MP3 Player

Friday, March 23, 2012

Disneyear: Peter Pan (1953)

Now we come to a pet project of Uncle Walt's since about 1939: Peter Pan. Because of WWII, this as well as a few projects had to have been pushed for later. In the 50's, Walt got the chance to tell a story he's always wanted to tell. Despite some of Walt's early problems with the film such as how to define Peter's character and others, it turned out to be a crowd favorite. Like Alice in Wonderland, when people hear Peter Pan, this is usually the first version that they think of. That's always a good thing, right?

So lets get on with the story: one night, George and Mary Darling's plans on going to a party are disrupted by their son's games of reenacting of the Peter Pan stories told by their daughter Wendy. Fed up with all the stories, Mr. Darling tells Wendy that this will be her last night in the nursery with John and Michael in an attempt to make her grow up. After all that, it turns out Peter Pan is real and with the reluctant help of his pixie friend Tinkerbell, the Darling kids fly off to Neverland, Peter's home and a place where kids never have to grow up. Meanwhile, Captain Hook plots to a way to defeat his archenemy Peter. After a failed attempt to cannonball the kids, Tinkerbell becomes banished after she tries to have Wendy shot down by the Lost Boy's slingshots. The kids have fun with mermaids, Indians, and thwarting Captain Hook. After another defeat from Pan and escaping the tick-tock crocodile, Captain Hook and Mr. Smee have a new idea: use Tinkerbell's jealousy of Wendy against Peter to catch Wendy and the rest of the kids. Peter does find them, fights Captian Hook, saves everyone and takes the kids home on a pirate ship covered with pixie dust.

I always thought of Peter Pan as every kid's dream come true. You have this place where a kid can never grow up: you can play and do whatever you want forever! I also think the movie is clever at making it gender-neutral at the same time: boys can get into the sword fights, the pirates, action and adventure while the girls can be invested in the mermaids, magic, pixies, and some of the subtle romance between Wendy and Peter. It's a film that a lot of kids will enjoy.

Pan himself is a ok character. Walt himself didn't like the way he turned out because he though that Pan was too cold and mean to be likable. Well, I see him as this very cocky kid. He's mischievous, fun-loving, and there's something about Bobby Driscoll's (previously in Song of the South) voice acting that adds a little bit of the times to him but still good. The other characters are decent too. Wendy is played again by Katherine Beaumont and like I said in Alice in Wonderland, she makes a seemingly bland character into an  interesting and likable one. The relationship between the two is really like how real kids have them: the girls wants it but the boy has no idea of what to do about it. Most of the others, like John, Michael, and the Lost Boys are ok.

Tinkerbell herself is a great jealous character. It's amazing that she's able to display a strong personality and not even have a line of dialogue like how Dumbo was. She's jealous, but loyal to Peter. She's feisty, but subtle. She's just great. It's all thanks to Marc Davis' wonderful animation of the character. Shame what became of her in later adaptations...  Below is a video from an old show called Disney Family Album where you got to see some of Disney's Nine Old Men talk about their careers as animators and creative process. Here we see Marc Davis discussing Tinkerbell starting at 5:10.

My all-time favorite characters in this movie though are the villain, Captain Hook and his assistant Smee. You have Hook, a baddie who's prim and proper but no conscience. He's threatening but hilarious. The animation by Frank Thomas and the voice acting by Hans Conried are just amazing. Then there's Smee, voiced by Bill Thompson (who did a number of Disney projects in the 50's), who wants to be bad but is too bumbling and nice. They make a great pair. These two when put in a scene with the tick-tock crocodile make some of the greatest slapstick put to animation! It cracks me up every time I watch it!

There's been some controversy lately about the Native Americans in this flick. To be fair, this is sort of how we thought of them back then. To me, it's sort of like the black crows from Dumbo, in that I never really found them that offensive. I actually think they're cool. That What Makes the Red Man Red song is a neat song. That and that tag game they always play with the Lost Boys was pretty funny to see.

The film itself is a fun one. One thing I forgot to mention when I reviewed Cinderella and Alice in Wonderland is that while the 50's Disney movies weren't quite the tour de force that the early 30's and  40's films were, they still had expert craftsmanship, great animation, bright colors, good music and songs, and enough charm to them that makes them endearing to audiences everywhere. The same is true for Peter Pan. As a celebration of childhood, it's one of Disney's trademarks for a good reason.

No comments: