Newest Reviews
Stanford Prison Experiment, The
Assassination in Rome
Castle Freak
Brother Bear
Raiders of Buddhist Kung Fu
County Lines
We Have Always Lived in the Castle
Covert Action
Strangler's Web
House of Bamboo
Murder Me, Monster
Hell and High Water
Miserables, Les
Ritz, The
Girls of the Sun
Princess and the Goblin, The
Incredible Kung Fu Mission
Dirty Cops
You Cannot Kill David Arquette
Leap of Faith: William Friedkin on The Exorcist
Son's Room, The
Evil Hits Evil
Blue My Mind
Assassination Nation
Golden Key, The
Image Book, The
Newest Articles
Newley Minted: The Strange World of Gurney Slade on Blu-ray
Bad Love: The Night Porter on Blu-ray
Brevity is the Soul of Weird: Short Sharp Shocks on Blu-ray
Get Your Ass to Mars: Total Recall on Blu-ray
Call the Professionals: Le Cercle Rouge on Blu-ray
When There's No More Room in Hell: Dawn of the Dead on Blu-ray
The Butterfly Effect: Mothra on Blu-ray
Living Room Theatre: Play for Today Volume 1 on Blu-ray
Didn't He Do Well: The Bruce Forsyth Show on DVD
Blood Wedding: The Bride with White Hair on Blu-ray
The Inhuman Element: The Ladykillers on 4K UHD
As You Like It, Baby: Breathless on Blu-ray
Stargazing: Light Entertainment Rarities on DVD
Down to the Welles: Orson Welles Great Mysteries Volume 2 on DVD
Herding Cats: Sleepwalkers on Blu-ray
Confessions of a Porn Star: Adult Material on DVD
They're Still Not Sure It is a Baby: Eraserhead on Blu-ray
Werewolves are Real: Dog Soldiers on Digital
Rose: A Love Story - Producers April Kelley and Sara Huxley Interview
Phone Phreak: 976-EVIL on Blu-ray
Living the Nightmare: Dementia on Blu-ray
Becky and The Devil to Pay: Ruckus and Lane Skye Interview
Big Top Bloodbath: Circus of Horrors on Blu-ray
A Knock on the Door at 4 O'clock in the Morning: The Strangers on Blu-ray
Wives of the Skies: Honey Lauren Interview
  Peter Pan He can fly!
Year: 1953
Director: Clyde Geronmi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske
Stars: Bobby Driscoll, Kathryn Beaumont, Hans Conried, Bill Thompson, Heather Angel, Paul Collins, Tommy Luske, Candy Candido, Tom Conway
Genre: Musical, Animated, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 3 votes)
Review: All children grow up, except one: Peter Pan (voiced by Bobby Driscoll) who flies into the Darling house one night with his flirty fairy companion Tinkerbell to retrieve his lost shadow. Here he meets lovely young Wendy (Kathryn Beaumont) whom, he is aghast to learn, is about to grow up now her parents have decided she can no longer share a bedroom with her little brothers. So with the aid of some fairy dust supplied by a reluctant, extremely jealous Tinkerbell, Peter flies Wendy, John (Paul Collins) and Michael (Tommy Luske, who unlike his siblings has an American accent) off to Never Land for boisterous adventures with mermaids, Indians, pirates, a ticking crocodile and of course, his sworn enemy the dastardly Captain Hook (Hans Conreid).

Walt Disney's desire to animate Peter Pan, one of his favourite stories, began way back in the mid-Thirties when he had hoped to mount this as his follow-up to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). However it took four years before he reached an arrangement with the Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital to whom author J.M. Barrie bequeathed the rights to his original play. Although pre-production and story meetings began in 1940, Peter Pan became one of several notable projects Walt put on hiatus in the wake of financial troubles, the animators' strike and, oh yes, a little thing called World War Two. More than a decade later when the film finally went into production the Disney studio was in a far healthier state albeit significantly different than before following the departure of some of its more experimentally inclined talent. As a result the style and tone of Peter Pan lies midway between the fairytale elegance of Disney's golden age and the zanier humour that characterized the studio's post-war output of short cartoons that were influenced by their rivals at Warner Brothers.

In adapting J.M. Barrie's timeless tale for the animated medium Disney re-contextualized the story for the baby boom generation. As portrayed by Bobby Driscoll, Disney's Peter Pan is a virile young rascal quite unlike the ladies in tights that played him on the British stage. He embodies the promise of post-war America: a Never Land of bright colours, loud music, carefree adventure and brash, unrepentant hedonism. Is it any wonder Kathryn Beaumont's winsome English rose grows instantly enamoured? As the first boy to portray Peter Pan, Disney veteran Driscoll (in his final role for the studio) provided more besides exuberant vocals. He gave a full physical performance that was rotoscoped for reference by Disney's animators led by the legendary team Walt himself dubbed the Nine Old Men. This proved the last instance all nine worked together on a single film. As a result both the boisterous Peter Peter and flighty, flirty Tinkerbell rank as high points in the art of character animation. These two have never seemed more vibrant or alive.

