Peter Pan (1953)

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Peter Pan Review

After two classic films, ‘Cinderella’ and ‘Alice in Wonderland‘, there comes Peter Pan for Walt Disney Animation in 1953, a movie that is infinitely inferior to the aforementioned pictures, but is still quite a solid and even a bit underrated Disney film.

The animation is pretty solid and colorful, but lacks the majesty and artistic quality of earlier Disney films. The music is also subpar. What Made the Red Man Red is forgettable, not to mention pretty racist. That song and sequence is now notorious for being one of the most racist in all of Disney films. Your Mother and Mine serves its purpose as a plot device, but also fails to entertain and is too quite forgettable. There are of course The Second Star to the Right and You Can Fly!  – two of the most famous songs from this film and they are both quite good, if not great. But the song which is underrated and which most people somehow forget about in the Disney canon is Following the Leader. It is awfully short and it is a childish tune, but it is quite catchy and charming in its own right.

The characters are solid, some are great, others not so much. The titular character is honestly annoying to me, maybe because of his voice actor, but something about him never feels right and that is probably the so-so character development. Wendy is better but you unfortunately cannot forget the resemblance between her and Alice from ‘Alice in Wonderland‘ mainly because they used the same actress for both performances. Most of the other characters are not particularly well developed or memorable, but there are still Captain Hook and Tinkerbell. Hook is probably the weakest link regarding the characters as well as the whole movie. He is quite possibly one of the worst villains ever in a Disney film because he never feels frightening nor serious in any way. He is constantly ridiculed from both Peter Pan and crocodile and essentially serves as a joke. But Tinkerbell on the other hand is easily the best character in the whole movie. She is one of the reasons why this movie works. She is the heart and comic relief of the film. Her character is wonderfully written, beautifully animated and amusing to watch. Her constant bitter jealousy towards Wendy is hilarious while her endless devotion to Peter is heartwarming.

The plot is often attacked for being too light in comparison to its allegedly dark source material, but despite the joke that is the main villain and some detours, it is respectable and always involving. The second act can get too childish and overly action oriented, but the first act as well as the last are the highlights. The introduction to the Darling family and all its members is beautifully done, the dreamy children, the harsh father, the warm dog, it is all great from here. Then Peter and Tinkerbell appear and they fly with great song in the background in possibly the most memorable scene in the film. But what makes this film rise to the next level is the ending. The realization of the father that he has seen the ship before is one of the most profound sequences in any Disney film. It wonderfully presented what childhood is, full of wonder, magic and excitement, and how easily adults can forget about that later in their lives. It is a fascinating moment that wonderfully fits with the studio and what Walt was always trying to accomplish – make children entertained and make them dream. That whole ending is what makes this very flawed film truly special.

In the end, Peter Pan is along with ‘Lady and the Tramp‘ the weakest 1950s Disney film thanks to a stupid villain, flawed narrative and subpar animation and music, but it is a good film nevertheless thanks to some wonderful characters, a couple of good songs, entertaining story and heartwarming and absolutely magical ending.

My Rating – 4

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Interior & Exterior Stills from Peter Pan

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Posted in 1950s, 1953, Adventure, Animated, Disney, Fantasy, MOVIE REVIEWS and tagged , , , , , , , .

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