Peter Pan

Talkie of the Week: Disney Series

USA 1953, 76 minutes, Technicolor, Walt Disney Productions, Distributed by RKO Radio Pictures. Based on Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up by J.M. Barrie. Narrated by Tom Conway, Voice Talents: Bobby Driscoll, Kathryn Beaumont, Paul Collins, Tomy Luske, Hans Conried, Heather Angel, Bill Thompson, Corinne Orr, June Forray, Margaret Kerry, Connie Hilton, Karen Kester and Candy Candido.

Plot summary: Who did not dream of him as a child, Peter Pan, the boy from Neverland who wouldn’t grow up?!

Peter Pan poster 1953Review: I remember it as clearly as if it had happened only yesterday. I lie awake late at night. I cannot sleep and my eyes are fixed on my half-open window. I am waiting for Peter Pan to arrive, but my childhood hero never comes. I am not Wendy. I do not get a chance to catch his shadow and lure him into my life. I do not get to fly away with him into the night. When I was little, stories like Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland or A Little Princess were my world. I read them all, saw them on stage and listened to them on the radio. I loved to dive into the world of make-belief, a world so real to me I could taste it like my grandmother’s unequaled cooking. When I first saw Peter Pan on screen, it was love at first sight. I knew that was the kind of hero I had to meet in order to stay who I enjoyed to be: a happy child who was bubbling over with imagination. Quite naturally, I had to grow up and eventually my interest in Neverland began to fade. I am sure clang to it much longer than the average child, but after all, my fascination with the boy who wouldn’t grow up was gone. The allure of an eternal childhood had lost its appeal. After a while, I was excited to grow up like Wendy Darling and I have not missed being a child since. I do remember the excitement though about a fantastic tale like Peter Pan, beautifully adapted by Walt Disney over the course of almost two decades.

Based on J.M. Barrie’s famous play, as well as on his novel Peter and Wendy, the film was set in early 20th century London. The first scene introduces us to the Darlings, an aristocratic family who is blessed with three imaginative children, Wendy, John and Michael. The boys love to act out stories their sister tells them, stories about a far away place called Neverland. Wendy knows her stories are true because she has caught the shadow of Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up. When he returns to retrieve it, he finally shows himself in person and invites the Darling children to explore his world. Together, they fight Captain Hook, play with the Lost Boys and learn to fly with Tinkerbell’s help. They live a storybook adventure, meet Indians and mermaids, but also learn what it would mean to remain a child forever like Peter Pan.

Although already considered for production in the 1930s, the film did not make it to theaters as one of the studio’s early films but was put on hold for the duration of WWII. After surviving negotiations, draft revisions and Hollywood’s financial drought of the post-war years, Peter Pan finally premiered as Disney’s 14th animated feature on February 5, 1953. The film received mixed reviews but easily turned into a commercial success. Re-released to theaters five times before its premiere on home video in 1990, Peter Pan became a household name across the globe and a character kids still love today. For adults, the film often comes with a taste of nostalgia for the days when they themselves were little. When summer days were endless, friends precious and ice cream wagons played the sweetest melody. For me, Peter Pan will always be the boy I did not get to meet and Wendy the girl who became my heroine. It is that kind of quality Disney’s adaptation still effuses. A true classic for kids from all decades, states and ages.

Watch the trailer here to refresh your memories. The film is available on DVD and Blu-ray.

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Alice in Wonderland

Talkie of the Week: Disney Series

USA 1951, 75 minutes, Technicolor, Walt Disney Pictures. Distributed by: RKO Radio Pictures, Based on “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass” by Lewis Carroll

Plot summary: To elude her dull lessons, Alice escapes into the nonsensical world of Wonderland where cats wear stripes and flowers can sing.

Alice in WonderlandReview: Every kid knows her. Alice, the English girl who is bored stiff by her daily lessons and dreams of a world different from her rule-filled own. As a child, I envied her for her adventures in Wonderland, a world so entertaining and scary all at once. Like her, I escaped boredom in my mind and created a world too colorful to make sense to adults. Had I spotted a White Rabbit with a pocket watch, I would have gladly followed him. But like Peter Pan, Mr. Rabbit never came and I was stuck with the poetic words of Lewis Carroll and a Disney adaptation I only recently learned to appreciate for its imperfection.

When Alice enters Wonderland, she meets a bunch of quirky characters: Mad Hatter and March Hare, a smoking Caterpillar, and the Queen of Hearts. Their customs are peculiar and differ from what the girl has learned to be conventional. They are interesting but also capricious, their language, attitude and behavior as unpredictable as the visibility of the Cheshire Cat. What begins as a great adventure soon turns into a series of unpleasant encounters. Based on Lewis Carroll’s famous books, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, Disney’s heroine stumbles from one oddity to the next until finally finds her way home again.

Despite their narrative complexity, Walt Disney was interested in adapting Lewis’ stories  early on but had to take several hurdles until he was able to begin with the production. Rewritten and re-imagined several times, the film finally premiered on July 26, 1951 and met with a lukewarm response. Although not slated by critics at the time, the animated feature did not attract a loyal audience. Cut down to fit into 75 short minutes, Disney’s version was incomplete and deemed Americanized by fans of Lewis Carroll’s original stories. Despite its imaginative artwork and catchy tunes, the film was not popular until its re-release in 1974 when a new generation appreciated Alice in Wonderland for its eccentric (or arguably psychedelic) content.

Now considered a children’s classic, Carroll’s books and Disney’s adaptation have influenced and shaped the imagination and childhood of many kids around the world. Although remade many times, Alice is still a beautiful blond girl in a lot of hearts and minds. Her world, both fantastic and real, stands for a time lost to us all when nothing compared to the power of imagination. When movies still made a difference in our lives and dreams were more than just the sum of our daily actions. Alice is a symbol of innocence, creativity and curiosity. A carefree child who, not unlike Wendy Darling in Peter Pan, is entangled in a mélange of fantastic tales and adult rules she has learned to escape at her own discretion.

Watch the original trailer here and refresh your memories of an enchanting Disney classic now available on DVD and Blu-ray.