May 30, 2009

Peter Pan (1953)

THIS WAS SUPPOSED TO BE a review of Disney’s 1986 animated film The Great Mouse Detective – I had sold Dash on the idea of watching it because (I thought) Mickey Mouse was in it. A valid assumption, yes?

Well, after ordering the film from On Demand, and the intro credits showed which actors voiced what characters, Mickey’s name was nowhere in sight. Sorry, little man. On to plan B: our 2-disc Special Edition of Peter Pan, still in the shrinkwrap.

• In 1897 London, kid brothers Michael and John (Tommy Luske and Paul Collins) are “playing Peter Pan” based on the stories their older sister Wendy (Kathryn Beaumont) has told them. Their dad (Hans Conreid) says it’s all nonsense and tells Wendy it’s time for her to grow up: Starting tomorrow, she’s sleeping in a room of her own.
• After the parents leave to see a play, Peter Pan (Bobby Driscoll) arrives to retrieve his shadow, which the family dog Nana had taken the last time he visited.
• When Wendy tells Peter about her dad’s plan, Peter (with help from Tinkerbell’s pixie dust) makes Wendy, Michael, and John fly with him to Neverland, where they’ll never get old or have to grow up.
• Meanwhile, in his boat just off the island of Neverland, Captain Hook (also Conreid) is plotting how to get rid of Peter Pan once and for all. His focus is broken occasionally by a crocodile who’s stalking him, waiting for another taste of Hook since Peter cut off Hook’s hand and fed it to the croc.
• Multiple plots evolve from here, including Tinkerbell’s banishment by Peter for trying to get rid of Wendy, Hook’s kidnapping of Indian princess Tiger Lily and framing Peter for the deed, and a double-cross by Hook as he dupes a scorned Tinkerbell into helping him locate Peter’s secret hideout with the intention of killing him.

Peter Pan is something that’s a bit of a rarity: a Disney classic whose story, characters, and pacing have actually held up over time. It’s adventurous fun that didn’t have me glancing at the clock before it ended.
It’s an odd feeling to revisit classic Disney films like Peter Pan. It really is magical and worthy of “classic” status, but it has so many elements that will make many parents today raise an eyebrow (see “Will your kids like it?” below), including the whole “redskins/Injuns” subtext – a blemish that can’t be erased or ignored.
• Strangely, the whole “never-grow-up” theme (what most people remember about Peter Pan) is barely mentioned beyond the beginning and end – and mostly by Wendy and her parents, not Peter.
The story of Peter Pan’s voice, kid actor Bobby Driscoll, is a sad one. Just 16 when Peter Pan was released, Driscoll followed it with TV work and an occasional movie until his arrest in 1961 for forgery and narcotics possession. He entered rehab, but the drugs ultimately took their toll; he died in 1968 at age 31 in an abandoned building in New York City’s East Village (his body was found by two playing kids). Believed to be a homeless person, he was buried in an unmarked mass grave at Potter’s Field in New York and remained unknown for a year until fingerprints revealed his identity.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5).

Will your kids like it?
Most definitely. It’s the kind of movie that has an unmistaken magic woven in its fabric. That being said, there are several elements in the film that may have you quickly making up answers in your head if your kid asks about any of the following:

• Random pirate knife/gun action
• Calling the native Americans “redskins” or “Injuns
• A cigar-smoking Captain Hook, who shoots one of his own men off-screen (albeit comically)
• Peter Pan bragging about how he cut off Hook’s hand and fed it to the crocodile
• At the celebration between the Indians, Peter, the kids, and The Lost Boys, a peace pipe is passed around and the kids each take a puff; also, the chief leads the group in the song, “What Makes the Red Man Red?
• Hook makes Wendy walk the plank of his ship
• Female jealousy rears its head, mostly around Wendy; Tinkerbell tries to have her killed, and a group of mermaids splash and verbally abuse her

Am I overreacting? I don’t know. This stuff didn’t bother or influence me as a kid, and Dash didn’t ask me about any of it. I welcome any thoughts on the subject.

Will your FilmMother like it?
Yes. For once, Disney’s overused slogan to “relive the magic” actually applies here. As a mom, she may have issues with what I listed above, but as an adult she’ll have to admit it’s a fun fantasy film.

Oh, grow up.

Peter Pan
* Directors: Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske
* Screenwriters: Ted Sears, Erdman Penner, Bill Peet, Winston Hibler, Joe Rinaldi, Milt Banta, Ralph Wright, William Cottrell
* Stars: Bobby Driscoll, Kathryn Beaumont, Hans Conreid, Bill Thompson, Paul Collins, Tommy Luske, Candy Candido
* MPAA Rating: G

Buy this movie for less at >>


Jim @ said...

This is a good movie. Sad story on the actor who supplied the voice of Peter Pan, I never knew that.

Keith said...

I always loved this movie. It was one of my favorites.

The Warfreak said...

Totally should've watched The Great Mouse Detectives, cause it's awesome!

Gemma said...

This is my all-time favorite Disney movie! Hope Dash liked it, too. Can't believe it was from 1953. Disney surely was ahead of the times back then. And then they weren't.....

Kathy B. said...

Peter Pan is one of my all time faves.
And so is Hans Conreid.....

Retro Hound said...

I saw Hook before I saw Peter Pan and was totally lost.

I've tried adding you to my RSS feed, but it says it can't find your feed. Is something wrong there?

Retro Hound said...

OK, the RSS seems to be working now for no reason.


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