Book Adaptations: Peter Pan

Screenshot from Disney’s ‘Peter Pan’ (1953) starring Bobby Driscoll and Kathryn Beaumont. Copyright goes to Walt Disney Productions and RKO Radio Pictures.

Hi! It’s Annie!

Happy November everyone! Now that we’re back to our regular posts, I wanted to cover a piece of media that is one of the most nostalgic for me. When I was younger I considered myself a Lost Girl (and kind of still do). Neverland was an escape for me more than any other fictional place; even more than Hogwarts which also meant a lot to me at the time. My parents knew when I was having a bad day because I was in front of the television watching Disney’s ‘Peter Pan’. I mean, what’s not to love (other than the racism that I made a point of skipping most of the time I watched the movie)? I wanted to go to the mermaid lagoon, I wanted to go marching through the forests with the Lost Boys, I wanted to battle pirates, and most of all I wanted to go flying with Peter Pan and Tinkerbell. There are so many adaptations of Peter Pan that I can’t possibly talk about them all, so instead I’m going to rank my favorites. I’m also going to remind you to NEVER watch ‘Pan’ because it’s absolutely awful. Ready? Off to Neverland!

7. Return To Neverland:

This straight to DVD sequel is not necessarily the best of movies. The plot is pretty shallow and the main character, Wendy’s daughter Jane, can be pretty annoying. The story follows her as she is kidnapped by Hook who mistakes her for Wendy and she works for Hook through some of the movie in an attempt to get home, as she does not believe in Neverland. I mean, she almost kills Tinkerbell! Then again, Tinkerbell almost kills her Mom in the first movie so I guess you could consider it payback. The real reason to watch this movie for me, is the character of Peter Pan himself. Peter Pan is extremely charming in this film and an absolute joy to watch. Obviously, this movie came out decades after the original film, so Bobby Driscoll was no longer around to voice him. But Blayne Weaver who voices Pan in this installment is both great at capturing the same energy and a very charming rendition of the character. He has voiced Peter Pan for Disney in just about everything since. Though Peter Pan is charming and loveable in the first movie, there’s still something about the character that Walt Disney himself found a bit lacking. Walt Disney thought Peter Pan was too self-centered and mean in the original film, and if you look you can kind of see it. This rendition of Pan tones down his self-centeredness and gives the audience the version of the character that Walt originally wanted. Though I love both versions of the character, I can respect what they did with Peter Pan here. And the entire movie is made worth it just by the reunion scene between Peter and Wendy at the end of the film.

6. Tinkerbell:

This isn’t exactly a direct rendition of Peter Pan. Years ago, Disney released a series of books based in a place inhabited by fairies in Neverland called Pixie Hollow. I grew up with these books and absolutely loved Pixie Hollow. I still have a few of the books sitting on my bookshelf. A few years after most of these books had come out, Disney decided to create movies based off of Tinkerbell and her friends in these books; but with massive changes. Instead of using Tinkerbell’s main friends from the book, they bumped up a bunch of barely mentioned side characters so that they could do their own characterization. I refused to watch the first Tinkerbell movie for years because of this, but I’ve definitely warmed to the movie and characters since then. The movies in the Tinkerbell series are definitely made for children and definitely cheesy, but they are really cute watches. You’re not going to cry or anything while watching these, they aren’t that emotional (unless you’re watching ‘Tinkerbell and the Neverbeast’ because that ending came out of nowhere…don’t judge me), but there’s enjoyment to be had here. I’ve been compared to Silvermist several times at this point, and I’m definitely not mad. The movies may be cheesy, but the magic of Neverland is in them.

5. Finding Neverland:

This movie became so popular that they made it into a Broadway musical that I actually watched a couple years back. It was cute, as is this movie. This movie is a overly fictionalized view at the life of the author of Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie. It’s a well written and heartwarming story and I can see why it got so popular. But it’s difficult for me to watch this movie and not remember the dark parts of J.M. Barrie’s life. Barrie, much like Lewis Caroll, was also accused of being a pedophile after he became close to a widow in order to get close to her children. Though the kids were questioned as to whether he behaved strangely towards them and all of them denied it. That doesn’t take away from the fact that he changed the will of the widow after her death to place himself as one of the main care-takers of all of the children. Because that did really happen. Also, for the love of God don’t look up any of the children unless you want to be depressed. So, as long as you don’t look up anything farther about how fictionalized this really is; this is a pretty wholesome watch.

