Monday, 19 January 2015

Review : Disney's Peter Pan (1953)

Peter Pan : An adaptation of J. M. Barrie's story about a boy who never grew up. The three children of the Darling family receive a visit from Peter Pan, who takes them to Never Land, where an ongoing war between Peter's gang of rag-tag runaways and the evil Pirate Captain Hook is taking place.

One of Disney's highly admired classics now fully restored as part of the 2014 Disney re-releases,  Disney's classic take on the Boy Who Won't Grow Up is alternately a tale of magic and imagination, but occasionally a disturbing, violent story of what happens when kids must fend for themselves. 

I will start off on a soar note by pointing out as a fair warning that in 'Peter Pan' there are some very dated, racist and sexist stereotypes and themes in this from the "What Makes the Red Man Red" song and the depiction of Big Chief and his tribe to the way all the girls are jealous of each other and Peter's affections. Peter even says "Girls talk too much," and Captain Hook alludes to how "jealous girls" are easy to trick. 

These cultural relics weren't seen as a problem at the time of when this film came out, and could be very dismissive for a childs understanding, all a child has to do is look at the comedic side of it 'the crocodile trying to eat Captain Hook' and see that has shocking and surprisingly entertaining. 

But when the film came out, the issues addressed above are certainly things that are taken seriously now; if a parent can discuss these issues with their child afterwards, you can still enjoy the way Wendy reminds all the Lost Boys that they do need mothering and that growing up means taking responsibility.

You do have to sit back and admire this film for what it is I suppose, I've always remembered it to be a moment of my child hood. I grew up watching these films, Peter Pan was never a film we ever got on video but it was one that we used to take out of the library and be very excited about watching. Now I've got it on DVD and Blu Ray. I can watch it whenever I like. 

The animation motion in Peter Pan is as lively as its energetic hero. The scenes set in Victorian London are beautifully colourful and the lighting is very well done, and the shift in perspective as the children round Big Ben and fly off to Neverland is internally vertiginous. Most children see Peter as that wonderful ideal, a child with the power to do whatever he pleases for as long as he pleases. In reality he's a cocky, selfish boy who will just never grow up.
The story does have it's moments that are whimsical but also quite odd in places : the nanny is a dog; the crocodile that ate Captain Hook's hand keeps following him for another taste; Peter loses his shadow; the Lost Boys have no parents, and unlike Peter, no special powers, a fairy guardian who doesn't take kindly to competition.
Some children find this engaging, but a few find it troublesome, I've always found it to be quite a problematic film which I wouldn't question as an infant, but with a more mature mind looking at it in perspective, it has it's odd moments. It may also be sad that the story ends with Peter bringing the Darling children home and then going back to Neverland without them. It's a rollar coaster of emotions. 9/10.
NEXT : The Road to El Darado.

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