Ever since its release in 1904, J.M. Barrie's famous play Peter & Wendy has become one of the highest regarded children plays of all time for its emphasis on childhood and imagination. While there have been countless adaptations of this work out there, arguably the most well known is the 1953 animated Disney film, and for very good reason. This is not only a charming and entertaining film in its own right, but it is also a rather heartwarming tale of what lies in a child's imagination. Probably the most iconic song from this film is You Can Fly, as it further emphasizes not only the many things you can dream of, but it also serves as a lovely tune to bring one back to a simpler time when they were children. Of course the other songs are well done too, from the melodious lullaby Second Star to the Right, to the highly upbeat Following the Leader, to the hilariously malicious Elegant Captain Hook. However, along with Your Mother and Mine as a beautiful contrast to reality, the aforementioned iconic song is a beautiful homage to simply embracing the imaginative fantasies that any child can dream of without wanting to grow up. Oh yeah, and even though What Made the Red Man Red is very dated given its subject matter, it's still entertaining nonetheless....if you're anti-PC that is. The characters are also a lot of fun, especially the main protagonists. Peter himself may be immature, but I'm sure anyone can relate as they felt that way when they were children, and his spirited nature does balance the cockiness out enough to make him endearing. Wendy does get pushed around quite a bit, but she does pose as a decent straight one to the wackiness in Neverland and a reminder to the audience that maybe it's best to grow up. Not to mention, the romance between Peter and Wendy is perfect for their respected ages, as it's never overdone (they never even kiss) and they're contrasting views on one another play a big role in their relation. As for Tinkerbell, she's pretty much the feminist of her day; always being snooty and trying to prove her way to others, even if she really does love Peter. With such a spunky personality and an emotionally driven arch, it's little wonder why she remains an iconic mascot for the Disney corporation. The other characters like John and Michael, the Lost Boys and the Pirates may be the least interesting characters in the film, but they definitely have their moments of witty banter here and there. However, probably the best character in the movie is the menacing albeit hysterical Captain Hook. Although he is insanely determined to seek vengeance on Pan over the loss of his hand to a crocodile, he is also hilarious from his childish fear of getting eaten by the crocodile and the banter between him and his first mate Mr. Smee. Seriously, whenever you see Hook, Smee and Tick Tock the Croc together, you will witness some of the greatest slapstick ever put to film, let alone animation. The timing, pacing, expressions and even vocals from Hans Conried are bound to have you ache from laughter. As usual for an animated Disney film, the animation is very well crafted. Along with the lovable and expressive character designs and character animation you'd expect from an animated Disney film, the flying scenes are simply breathtaking (hence another reason You Can Fly is so fondly remembered). The crew behind the lush artwork of Neverland really do deserve immense acclaim for the lush artwork, especially Mary Blair. Neverland really does feel like a highly adventurous place any child would want to go to, even with some dangers like pirates and mermaids. Not to mention, the way the animators were able to experiment with water, pixie dust, smoke and especially explosions are highly creative and magical in their own way. With exciting obstacles, charming characters, breathtaking visuals and timelessly catchy songs, Peter Pan nails the childlike adventure on a silver platter. Even if it's not quite as dark as the original play, it still respects the ideology of growing up from one's childhood fantasy that made it beloved for over 65 years. I'd say that children of all ages can enjoy this; boys can get into the swashbuckling and action whereas girls can get into the fairies, romance and even flying. Heck, even adults can have fun with this due to how entertainingly fun and even emotional at times it is, as it may bring them back to memories of when they were younger...by age 12 that is.
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Wendy and her brothers are whisked away to the magical world of Neverland with the hero of their stories, Peter Pan.
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April 13, 2019