Peter Pan (1953)

peter pan mothersBecause what girl DOESN’T want a guy in green tights hovering outside her bedroom window every night?


I’ve already featured Hook and Finding Neverland, but this animated classic will always be my favorite Peter Pan movie. I’ve also passed my unfeigned adoration for this film on to my son, who now begs to watch it constantly.

PS: Should I be alarmed that my son holds only a faint recollection of the character Peter Pan but is obsessed with Captain Hook?

Not only was Peter Pan hugely successful—it was the highest-grossing film of 1953—but it gave birth to an international Disney symbol who rivals Mickey Mouse himself. I’m speaking, of course, of Tinkerbell, who, for the first time in history was given a physical body. (For some unknown reason Disney must have thought this version of Tink would go over better than a glowing light who cusses at children.)

Tinkerbell’s character wasn’t the studio’s only departure from the original story, though. Unlike previous adaptations, this film uses very little of J.M. Barrie’s dialogue, and for the first time on film, the character of Peter Pan was played/voiced by a male. (I just love wild, innovative ideas like that.)

Peter was voiced by Bobby Driscoll (So Dear to My Heart), and Wendy by Kathryn Beaumont (Alice in Wonderland). The voice of Mr. Smee was Bill Thompson, who was the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, but my all-time favorite role of his was a park ranger in an old Disney short called “In the Bag.”

Captain Hook, perhaps the best Disney villain of all time, was brought to life by Hans Conried, who also voiced Mr. Darling. Conried, perhaps best otherwise known as the man behind Snidely Whiplash, was a brilliant comedic actor who appeared in smaller roles, including a couple of I Love Lucy episodes. (The one where he played an English tutor is a classic.)

peter pan disney mermaids

“We were only trying to drown her.”

OH, SOMETHING YOU SHOULD KNOW: If you ever get a chance to travel to Neverland, remember that the pirates are dangerous…but the mermaids are sadistic.

I love the film’s opening line: “All of this has happened before, and it will all happen again.”

Compare that with the final scene when the Darling family is looking out the window and the father says, “I have the strangest feeling that I’ve seen that ship before — a long time ago, when I was very young.”

While there are many beautiful messages accompanying this version of Peter Pan, this tender recognition of the cycle through which children are born into this world, experience childhood, grow up to adulthood, and then raise children of their own is particularly profound to me.

What Peter Pan and the lost boys yearned for above all else was a mother — someone who could fulfill an indispensable role in this divine cycle.

peter pan motherThe decision made by women all over the world to embrace motherhood is a selfless one, and a brave one, not only because so many have died to give life, but also because so many more have lived to see that those lives are the best they can be.

Mothers are the backbone to everything good in society. They teach the foundational course of correct behavior to the world’s children (which occasionally means they lovingly stop us from participating in riots).

So here’s to all the mothers who are doing their best to raise their children the right way. Here’s to the single mothers achieving the impossible every day. Here’s to the noble women whom God knows would be fantastic mothers if given the chance someday.

There would be a lot more lost boys out there without you.

I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her.” — Genesis 17:16

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3 Responses to Peter Pan (1953)

  1. John Rainier says:

    Captain Hook is obviously the star of this movie. As a child I only saw the clips they aired on the wonderful world of color ( b&w at my house). So I only saw the whole film as an adult. I guess the thing that struck me was how racist the Indian scenes were. Love the mermaids. And the tick tock crock.

  2. Yes, the Indian scenes rival the film Song of the South (Zippadeedoodah) for most racist Disney fare.

    • Adam says:

      Funny you both brought that up – I was going to include this quote from Marc Davis (one of the animators) in the post but ended up cutting it. This comes from an interview years after the movie was released: “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.”

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