Peter Pan (1953)

Directed by: Clyde Geronimi/Wilfred Jackson/Hamilton Luske

Written by: Milt Banta/William Cottrell/Winston Hibler/Bill Peet/Erdman Penner/Joe Rinaldi/Ted Sears/Ralph Wright

Based on play by: JM Barrie


Peter Pan is one of my favorite characters in all of literature. Which is strange, because I’ve never actually read or seen the play. I just really like the idea of The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up and the issues that that brings. Of course, the Disney version doesn’t go into the psychological problems that come with refusing to grow up, but it’s a perfect story for a Disney movie.

Just like Alice before him, Walt wanted to make a movie about Peter soon after Snow White. Both films were in pre-production before Pearl Harbor. Then that whole thing happened and Disney went into feature hibernation for a little while.

Finally, in 1949, he was able to bring Peter back. Disney gathered his Nine Old Men (for their last film together) and started work.

Disney talked to Mary Martin, who played Peter on stage, about doing his voice. That didn’t work out, so he called on his old friend, Bobby Driscoll, from Song Of The South and So Dear To My Heart. (This would be his last Disney film.)

The film is probably the weakest of the Nine Old Men films. The animation is great, as always, but there’s something that doesn’t quite make it. For me, it’s the music. The songs are very good, but they’re sung by a choir. Rarely do any of the main characters actually sing the songs that they are supposedly feeling. That just feels wrong to me.

And then, there’s the Indians. Ooooohhhh, the Indians. Man. They’re so racist. “What Makes The Red Man Red?” Really, Disney? I mean, yes. This portrayal is in the play, unfortunately. But it’s so cringe-worthy. And so bad.

But, other than that, it’s a super charming film. Peter is great if a bit full of himself. Wendy is strong-willed and takes care of her brothers, even as she’s obviously pining for Peter. Nana is the most loyal dog-nanny ever. And Hook…well, he’s Hook. He’s everything we think of as Hook. Foppish and silly, mean and menacing. And scared of crocodiles.

I may not love Peter Pan as much as I really would like to, but it’s still a great movie.

Just, maybe…skip over the Indian scene.