Original release poster
|Produced by||Walt Disney|
|Based on||Peter and Wendy by J.M. Barrie|
|Narrated by||Tom Conway|
|Distributed by||RKO Radio Pictures|
|Box office||$87.4 million|
Peter Pan is a 1953 American animated fantasy adventure film produced by Walt Disney and based on the play Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up by J. M. Barrie. It is the 14th Disney animated feature film and was originally released on February 5, 1953 by RKO Radio Pictures. Peter Pan was the final Disney animated feature released through RKO before Walt Disney founded his own distribution company, Buena Vista Distribution, later in 1953 after the film was released. Peter Pan is also the final Disney film in which all nine members of Disney's Nine Old Men worked together as directing animators. It is also the second Disney animated film starring Kathryn Beaumont, Heather Angel and Bill Thompson, who starred together in the animated feature Alice in Wonderland.
The film was entered into the 1953 Cannes Film Festival. A sequel titled Return to Never Land was released in 2002, and a series of direct-to-DVD prequels produced by DisneyToon Studios focusing on Tinker Bell began in 2008.
In London, circa 1900, George and Mary Darling's preparations to attend a party are disrupted by the antics of their boys, John and Michael, acting out a story about Peter Pan and the pirates that was told to them by their older sister, Wendy. George, who is fed up with the stories that have made his children less practical, angrily declares that Wendy has gotten too old to continue staying in the nursery with the boys. That night, they are visited in the nursery by Peter Pan himself, who teaches them to fly with the help of his pixie friend, Tinker Bell, and takes them with him to the island of Never Land.
A ship of pirates is anchored off Never Land, commanded by Captain Hook with his sidekick, Mr. Smee. Hook boldly plots to take revenge upon Peter Pan for cutting off his hand, but trembles at the presence of the crocodile who had consumed the hand and is eager to taste the rest of him. The crew's restlessness is interrupted by the arrival of Peter and the Darlings. Tinker Bell, who is very jealous of Pan's attention to Wendy, persuades the Lost Boys that Pan has ordered them to shoot down Wendy, which Tink refers to as a "Wendy bird". Tinker Bell's treachery is soon found out, and Peter banishes her. John and Michael set off with the Lost Boys to find the island's Indians, who instead capture them, believing they to be those responsible for taking the chief's daughter, Tiger Lily.
Meanwhile, Peter takes Wendy to see the mischievous mermaids, who delight in tormenting Wendy but flee in terror at the sight of Hook. Peter and Wendy see that Hook and Smee have captured Tiger Lily so that they might persuade her to disclose Peter's hideout. Peter and Wendy free her, and Peter is honored by the tribe. Hook then plots to take advantage of Tinker Bell's jealousy of Wendy, tricking her into revealing the location of Peter's lair. Wendy and her brothers eventually grow homesick and plan to return home. They invite Peter and the Lost Boys to return to London and be adopted by the Darling parents. The Lost Boys agree, but Peter is so set against growing up that he refuses, presumptuously thinking that they will all return shortly. The pirates lie in wait and capture the Lost Boys and the Darlings as they exit, leaving behind a time bomb to kill Peter. Tinker Bell learns of the plot just in time to snatch the bomb from Peter as it explodes.
Peter rescues Tinker Bell from the rubble and together they confront the pirates, releasing the children before they can walk the plank. Peter engages Hook in single combat as the children fight off the crew, and succeeds in humiliating the captain. Hook and his crew flee, with the crocodile in hot pursuit. Peter gallantly commandeers the deserted ship, and assisted by Tinker Bell's pixie dust, flies it to London with the children aboard. However, the Lost Boys decide to return to Never Land rather than be adopted in London. George and Mary Darling return home from the party to find Wendy not in her bed, but sleeping at the open window. Wendy awakens and excitedly tells about their adventures. The parents look out the window and see what appears to be a pirate ship in the clouds. George, who has softened his position about Wendy staying in the nursery, recognizes the ship from his own childhood.
In 1935, Walt Disney expressed interest in doing an adaptation of Peter Pan as his second film following Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. However, the live-action film rights were held by Paramount Pictures. The copyright owner, the Hospital for Sick Children in London, unsuccessfully offered to have Disney make an agreement with Paramount. However, in January 1939, Disney obtained the animation rights to the play by outbidding Fleischer Studios, which was also developing animated feature films. By early 1939, a story reel had been completed, and by the following May, Disney had several animators in mind for the characters. Vladimir Tytla was considered for the pirates, Norman Ferguson for the dog, Nana (who also animated Pluto) and Fred Moore for Tinker Bell.
