Saturday, October 1, 2011

Peter Pan (1953) Review

Peter Pan (1953)

There are two sections of the Disney Classic Collection. The first section is the really old ones, that pretty much ended with 101 Dalmatians in the 1960's, and the new classics, AKA the Disney Renaissance, from The Little Mermaid to Tarzan, and this includes the dawn of Pixar. There have been some good ones in between the two Classic phases, but out of all the films Disney has done, Peter Pan often tends to get lost in the shuffle. Not that it's completely ignored, it produced some memorable characters and it was able to introduce children to the classic J.M. Barrie story, but compared to 2nd age Disney movies like The Lion King and 1st age movies like Snow White, Peter Pan is somewhere in the middle. If you have seen at least one adaptation of this story (and believe me, there's tons of them), then there may be some spoilers, but I'm not too worried.

The tale of Peter Pan is as old as the ages, so we don't need to talk about this movie as if we don't know what it is. However, for those who haven't seen this in a while or haven't heard of this story (which I highly doubt) we will have a basic recap of the plot. Peter Pan is about three English children who are visited by a boy named..well..Peter Pan, who is looking for his shadow. It is revealed that Peter stops by the nursery window often to hear Wendy tell stories about him to her brothers (John and Michael). Wendy wakes up and she sees Peter looking for his shadow, and her, for lack of a better word, advances on Peter send Tinkerbell into a fit of jealousy.

John and Michael wake up and Peter takes Wendy and the boys to Never Never Land. What is Never Never Land, you say? It's a magical island where you never grow up. It has mermaids, Natives, the Lost Boys, and of course, a band of pirates, lead by the villainous Captain Hook. Captain Hook is one of the rare examples of a villain that is visibly terrified of the hero, as Peter Pan cut off Hook's hand and fed it to a hungry crocodile, which is now jonesing for the rest of him. Hook's motivation is plain and simple: he wants to get Peter and punish him for what he did. Too bad Hook's too clumsy and too terrified of the crocodile that's now stalking him to do this properly.

The Natives are upset because Tiger Lily, the chief's daughter has been kidnapped by Hook. Peter goes to rescue Tiger Lily and is made co-chief of the tribe. Hook and the Pirates also kidnap Tinkerbell, who had been banished by Peter for trying to kill Wendy, and they force her to show them where Peter and the Lost Boys have been hiding out. This leads to the final fight between Peter and Hook, which ends with a hungry crocodile getting what he wants. The story is a timeless classic of course, and even though the original J.M. Barrie tale gets diluted and disney-fied, it is still very well-told. I'm sure everybody has heard of this story in some way or another, and if you haven't, you are definitely missing out.

The dialogue is okay, but it is not the most important part of the movie. The message of the story is that Neverland is a nice place to visit, but it's good to go home and no matter how hard you try, you do have to grow up eventually. Something else that can be taken from this movie, especially out of the character of Wendy, is that Wendy is like a crazed schoolgirl who has a crush on Peter Pan, who is entirely disinterested because, never wanting to grow up, he probably thinks girls still have cooties. She gets jealous over Tiger Lily, like Tinkerbell gets jealous over her. I suppose the interactions between Wendy, Tink, and Peter could speak for what jealousy does to people. It lets you try and bump off Wendy by convincing the lost boys that she is a bird to be shot at, and it makes you lead pirates to Peter's secret hideout.

The characters are extremely memorable, Tinkerbell growing even more famous through the recently-minted Disney Fairies product line, to go alongside the Disney Princess stuff. Peter Pan is an iconic character and one of Disney's most memorable, and so is Tinkerbell for that matter. Wendy, John, and Michael are pretty one-note, Peter, Tink, and Hook being the most fun characters in this movie. Wendy is even a bit of a killjoy, but I'm guessing that's the point of her character, she's the mature one, but she's probably the least fun. If I were to guess what these kids would do in their later lives, I would guess that Wendy would marry and pop out a few kids (since she was already so motherly with the lost boys), John would become a high ranking officer in the army (judging in how he lead the lost boys in the tracking of the Natives) and Michael....well, I just don't know about Michael.

The villain, Captain Hook, is one of the few funny Disney villains, and he is definitely one of the funniest villains, just in the awesome slapstick he gets to do with the crocodile. This movie has a lot of awesome slapstick, and that almost makes up for the extremely forgettable songs (which are the only thing preventing me from giving this film a perfect score). Like I said earlier in the review, Captain Hook is one of the rare villains that is visibly terrified of the hero and his motivations would be quite menacing if he weren't such a coward. Smee is a funny sidekick, and the rest of the pirates are quite amusing. The only other characters I have issues with are the Natives, who are more than a little bit racist.

Like most Disney movies, this film has songs. However, the songs in the stage show are much better, and the songs in this movie are not nearly as good. The song during the flying scene is okay, but the rest of the songs are extremely forgettable and one is even downright racist (What Makes the Red Man Red). Not to mention, they are incredibly few and far between. Maybe that's why Peter Pan gets lost in the shuffle so often, because its songs aren't quite as memorable as the songs in, say, The Lion King or Aladdin. That was pretty much the only major problem I had with this movie and the only thing preventing me from calling this a perfect movie.

Re-watching Toy Story put me in a nostalgic mood and it made me want to watch Disney classics, and Peter Pan was definitely a good way to continue that, being a classic from my childhood. Nostalgic value played a huge part in this review, because I remember loving this movie as a child. All in all, Peter Pan is another Disney classic which is occasionally overlooked. It tells a classic story extremely well, the quality of the animation is fantastic, the voice acting is pretty good, the characters are memorable, the villain is fun, the only thing bad about it was the songs. If you haven't seen this movie then you are missing out on an animation classic, so see it soon

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