Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Disney's Boy Who Never Grew Up

The Walt Disney version of Peter Pan. While reading, please keep in mind that these are merely my views. Obviously yours may not be the same. I am very much a purist, especially when it comes to Peter Pan. I am looking as someone who reveres the original work. Perhaps that skews me in general, but I don’t want to lose sight of the specifics.

I do not dislike the animated feature, but I have no great fondness for it either.
As with many stories that they have adapted, the "Disney touch" is not necessarily a good thing. It's a bit too bright and happy for me. Too "bubble-gum" if that makes sense to anyone. It does have its "dark" moments, which is great. I'd say Barrie's story is a little of both. It's just that Disney seems cutesy heavy. Overall, it’s fine. Besides bringing to the story the ever-popular live shadow, I have a few qualms, which are:

"Second star to the right and straight on till morning." The added word irks me. Barrie wrote: "Second to the right," said Peter, "and then straight on till morning." Now, I can see why they'd want to put a word in there. Second to the right...what does that mean? Second to the right of WHAT? But that is precisely the point. For Barrie also wrote: That, Peter had told Wendy, was the way to the Neverland; but even birds, carrying maps and consulting them at windy corners, could not have sighted it with these instructions. Peter, you see, just said anything that came into his head. The inclusion of the word "star" has become ingrained into popular culture. I deem this loss of the original story element sad. (It's like the Wicked Witch of the West. Technically she is not green, folks.)

Tinker Bell (not Tinkerbell nor Tinkerbelle) is not a pixie, but a fairy. The change baffles me. Though similar, there is a folkloric difference.

Disney's mode of dress for Peter Pan has tainted people's view of him. Many illustrations allude to Disney's design. And it makes people believe he wears tights. *sigh*  And the ears?  No. 

Hook is too comedic and foppish. Barrie wrote, Hook should be played absolutely seriously, and the actor must avoid all temptation to play the part as if he was conscious of its humours. There is such a temptation, and in the stage play the actors of the part have sometimes yielded to it, with fatal results. He is a blood-thirsty villain, all the more so because use he is an educated man. The other pirates are rough scoundrels, but he can be horribly polite when he is most wicked. He should have the manners of a beau. But above all the part should be played with absolute seriousness and avoidance of trying to be funny. This should be insisted on throughout, and especially later in the pirate-ship scene. This same warning applies to all the pirates.

The hook is on the wrong the hand. I am used to this one, however. It seems 'everybody' makes this mistake. Possibly because it is harder for most to swordfight with the left hand. Dare I say this might be excusable if not for some lines in the movie. As John and Michael are playing at being Hook and Pan respectively, Wendy corrects John on the placement of his hook (coat hanger) saying, Ohno, John, it was the left hand. The narrator then informs us that Wendy is the “Supreme Authority” on Peter Pan and all his marvelous adventures. Now, the problem here is that she corrects John…incorrectly! Not only is there the discrepancy with the text but it is then emphasized? Again, I am baffled. I don't object to the scene or Wendy’s title, but why not have her comment on some other aspect?

Otherwise, the disturbing racial portrayal of the Indians notwithstanding, it's all right – it’s Disneyized.
Just please don't hold it as the ideal.

Japan's Boy Who Never Grew Up
P.J. Hogan's Boy Who Never Grew Up
The Silent Boy Who Never Grew Up
Fox's Boy Who Never Grew Up


Anonymous said...

Petah! It is not a "cartoon movie"!! The correct term is animated feature. I am 98% sure that Walt coined that term himself. Please make the change.
Also, you have a glaring spacing error in Wendy's erroneous quote.

Disney's "Peter Pan" has been a great source of inspiration to me as has the Mary Martin version. These entertainments represent what "Peter Pan" means to me - Hope, Joy, Freedom, and Pure Escapism from this cruel world.

Peter Von Brown said...

Touché. :) I suppose "animated feature" is a more accurate term. I changed it for you.
As for the spacing error, it is not a mistake. I typed it that way on purpose to simulate the way in which Kathryn Beaumont delivers the line.

I didn't mean to offend you or the film. It certainly has its merits and the ability to inspire and generate happy thoughts. Like I said, just some observations from an obsessed Pan purist. Mary Martin's is fun as well, although I must say the musical doesn't "do it" for me. Plus, as I recall, Hook is also comedic in it. But I enjoyed it as a child, I suppose that's what counts.

Thanks for posting and liking Peter Pan.