During this time, Disney explored many possible interpretations of the story. In the earliest version, the film would start by telling Peter Pan's backstory. But during a story meeting on May 20, 1940, Disney said, "We ought to get right into the story itself, where Peter Pan comes to the house to get his shadow. That's where the story picks up. How Peter came to be is really another story." Disney also explored the idea of opening the film in Never Land with Peter Pan coming to Wendy's house to kidnap her as a mother for the Lost Boys. Eventually, Disney decided that the kidnapping plot was too dark, and he went back to Barrie's original play in which Peter comes to get his shadow and Wendy is eager to see Never Land.
Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the United States military took control of the studio and commissioned Walt Disney Productions to produce training and war propaganda films, so pre-production work on Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland was shelved. However, the Bank of America allowed production to continue during the war. After the war, work on the film resumed with Jack Kinney as director. At the time, Kinney had considered leaving Walt Disney Productions for the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer cartoon studio, but wartime restrictions prevented it. Because he did not want Kinney to get out of his contract, Disney appointed Kinney to direct Peter Pan.
During this same time, Disney talked to Mary Martin, who was appearing in a stage production of the play, about voicing Peter Pan, although Roy O. Disney complained that her voice was "too heavy, matured, and sophisticated." Jean Arthur contacted Walt about being considered for the role. Disney had also talked to Cary Grant about voicing Captain Hook, a possibility to which Grant replied that the "idea intrigued him." Impatient with the delays, Disney asked Kinney to work on sequences consecutively rather than finishing the entire script before it was storyboarded, so that a scene would be approved at a morning story meeting and then immediately put into development. Six months later, during a storyboard meeting, Kinney presented a two-and-a-half-hour presentation, during which Disney sat silently and then stated, "You know, I've been thinking about Cinderella."
By 1947, Walt Disney Productions' financial health started to improve again. Around this time, Walt Disney acknowledged the need for sound economic policies, but emphasized to his financial backers that slashing production would be suicidal. In order to restore the studio to full financial health, Disney expressed his desire to return to producing full-length animated films. By then, three animated projects—Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, and Peter Pan—were in development. Disney felt the characters in Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan were too cold, but as Cinderella contained elements similar to those in Snow White, he decided to green-light Peter Pan, placing it back into production in May 1949.
The scene in the nursery went through many alterations. In one version, it is Mrs. Darling who finds Peter Pan's shadow and shows it to Mr. Darling, as in the original play. In another version of the film, Nana goes to Never Land with Pan and the Darling children, the story being told through her eyes. In another interpretation of the story, John Darling is left behind for being too serious, practical and boring, but story artist Ralph Wright convinced Disney to have John go with the others to Never Land. This adaptation also included Wendy bringing her Peter Pan picture book and Peter and the children eating an "imaginary dinner". At one point, a party in Peter's hideout was conceived at which Tinker Bell becomes humiliated and, in her rage, tells Captain Hook the location of Peter Pan's hideout of her own free will. However, Disney felt that this story was contrary to Tinker Bell's character; instead, he had Captain Hook kidnapping Tinker Bell and persuading her to tell him. In Barrie's play, Captain Hook puts poison in Peter's dose of medicine and Tinker Bell saves Peter by drinking the poison herself, only to be revived by the applause of the theater audience. After much debate, Disney discarded this story development, fearing it would be difficult to achieve in a film. In earlier scripts, there were more scenes involving the pirates and mermaids that were similar to those with the dwarfs in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Ultimately, these scenes were cut for pacing reasons. The film concept was also a bit darker at one point than that of the finished product; for example, there were scenes involving Captain Hook being killed by the crocodile, the Darling family mourning over their lost children and Pan and the children discovering the pirates' treasure loaded with booby traps.
As with previous Disney animated features, a live-action version was filmed to serve as an aid to animators with the actors performing to a prerecorded dialogue track. Margaret Kerry received a call to audition to serve as the live-action reference for Tinker Bell. For the live-action reference, Kerry said she had to hold out her arms and pretend to fly for all the scenes requiring it. Additionally, Kerry served as reference for one of the mermaids along with Connie Hilton and June Foray.[self-published source] At the same time, the studio was looking for an actor to portray Peter Pan, for which Kerry suggested her dancing teacher Roland Dupree. He was interviewed and eventually won the role, providing a reference for the flying and action sequences. Bobby Driscoll also served as the live-action reference model for Peter Pan, although he was mainly used for the close-up scenes. Hans Conried completed the voice work over the course of a few days, and served as the live-action reference for two and a half years. Kathryn Beaumont, who was also the voice of Wendy, also performed for the live-action reference footage.
