine" - Wendy Darling
  • "The Elegant Captain Hook" - Captain Hook; Mr. Smee; The Pirates
  • "You Can Fly!" (reprise) - The Jud Conlon Chorus and The Mellomen
  • "Never Smile at a Crocodile" - The lyrics were not heard, but the music was.

The melody for "The Second Star to the Right" was originally written for Alice in Wonderland]] as part of a song to be entitled "Beyond the Laughing Sky".

Release

magazine ad for the original 1953 release
magazine ad for the original 1953 release

The film was re-issued to theaters in 1958, 1969, 1976, 1982 and 1989; it was released on VHS in 1990.

Media and merchandise

Peter Pan, Wendy, and Smee were featured as guests in Disney's House of Mouse, and Captain Hook was one of the villains in Mickey's House of Villains. Peter Pan and the Lost Boys appeared in The Lion King 1½, and Peter Pan and Captain Hook were featured in Mickey's Magical Christmas: Snowed in at the House of Mouse. John Darling and Tinker Bell appear in the ending scene among the crowd of Toons in the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

Michael Jackson has cited Peter Pan as being his favorite movie of all time, from which he derived the name for his estate, Neverland Ranch in Santa Barbara, where he had a private amusement park, and which was the site of much controversy before he moved away in 2005. Ronald D. Moore, one of the executive producers and developer of the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica, has cited this film as the inspiration for one of the recurring themes of the series concerning the cyclical nature of time. The first line of the film, "All of this has happened before and it will all happen again," has been featured prominently in the series as a piece of scripture often repeated by characters.

Disney Fairies

Disney Fairies is a series of children's books published by Random House, which features Tinker Bell and her friends: Beck, Lily, Vidia, Rani, Prilla, Fira, and Bess. It also has a film series starting in 2008 with the self titled film about Tinker Bell.

Theme parks

Peter Pan’s Flight is a popular ride found at Disneyland, Walt Disney World, Disneyland Paris, and Tokyo Disneyland. Peter Pan, Wendy, Captain Hook and Mr. Smee make appearances in the parades, as well as greetings throughout the theme parks.

  • Peter Pan, Wendy, Captain Hook, Mr. Smee, and the Pirates are featured in a scene during Disneyland's version of "Fantasmic!"
Cast Member as Peter Pan in Disneyland Paris
Cast Member as Peter Pan in Disneyland Paris

Ice shows

  • Disney on Ice began its touring production of "Peter Pan" in Fall 1989. The production went on to tour nationally & internationally, from 1989 - 1993. The production featured a pre-recorded soundtrack with all the film's songs and character voices.
  • A shortened version of the story is presented in the current Disney on Ice production Mickey & Minnie's Amazing Journey. The show began in Fall 2003 & is currently on tour nationally. It features the songs "You Can Fly!", "Following the Leader", "Your Mother and Mine", "A Pirate's Life", "The Elegant Captain Hook" & "The Second Star to the Right".

Video games

Neverland is a playable world in both the original Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, with Tinker Bell appearing as a summon. Peter Pan appears as a summon in the sequel, Kingdom Hearts II. Neverland also appears as a playable world in Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days and is a playable world in Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep.

There have been at least two less known video games based on the Disney version's sequel Return to Never Land and the live 2003 version of Peter Pan. These games were released on the Game Boy Advance system.

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