Sunday, November 15, 2009

DAF #30 - Peter Pan (1953)

"A jealous female can be tricked into anything."
-Captain Hook

Peter Pan
Year: 1953
Rated: G
Run Time: 1 hour, 16 minutes

Bobby Driscoll as Peter Pan
Kathryn Beaumont as Wendy Moira Angela Darling
Hans Conried as Captain Hook/George Darling
Paul Collins as John Darling
Tommy Luske as Michael Darling
Bill Thompson as Mr. Smee

Plot: A young girl and her brothers are whisked away to Neverland by Peter Pan, a boy who never grows up, and all face the villain Captain Hook.
Based on: The play "Peter Pan" by J.M. Barrie
Setting: London, England/Neverland, 1904(ish).

Tagline: It will live in your heart forever!

First Viewing: 1990 after the original VHS release.

When I love something, I love it forever. Yes, I go through phases where I become possessed by a certain thing, I do my best to research the hell out of it, and over time it is replaced by a new topic. But I’ll love the previous subject forever, even if it’s not in my spotlight. It is a rare occurrence indeed when I fall out of love with something. It’s been known to happen. The song “What’s Love Got to Do With it?” by Tina Turner is a perfect example. I hate this song now, mostly because I overplayed it. It’s also the case with Disney’s 14th Animated Feature, Peter Pan.

Don’t misunderstand me. I do not hate Peter Pan. I just love the 2003 live action version so much more that it actually takes away from any enjoyment I used to get from the Disney version. It’s kind of sad. Not unlike when a man leaves his wife for a younger, more attractive woman who makes him happier. If I am the husband in this scenario, and Peter Pan (1953) is Wifey #1, then I spent last night looking through old pictures and home movies of a former love.

I apologize for this depressing opening! This is not about PP (1953) vs. PP (2003), this is about the Disney version and only the Disney version. But I thought you should all know that my love for this version has faded and can never be viewed through the same blind eyes as I did when I was a child. I'll try to make it through with few comparisons, but I'm not making any promises.

All this has happened before, and will all happen again but this time, it's happening in Edwardian London. One night, George and Mary Darling prepare for a party while their children act out a story about the infamous Peter Pan, a boy who flies and never grows up. Wendy, the eldest children, fans the flame for her younger brothers, John and Michael. However, after some slapstick, their father decides it's time for Wendy to drop her nonsense and grow up and move out of the nursery.

While George and Mary are at the party, Peter Pan arrives at the Darling house, looking for his shadow. Wendy reattaches it for him and as thanks, Peter invites her and her brothers to Neverland. Meanwhile, dastardly Captain Hook and his loyal servant Smee, wait for Peter's returns so he can exact revenge on the boy for cutting off his hand throwing it to a crocodile.

Hook's big plan is to use Indian maiden Tiger Lily to find his way to Peter's Secret Hiding Place, where he has taken the Darling children to meet The Lost Boys. Before they arrive, Tinkerbell attempts to shoot Wendy down, and is then banished by Peter. While he and Wendy visit the mermaids, John, Michael, and the Lost Boys to play cat and mouse with the natives. The Chief believes the Lost Boys have captured their daughter and insists on her return or they will be burned at the stake.

Peter succeeds in rescuing Tiger Lily and in making Wendy madly jealous. She is tired of her role as "mother" to the other children and decides to go home. Meanwhile, Tinkerbell has revealed Peter's hiding place to Hook and he captures all and leaves a time bomb for Peter.

Tink takes the brunt of the blast and miraculously survives. Peter returns to the ship, just in time to save Wendy from walking the plank. Peter fights Hook and succeeds in humiliating him into retreat as the blood-thirsty crocodile follows. Peter takes the Darlings back to London. Their parents return from the party, blissfully unaware of their children's adventures.

When I was a kid, the coolest thing about Peter Pan wasn't his ability to not age, it was his ability to fly. In fact, I wanted to fly so badly, I used my 3rd, 4th, and 5th birthday wishes on the ability to fly. This caused me to nose dive off my couch and get a huge rug burn on my face. Of course, I realized a birthday wish and happy thoughts weren't enough. This caused me to throw a fit in the Disney store when my mom wouldn't buy me Tinkerbell's fairy dust a.k.a. a $7.95 bottle of glitter.

I also liked the romance. Or the implied romance. Or the possible romance between Peter and Wendy. As child romantic, I enjoyed it when kids in movies had the romance I wished for myself. I always thought there was something between Peter and Wendy. I mean, she wants to kiss him! And she would have succeeded if it weren't for that cunt, Tinkerbell. (More on that later).

