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Peter Pan (1988 film)
Peter Pan is an Australian 50-minute direct-to-video animated film from Burbank Films Australia, part of a series of low-budget adaptations of classic literature. It was originally released in 1988, taking advantage of the lapse of the original play's copyright in Australia, 50 years after J. M. Barrie's death in 1937. The story was adapted by Paul Leadon. The film was produced by Roz Phillips and featured music composed by John Stuart.
The rights to the film have changed hands and have been licensed to multiple distributors, so it has been released under at least three distinct covers, making it look as if there were several animated features out there, rather than just this one, the Disney film, and one other. The names attached to this production include Children's Video of America, Pulse Distribution and Entertainment, BEI Bogner Entertainment, Gaiam Americas, Genius Entertainment, NuTech Digital, and Payless Entertainment.
The adaptation is geared toward younger children, with the protagonists made especially childlike and cuddly, and the pirates shown exclusively as comedic buffoons. (Tinker Bell's attempt to have Wendy killed survives, however.) The theme of Wendy serving as a substitute mother for the Lost Boys is played up heavily. The pirates also wish for a mother, and Hook's motivation for going after Wendy is that if he can't have a mother, Peter can't have one either. At the end, the Lost Boys (plus Smee) are each returned to their own mothers, with Peter Pan's agreement. The soundtrack frequently returns to either a cheerful or tranquil flute motif, as we watch the kids in action or at rest.
The animation is on par with children's television of the time, with heavy use of partially-stationary figures on simply painted backgrounds, so it isn't up to the traditional Disney standards at all. It falls back on cartoon slapstick and sound effects. But it still goes beyond the minimum necessary, such as a rippling effect when the mermaids are shown underwater, indicating that the animators were making a genuine effort within budgetary constraints.
The pirate captain's full name is inexplicably stated as "Jasper Hook", and the directions to Neverland are changed for some reason to "first on the left and straight on till morning". Only four pirates are depicted: Hook, Smee, Cecco, and the Black Pirate (whose name neither Barrie nor the producers of this production reveals). All six of the Lost Boys are depicted, but only Tootles and Nibs have significant dialog. The nine voice actors do not have their specific roles credited, so it's impossible to identify who performed each of the dozen or so speaking parts. The mermaids make a couple brief, silent appearances. On the other hand, fairies besides Tinker Bell are briefly spotlighted, which is above-and-beyond most other adaptations. There is a sequence shown twice, of a pack of "wild beasts", which look as if they were design by Dr Seuss, and seem entirely out of place.
The current release on DVD suffers a bit from being a low-contrast and not-especially-sharp transfer from analog videotape. The color quality varies from one scene to the next.
Every night before going to sleep, the Darling children, Wendy, John, and Michael, are told stories by their mother of wonderful adventures in fantasy worlds; many of these stories tell of Peter Pan. One night, when Mr. and Mrs. Darling go out, leaving the children under the care of a house maid and the nursery dog Nana, Wendy is thrilled when the real Peter Pan flies right into their window. In a previous visit, Nana had taken Peter Pan's shadow away from him, and now he and his fairy friend Tinker Bell have returned to claim it, safe because Nana is being punished by Mr. Darling for breaking a valuable glass jar (unknown to him, in the attempt to protect the children from Peter), and was now kept outdoors.
Peter Pan and Wendy become friends, and Peter confesses that he has visited many times, to listen to Mrs. Darling's bedtime stories. John and Michael awaken, and Peter invites them all to follow him to Neverland, where he wants Wendy to be a mother like Mrs. Darling. Once there, Peter takes John and Michael to see Captain Hook's pirates, and tells Tinker Bell to take Wendy to their underground house. Tinker Bell, however, tricks Tootles into shooting Wendy out of the sky, and she is briefly assumed to be dead until she regains consciousness and it's revealed that the button Peter had given her in thanks for reattaching his shadow stopped the arrow. He presents Wendy to the Lost Boys as their new mother, which she meekly resists but eventually relents and starts washing clothes, fixing lemonade, cooking breakfast, and grooming them. Peter assigns the Lost Boys and Darling boys to build a house for her.
Hook is jealous of Peter and the Boys having a mother, so he poisons a "welcome to Neverland" cake which he leaves for the children to find. Tinker Bell overhears their plans, and in a bit of remorse for her own effort to kill Wendy, she plucks the slice of fatal dessert from her hand. Meanwhile, Hook sends Smee and Cecco to kidnap "redskin" princess Tiger Lily to be their mother, which Peter foils by imitating Hook's voice and telling them to free her. A comedic fight between the four pirates and Peter and a few of the Lost Boys ends when the crocodile arrives and Hook flees to his ship. Great Big Little Panther promises to protect the Lost Boys in gratitude for saving Tiger Lily, but he and his Indians are captured by the pirates, and all of the children but Peter are taken to Hook's ship. Tinkerbell warns him, and he assembles the indians, mermaids, and fairies to help free them.
After all the excitement, Wendy announces that it is time to return home, and she invites the Lost Boys to come along, so that they may be returned to their real mothers. Smee, one of Captain Hook's pirates, follows the children, and he too is reunited with his mother. Wendy, John and Michael invite Peter Pan to stay with them in their home in London, but Peter Pan refuses, for that would mean he would have to grow up, something he would never want to do. They part, but Peter Pan welcomes them to return to Neverland someday.
Nine actors provided the voices for the dozen or so characters with speaking parts. A few of them have substantial resumés; the others appear only in this production.
- Phillip Hinton
- Keith Scott
- Daniel Floyd
- Jonathan Panic
- Carol Adams
- Olivia Martin
- Jaye Rosenberg
- Ben Brennan
- Michael Anthony
- Wikipedia: Peter Pan (1988 film)
- Internet Movie DataBase: Peter Pan (1988 film)
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