Much like the second film Pinocchio in Disney’s first golden era was a fluke, Alice in Wonderland in Disney’s second golden era, or silver era, started by Cinderella in 1950, was also a major disappointment. However, Walt Disney rebounded from Pinocchio with Fantasia, and I’m going to say Peter Pan fulfills a similar role. While Peter Pan is nothing close to the animation caliber of Fantasia, it is a satisfying adventure to Never Land, and an undeniably entertaining one at that.
With that said, this movie does have its fair share of problems. The two Never Land protagonists, Peter Pan and Tinkerbell, are mischaracterized, or at least underdeveloped. As Michelle Alexandria from Eclipse Magazine adequately phrased: “Pan and Tinkerbell…came across as selfish, cold and really unlikable bullies.” Bill Chambers from Film Freak Central said similarly: “who wants their son taking his cues from this mean-spirited ‘hero’?” While I personally think these criticisms are a little too harsh, Pan’s really only noble trait is that he is thankful to those who feed his ego and retell stories about him. That person is Wendy, our main protagonist, and the girl who is told by her father to grow up from such fairytales. So she has one last day to be a kid, and spends that last day with Peter Pan.
Wendy constantly asserts how wonderful Peter Pan is, which explains why she’s so invested in his stories. And now that I mention it, Peter Pan is also pursued by the surprisingly sexy Tinkerbell and the beautiful mermaids of Mermaids’ Lagoon. One critic interpreted this as such: “plays as less of a child fantasy of soaring adventure than it does as a retrograde narcissistic adult male fantasy of being desired and pursued by every female in the room.” However, I see it a little differently. Not only is Peter Pan marveled at by the girls, he is also marveled at by all the guys. So I think Peter Pan simply represents youth and how being youthful includes being “selfish, cold, mean-spirited,” fun, energetic, and silly. In short, Peter Pan doesn’t ruin the film for me.
Once again, Disney has simplified the plot so that it can focus on other things. In this case, it is set aside for the adventure itself. Sure, the outcome of the adventure isn’t all too important, but if the adventure isn’t everything Wendy and her siblings hoped it would be, then surely the ending wouldn’t be a happy one. And for what it’s worth, the adventure is everything they talked about! Pixie-dust flying, pirate sword-fighting, cannon-ball shooting, ticking-crocodile chasing, red Indians-dancing, flirtatious mermaid-splashing, and this teddy bear ❤
I said earlier that “if Disney is able to take me out of this ordinary world of mine and into an entirely fantastical one, then it will surely receive an equally fantastical grade.” While it accomplishes this task, it does not fit all the pieces of the puzzle together. The emotional value of this film isn’t too high, albeit charming and worth a few good laughs. But as long as you have your expectations set straight, you will definitely feel young again in a day in Never Land.