Milt Kahl wanted to animate Captain Hook but was instead assigned to animate Peter Pan and the Darling children; he claimed he was "outmaneuvered". During production, while animating Peter Pan, Kahl claimed that the hardest thing to animate was a character floating in mid-air. While observing the animation of Peter Pan, Walt Disney complained that the animators had let too many of Bobby Driscoll's facial features find their way into the character design, telling Kahl that "[t]hey are too masculine, too old. There is something wrong there." Kahl replied, "You want to know what's wrong!?...What's wrong is that they don't have any talent in the place."
The job of animating Captain Hook was assigned to Frank Thomas, who faced conflicting visions of the character. Story artist Ed Penner viewed Hook as "a very foppish, not strong, dandy-type, who loved all the finery. Kind of a con man. [Co-director Gerry] Geronimi saw him as an Ernest Torrence: a mean, heavy sort of character who used his hook menacingly." When Walt Disney saw Thomas' first test scenes, he said, "Well, that last scene has something I like I think you're beginning to get him. I think we better wait and let Frank go on a little further." Because Thomas could not animate every scene of Hook, certain sequences were given to Wolfgang Reitherman, such as that showing Hook trying to escape Tick-Tock the crocodile.
Ollie Johnston animated Mr. Smee. To best capture his comedic yet fear-ridden, sycophantic personality, Johnston used a variation of the Dwarf design from Snow White, and had Mr. Smee blink repeatedly. Johnston's former mentor, Fred Moore, worked in his unit as a character animator for Smee's minor scenes. Moore also animated the mermaids and the Lost Boys. On November 22, 1952, Moore and his wife were involved in an auto accident on Mount Gleason Drive in Los Angeles. Moore died of a cerebral concussion the following day at St. Joseph's Hospital, across from the Disney studios.
Frank Churchill wrote several songs for the film during the early 1940s, and Charles Walcott wrote additional songs in 1941. When work on Peter Pan resumed in 1944, Eliot Daniel composed songs for the film. However, this version of Peter Pan was shelved so the studio could complete Cinderella. In April 1950, it was reported that Sammy Cahn and Sammy Fain were composing songs for Peter Pan. The incidental music score for the movie is composed by Oliver Wallace.
Peter Pan was first released in theaters on February 5, 1953. It was then re-released theatrically in 1958, 1969, 1976, 1982 and 1989. The film also had a special limited re-release at the Philadelphia Film Festival in 2003. It also played a limited engagement in select Cinemark Theatres from February 16–18, 2013.
Peter Pan was first released on North American VHS, LaserDisc and Betamax in 1990 and UK VHS in 1993. A THX 45th anniversary limited edition of the film was released on March 3, 1998, as part of the Walt Disney Masterpiece Collection. Peter Pan was released on VHS and DVD on November 23, 1999 as a part of the Walt Disney Limited Issues series for a limited 60-day time period before going into moratorium. Peter Pan was re-released as a special-edition VHS and DVD release in 2002 to promote the sequel Return to Never Land. The DVD was accompanied with special features including a making-of documentary, a sing-along, a storybook and a still-frame gallery of production artwork.
Disney released a two-disc "Platinum Edition" DVD of the film on March 6, 2007. A Blu-ray "Diamond Edition" was released on February 5, 2013 to celebrate the movie's 60th anniversary. A DVD and digital copy of the "Diamond Edition" was also released on August 20, 2013. Peter Pan was re-released in digital HD format on May 29, 2018 and on Blu-ray on June 5, 2018, as part of the Walt Disney Signature Collection line, to celebrate the film's 65th anniversary.
Bosley Crowther of The New York Times criticized the film's lack of faithfulness to the original play, claiming it "has the story but not the spirit of Peter Pan as it was plainly conceived by its author and is usually played on the stage." Nevertheless, he praised the colors are "more exciting and the technical features of the job, such as the synchronization of voices with the animation of lips, are very good." However, Time gave the film a highly favorable review, making no reference to the changes from the original play. Mae Tinee of The Chicago Tribune wrote "The backgrounds are delightfully picturesque, the music only so-so. The film is designed for broad for broad effect, with the accent of comedy. I'm sure the youngsters who grow up with cartoons will be right at home with all the characters. Variety described the film as a "feature cartoon of enchanting quality. The music score is fine, highlighting the constant buzz of action and comedy, but the songs are less impressive than usually encountered in such a Disney presentation."
Contemporary reviews remain positive. Giving the film 3½ stars out of 4, Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune noted the "drawing of Tinkerbelle [sic] and the flamboyance of Captain Hook" as well as the "quality music mixed with appropriate animation" were the film's major highlights. Michael Jackson cited Peter Pan as his favorite film, and from it he derived the name of his estate, Neverland Ranch, in Santa Barbara, California, where he had a private amusement park. Ronald D. Moore, one of the executive producers of the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica, has cited this film as the inspiration for the series' theme of the cyclical nature of time, using the film's opening line, "All of this has happened before and it will all happen again," as a key tenet of the culture's scripture. The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported the film received an approval rating of 80% based on 35 reviews, with an average score of 6.92/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Though it doesn't delve deeply into the darkness of J.M. Barrie's tale, Peter Pan is a heartwarming, exuberant film with some great tunes.".
Peter Pan has been criticized in recent years for its typecasting of Indians. In the song "What Made the Red Man Red?", the Indians are depicted as a race mainly defined by sexuality; the lyrics attribute the Indians' red skin to their constant pursuit of women. These stereotypes are also present in J. M. Barrie's play. Marc Davis, one of the supervising animators of the film, said in an interview years after the production that "I'm not sure we would have done the Indians if we were making this movie now. And if we had we wouldn't do them the way we did back then." Because of this, the Indians were completely written out of the 2002 sequel Return to Never Land.
During its initial box office run, the film grossed $7 million in domestic rentals. The movie has earned a lifetime domestic gross of $87.4 million. Adjusted for inflation, and incorporating subsequent releases, the film has had a lifetime gross of $405,593,100.
Disney Fairies is a series of children's books published by Random House, which features Tinker Bell and her friends. It also has a film series starting in 2008 with the self-titled film about Tinker Bell.
Peter Pan’s Flight is a popular ride found at Disneyland, Walt Disney World, Disneyland Paris and Tokyo Disneyland. Peter Pan, Wendy, Captain Hook and Mr. Smee make appearances in the parades, as well as greetings throughout the theme parks.
Neverland is a playable world in both Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, with Tinker Bell appearing as a summon. Peter Pan appears as a summon in the sequel, Kingdom Hearts II. Neverland also appears as a playable world in Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days and returns as a playable world in Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep.
Walt Disney's Peter Pan: A Game of Adventure (1953) is a Transogram Company Inc. track board game based upon the film. The game was one of many toys that exploited the popularity of Walt Disney's post-World War II movies. The object of the game is to be the first player to travel from the Darlings' house to Neverland and back to the Darlings' house.
Play begins at the Darlings' house in the upper left hand corner of the game board. Each player moves, in turn, the number of spaces along the track indicated by his spin of the dial. When a player reaches the Never Isle, he selects a character from the film (Peter, Wendy, Michael, or John) and receives the instruction card for that character. The player follows his chosen character's track on the board, obeying instructions upon the character's card. The player is also obligated to follow any instructions on those spaces he lands upon after spinning the dial during the course of his turn at play. The first player who travels from Never Land to Skull Rock and along the Stardust Trail to Captain Hook's ship, and returns to the Darlings' house is declared the winner.
The board game makes an appearance in the 1968 version of Yours, Mine and Ours as a Christmas present.
Disney's Peter Pan Jr is a one-hour children's musical based on the Disney Peter Pan movie with some updated material. It became available for school and children's theatre productions in 2013 after several pilot productions.
This was Disney's first Peter Pan film. In the early 2000s, a Peter Pan franchise was spawned, involving a number of other animation projects:
Following the studio's success of live-action adaptations of Disney cartoon films including Maleficent, Cinderella, The Jungle Book and Beauty and the Beast, Disney announced that a live action Peter Pan movie is in development, with David Lowery directing and co-writing with Toby Halbrooks. In July 2018, it was announced that it may be released on Disney+ instead of theatrically.
Celebrating its 60th anniversary, Disney has released the timeless classic animated film “Peter Pan” onto Blu-ray for the first time with an impressive trip to Neverland given “Diamond Edition” treatment.
Pardon the nostalgic digression, but Walt Disney's fourteenth animated feature, now celebrating its 60th anniversary, has the look and whimsy of a much younger production.
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Peter Pan (1953 film)|