Popular myth has it Tink was part-inspired by Marilyn Monroe although it was Margaret Kerry that served as their live-action reference model. Nonetheless, Disney's animators delivered arguably the screen's sexiest Tinkerbell. Ludivine Sagnier in Peter Pan (2003) comes a close second. Tink's self-aware sensuality proved highly controversial for Pan purists at the time and was derided as vulgar by stuffy British critics. Yet through the years as Tink was embraced as a family friendly figure the flightier aspects of her personality gave way to a sappier sort of sweetness paving the way for more sanitized CGI efforts like Tinkerbell and the Pirate Fairy (2014). Here however she cuts quite a figure as indeed do the alluring mermaids more than three decades before Ariel fuelled a whole host of adolescent fantasies in The Little Mermaid (1990). Sticking to the topic of character animation, also especially delightful is Hook's nemesis the ticking crocodile. Forever licking his chops at the prospect of a second bite of the panicky pirate, he is full of personality as one of cinema's most charismatic reptiles.

Set to the glorious song-scape of "You Can Fly", Peter's flight over London en route to Never Land with Tinkerbell and the Darling children is the film's magical highlight. To be honest nothing else comes as close. Disney left out a wealth of worthy material from Barrie's book including much of its melancholy undertones and psychological complexity, but then so do other adaptations. Disney opted not to include the famous scene with a dying Tinkerbell revived by an audience shouting "I do believe in fairies", feeling there was no way to translate this cinematically. Yet Steven Spielberg proved able to do so with a Tinkerbell-inspired sequence in E.T. - The Extraterrestrial (1982) and P.J. Hogan pulled off Barrie's conceit marvellously in his film. By contrast Disney's substitute comes across far weaker dramatically. To the Disney film's credit though the script takes a fair stab at some of Barrie's philosophical themes. Opening with the line “All this has happened before and it will all happen again” it comments on the cyclical nature of time with Pan embodying the irrepressible spirit of childhood that endures in defiance of time itself. All children grow up, except one. Too often Barrie's story is misinterpreted as endorsing a retreat into infantilism when, more often than not, Peter Pan paves the way for Wendy and her brothers to grow up. Adventure proves the pathway to responsibility and thus maturity.

On the downside the film's attitude to women remains stuck in the Fifties. All the female characters are obsessed with Peter Pan, insanely jealous and incapable of setting petty squabbles aside. When an Indian woman tells Wendy "Squaw no dance. Squaw get 'em firewood!" one can completely understand why P.J. Hogan took a revisionist tack with his version of Barrie's heroine. Still, Wendy proves the one character strong-willed enough to stick to her principles. More often she talks the fickle boys out of bad decisions. The broadly comic portrayal of the Indians has drawn considerable criticism down the years. In fact several veteran Disney animators expressed regret over this though it is worth noting Princess Tiger-Lily is accorded greater dignity. One area where the film undeniably succeeds is in the high quality of its songs composed by the likes of Oliver Wallace, Sammy Fain, Sammy Cahn and others. From the gentle lilting lullaby of "Second Star to the Right" to the jaunty "Following the Leader”, playfully macabre "Never Smile at a Crocodile" (though those priceless lyrics are sadly not heard in the film!) and sheer joy encapsulated in "You Can Fly", Peter Pan plays like an animated jukebox of timeless tunes. Also worth singling out is Hans Conried's superlative vocals as Captain Hook. The animators match them perfectly with some priceless facial contortions that render the sequences where Hook frantically flees the crocodile the funniest in the movie. If the absence of Tinkerbell's big scene remains unfortunate at least the finale fuses swashbuckling excitement with slapstick mayhem and the flying pirate ship proves a wonder to behold, ending the film on an aptly lyrical note.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam


This review has been viewed 2555 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

Review Comments (2)

Untitled 1

Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.

Latest Poll
Which star is the best at shouting?
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Brian Blessed
Tiffany Haddish
Steve Carell
Olivia Colman
Captain Caveman
Sylvester Stallone
Gerard Butler
Samuel L. Jackson
Bipasha Basu

Recent Visitors
Andrew Pragasam
Graeme Clark
Enoch Sneed
Darren Jones
Paul Smith
  Lee Fiveash
  Mick Stewart
  Dsfgsdfg Dsgdsgsdg


Last Updated: