Based on J.M. Barrie’s play, it does have a sequel: Return to Never Land and Tinker Bell has a whole slew of movies. And today’s little ones can meet some of the characters in Jake and the Never Land Pirates. The writing of the play is the basis of the Johnny Depp film Finding Neverland, and Steven Spielberg directed Robin Williams, Julie Andrews, Maggie Smith, and Dustin Hoffman in Hook, which takes place decades after the original tale (and fun fact: Dante Basco, who voiced Zuko in Avatar: the Last Airbender, was Rufio, a peer of Peter Pan). As a child, I liked the animated movie for the adventure and variety of characters. Re-watching it as an adult, I get a different view.
The movie opens on a night in London and introduces us to the Darling family; Mrs. Darling who believes that Peter Pan is the spirit of youth, sons John and Michael who act out stories starring their hero, eldest daughter Wendy who is the “supreme authority” on stories of Peter Pan, and their father, Mr. Darling, who prefers to be practical and believes that stories of Peter Pan are poppycock. Because he’s tired of the nonsense, he informs Wendy that it is high time she grows up and it will be her last night in the nursery. When the parents leave for their function, Peter sneaks into the house to retrieve his shadow (which is apparently its own free entity and somehow became separated from Peter). He makes a racket, waking Wendy who starts babbling. Peter reveals that he enjoys visiting the Darling house because he likes to hear the stories about himself that Wendy tells the boys. And making perfect sense to a child, Peter decides that Wendy should come back to Never Land with him so she can share her stories with the Lost Boys, which also prevents her from growing up and ending the stories. Michael and John wake up and want to join in; then they’re off, exclaiming “We Can Fly!” with the help of “faith, trust, and a little pixie dust” to “the second star to the right and straight on till morning” (because that’s an accurate way to travel).
The first denizens of Never Land we are introduced to are the pirates, under the command of Captain Hook. Except they’re disgruntled by the lack of traditional pirating, instead stuck in Never Land pursuing Peter. The boy that thought it was a fun prank to cut off Hook’s hand and feed it to a crocodile. Their fearless leader isn’t so fearless; he becomes a quivering mess when he hears the tick-tock from the crocodile. Yet he also shoots one of his crew and fires a cannon at Peter and the Darling children. Tink, jealous of the attention Peter is giving Wendy, flies ahead to his hide-out to warn the Lost Boys of an approaching enemy, a giant “Wendy bird.” They attempt to shoot her down, but Peter manages to rescue her at the last minute and banishes Tink for a week for “high treason.”
Peter takes Wendy to visit the mermaids and the boys “Follow the Leader” to fight “Injuns” (this movie is also filled with horrible racial stereotypes). It’s usually a game of the Injuns and Lost Boys capturing and letting the other group go, however, the chief’s daughter, Tiger Lily is missing. Captain Hook and Smee have Tiger Lily and are willing to drown her in an attempt to get the location of Peter’s hideout. Peter does rescue the maid, after he’s reminded; he’s too busy having fun and showing off. Yet he’s honored by the chief and we sit through the degrading “What Makes the Redman Red” song.
Captain Hook has a new plan; use Tink’s jealousy of Wendy and persuade her that he is leaving the island and will take Wendy with him to “save the lad from himself.” He’s of course, lying, and gets around his promise to not “lay a finger, or hook,” on Peter, by lowering a bomb wrapped as a present into the hideout. Wendy has figured out what sort of boy her idol is and wants to return home. She reminds her brothers of their mother and the sentimental song causes the other Lost Boys to want to return with her, so they too can have a mother. Peter refuses to grow up and lets them leave. They’re captured by the pirate crew and offered the chance to join, or else walk the plank. Wendy still believes that Peter will save them, even after the Captain reveals his actions. (Tink saved Peter, racing back to knock the bomb away. Peter’s forced to face the fact that he had ignored her and declares “you mean more to me than anything in the whole world”) He does fly to the rescue and duels Captain Hook, even promising to not fly away. He manages to outsmart and trap the Captain, forcing him to mock himself as a codfish. The crew escaped, but now have to out row the crocodile who once again is chasing Captain Hook. The Lost Boys take over the ship and with a lot of pixie dust, they take off for London.
The Darling parents return home to find that Wendy has agreed to grow up, while her father has changed his mind to let her stay in the nursery. She begins to tell them about her newest adventure and they catch sight of a cloud, shaped as a pirate ship. It’s familiar to Mr. Darling; something he saw when he was very young.
As an adult, I have to realize that this movie is a representation on how children think (well, I had a little help; a friend pointed out the idea to me, but watching the film now, it makes sense). They are playing; in play, pirates are fun. Danger is not real; those who die can simply come back to life the next time they start up. Hands aren’t really cut off, but if it was, wouldn’t it be funny to feed it to a crocodile? Peter is the essence of a young boy; girls are silly and his interests flits between whoever can stroke his ego and gain his attention. He leaves Wendy alone more than once (and she is a typical girl with a crush, simpering for his attention) and seemingly tosses aside his oldest companion, Tinker Bell aside because someone new and shiny has come into the picture. Funny, as a child, I thought she was mean, but as an adult, totally get it!
I realized that this was the first time I have watched the original animated film since I’ve watched Once Upon a Time. Vastly different characterization [Warning: Spoilers Ahead!] Pan is an evil…I don’t know what to call him, but I want to wipe that smirk off his face; Tiger Lily was once a fairy as well, Tink retains her spunk, and Captain Hook is devilishly handsome. Totally prefer Colin O’Donoghue as Hook dressed in black leather to crying codfish Captain Hook.
As always, questions? Comments? Do you view Peter as a hero? What’s your view of Captain Hook; diabolical villain, or a codfish?
Next Time: Sleeping Beauty