I think this is one of the cruelest unresolved sexual tension moments in the history of fiction. After reattaching Peter's shadow, Wendy wants to give him a kiss. Tinkerbell bursts out of the drawer and stops it from happening. Now, I can appreciate a good interruption if it means a sweeter resolution in the end. (Delayed gratification, blah, blah, blah). But this kiss is NEVER BROUGHT UP AGAIN!!! It's a classic Peter Pan moment, so of course it's included in this version of the movie, but then dropped once it's purpose is fulfilled.

Of course, I know there are millions that think that 12 year olds should not be participating in any kind of pseudo-romantic behavior even when said pseudo-romantic behavior is a chaste kiss. The whole theme of Peter Pan is growing up vs. not growing up. Although Wendy is fighting her maturity, it is obvious she is at least more sexually mature than Peter when she is willing to kiss him and he is still in that "girls-can-still-be-friends-as-long-as-they-don't-make-me-kiss them" phase.

I really could go into this, but since this version fails to show the importance of it and the live action version fully embraces it, I will save this discussion for the day I review PP (2003). Anyway, I'll get on to Tinkerbell. Like I said in my review of Hook, I have a hatred for Tinkerbell. That is one of things PP (1953) and PP (2003) have in common: I hate both of their Tinkerbells.

She's a spiteful, psychotically jealous little snot who wants to keep Peter to herself. Now usually, I'm all about rooting for the Friend Zoner, and Tinkerbell is indeed in the Friend Zone. But her behavior in this position is atrocious. I mean, making snide comments about the competition is allowable every now and again...if it's said under one's breath...and is entirely truthful. But hair pulling? And attempted murder? Tsk, tsk, tsk, Tinkerbell, you'll never transition that way. (Let's not get into their species and size difference).

Of course, this Wendy is also overly jealous. Look how she reacts to Tiger Lily.

And look how she and the mermaids react to each other.

And what the hell is so great about Peter anyway? Why do all these women/mythological creatures fancy him so? Yeah, I guess he's fun. But that's about it. It just furthers my theory that women always chase men that other women want, despite any obvious less-than-desirable qualities.

Okay...onto something else. I'm not really a fan of slapstick villains. I like truly evil villains. I like motives. I don't like villains that are eeeevil for the sake of being eeeevil (cough, The Queen of Hearts/Prince John, cough, cough). Up until last night, I viewed Disney's Captain Hook this way. After all, there's all those scenes with Smee and the crocodile. But up until last night, I had forgotten what a manipulative, cruel bastard Captain Hook really is.

After hearing that Peter has "banished" Tinkerbell, Hook realizes that he could trick her into revealing the location of his secret lair. He does his best to side with Tinkerbell in her anger towards Peter, but blames it all on other woman Wendy. Hook agrees to kidnap Wendy and take her away when he leaves Neverland the next morning but he must learn where she is staying. Feeling rejected and desperate, Tinkerbell shows Hook the way and quickly realizes her mistake. There are few women in Neverland, but some how Captain Hook learned the best way to get what he wants out of them.

In spite of her betrayal, Tinkerbell is redeemed by sacrificing herself to save Peter from a bomb. (In the play/book/2003 version, she drinks poisoned medicine). Peter's lair is blown to bits and he comes to understand that Hook planted the bomb. He searches for Tinkerbell among the rubble claiming she "means more than anything in the world." Not the hussy mermaids. Not Tiger Lily. Not even Wendy. Tink is number one. Since she's willing to be his friend without demanding more, she is the one that gets to spend the rest of eternity with him.

Now, this is good way to go if you're friends/in love with a boy of this age and mindset. It's lucky that Peter never grows up, otherwise as soon as he saw a girl his same size that propelled him over that pubertal cusp, Tink would be swept to the wayside and abandoned in Neverland to look after any remaining lost boys while Peter became a husband, father, and shell of his former rambunctious self. (Think that's harsh? Go rent Hook.)

Despite all my bitching, I rather enjoyed my trip down memory lane. I was struck with an odd sense of nostalgia. I remembered a simpler time when I all I wanted was to fly and I cared nothing for unresolved sexual tension. I wished I still loved this movie, but sadly realized I never would again. (It's just not good enough, damn it.) I try to enjoy it for what it is and what it used to do for me...but alas, it makes me want to curl up with my pillows and my prettier, smarter, more understanding wife.

"The Second Star to the Right" - Chorus
"You Can Fly! You Can Fly! You Can Fly!" - Chorus
"A Pirate's Life" - Chorus
"Following the Leader" - Chorus
"What Makes the Red Man Red?" - Chorus
"Your Mother and Mine" - Kathryn Beaumont (Wendy)
"The Elegant Captain Hook" - Hans Conried (Captain Hook) Bill Thompson (Smee) & Chorus

Favorite Song: "The Second Star to the Right"
Favorite Moment: Wendy walks the plank.

Favorite Character: John Darling

Next DAF: The Rescuers (1977)

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