4. Peter Pan Goes Wrong:

This is another of ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’ series, and is the most hilarious of all of them in my opinion. If you can get your hands on it, it is definitely worth the watch. I was crying so hard from laughter the first time I watched this that I kept having to pause it or rewind because I either couldn’t hear or see the screen. If you want to see an actor playing Michael who forgets his lines so much that he is loudly paged them through a large set of headphones, a man as the dog Nana getting stuck in various parts of the set, several Peter Pan’s getting injured due to faulty flight mechanisms, and Captain Hook rowing in a public pool, this is for you. Though this isn’t a direct adaptation of Peter Pan either, it is an adaptation of the story and it is the best play adaptation of this you will ever see. If you want to laugh so hard you cry, definitely go for this one. I do apologize because this one can be difficult to find.

3. Peter Pan (2003):

This is the absolute classic starring Jeremy Sumpter that resulted in almost everyone having a crush on Peter Pan. This movie captures the true magic of the original novel while also spending a lot more time on the relationship between Peter and Wendy than most adaptations do. Jason Isaacs will always be a real force to be reckoned with as Hook and Peter Pan is quite possibly the most charming he ever is in this movie. This was the Peter Pan movie that made Neverland the most real to me. Seeing how magically and realistically it was shown in this movie made the audience feel like it could be a real place. If you want to feel like you are truly being transported to Neverland; watch this movie. It is one of the best escapes in a film you will ever find.

2. Peter Pan (1953):

Ah, the original Disney classic. This is the one I grew up with. This is the one that I watched when I had a bad day. This is the one I’m most nostalgic for. Though Peter Pan is, admittedly, pretty self-centered in this version, he is that mostly because he’s a child. He’s still in the “look what I can do!” phase. But he always comes through when it counts, like relenting and taking Wendy, John, and Michael back home at the end of the movie. He is the spirit of youth and childhood, and that definitely doesn’t make him flawless. The Disney 2D art style that makes the entire film look like it’s a painting and the effortless charm of Peter Pan when he’s fighting pirates is really what makes this movie. This is the movie that truly showed audiences everything that Neverland and Peter Pan could be, and it is absolutely loveable for it. I watched this movie so many times that I can probably quote the entire thing. It’s that bad.

1. Hook:

Starring the absolute great who is possibly my favorite actor of all time, Robin Williams, this film explores what it really means to be young at heart. Robin Williams plays Peter Pan who grew up after deciding to marry Wendy’s granddaughter and have children of his own. He has since forgotten about Neverland, now believing it to be a dream, and works a boring job where he has lost his youth completely and now can’t pay as much attention to his children. When he realizes he must now save his children from Hook who still has a vendetta against him, he returns to Neverland and discovers he must relearn what it’s like to be young in order to save his children. This is another one of my favorite movies of all time. Robin Williams is a charming and wholesome Peter Pan and this film has risen into infamy just because Prince Zuko, Dante Basco, plays Rufio so well. Not only is this movie cute and absolutely magical, but it’s message about always remembering what it’s like to be young makes me cry every time. If you haven’t watched this movie, absolutely go watch it right now! There is no excuse, it’s Robin Williams for crying out loud!

Peter Pan has always meant so much to me and I know I’ll always be a Lost Girl at heart. Literally any chance I get to immerse myself in the world of Neverland, I will take. Another movie featuring Peter Pan is coming out soon, ‘Come Away’ which features the stories of both Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland. I’m really excited to see that one and to finally see Hollywood letting children of color portray these roles. This really should have happened a long time ago. Hopefully you saw an adaptation of Peter Pan on this list that you haven’t watched that interests you. Happy watching! RUFIO!

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

One thought on “Book Adaptations: Peter Pan

  1. Well said!! I have seen the majority of the films on your list and think you successfully summarized what makes them so charming to watch, so I’m interested to check out the few I hadn’t managed to track down a copy of yet. The 2003 Peter Pan film in particular has been on my to-watch list for quite a while now, since I keep hearing so many good things about it.

    I was especially excited to see “Peter Pan Goes Wrong” featured here because that was the first Mischief Theatre show I stumbled across and it has brought me so much joy through the years alongside the rest of the Cornley “Goes Wrong” installments! Your description of it brought a big smile to my face because your experience watching it was very similar to my own.

    All that aside, this is the first time I’ve heard of “Come Away” and my curiosity is piqued, so I’ll be adding that to my watchlist now as well.

    Like

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