Peter Pan is a 1953 American animated film produced by Walt Disney and based on the play Peter pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up by J. M. Barrie. It is the fourteenth film in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series and was originally released on February 5, 1953 by RKO Pictures. Peter Pan is the final Disney animated feature released through RKO before Walt Disney's founding of his own distribution company, Buena Vista Distribution, later in 1953 after the film was released. Peter Pan is also the final Disney film in which all nine members of Disney's Nine Old Men worked together as directing animators. It is also the second film starring Kathryn Beaumont and Heather Angel after their roles in the animated feature Alice in Wonderland.
The film was entered into the 1953 Cannes Film Festival. A sequel titled Return to Never Land and a prequel titled Tinker Bell were released in 2002 and 2008 respectively.
The film changes the original Barrie play by having the Darling children know all about Peter Pan before they ever meet him. Peter goes to the nursery window, not to hear Wendy's mother tell her the story of Cinderella, but to hear Wendy tell her brothers stories about Peter himself. The Lost Boys are not adopted at the end by the Darlings as in the play, television, and other film versions; they return to Never Land and stay there with Peter, never growing up. The Disney film also lightens the storyline by carefully eliminating all the potentially tragic overtones of the story, even going so far as to have the Darling children's absence from the nursery go completely unnoticed by their parents (in the original play and its 1954 musical version, after Wendy, John and Michael go to Never Land with Peter, the parents are plunged into a period of mourning until the children return home). One of the only elements from the play used in the film was that Captain Hook and Mr. Darling were played by the same actor.
As the narrator tells the viewing audience, the action about to take place "has happened before, and will all happen again", only now it will happen in Edwardian London, in the neighborhood of Bloomsbury, where George and Mary Darling's preparations to attend a party are disrupted by the antics of the boys, John and Michael, acting out a story about Peter Pan and the pirates, which was told to them by their older sister, Wendy. Their father, who is fed up with the stories that have made his children less practical, angrily declares that Wendy has gotten too old to continue staying in the nursery with them, and it's time for her to grow up and have a room of her own. That night, they are visited in the nursery by Peter Pan himself, who teaches them to fly with the help of his pixie friend, Tinker Bell, and takes them with him to the island of Never Land.
A ship of pirates is anchored off Never Land, commanded by Captain Hook with his sidekick, Mr. Smee. Hook boldly plots to take revenge upon Peter Pan for cutting off his hand, but he trembles when the crocodile that ate it arrives; it now stalks him, hoping to taste more. Hook also forms a plan to find Peter's hideout using the knowledge of Tiger Lily. The crew's restlessness is interrupted by the arrival of Peter and the Darlings. The children easily evade them, and, despite a trick by jealous Tinker Bell to have Wendy killed, they meet up with the Lost Boys: six lads in animal-costume pajamas, who look to Peter as their leader. Tinker Bell's treachery is soon found out, and Peter banishes her "forever" (though she is eventually forgiven). John and Michael set off with the Lost Boys to find the island's Indians, who instead capture them, believing them to be the ones responsible for taking the chief's daughter, Tiger Lily. Big Chief, the Indian chieftain and Tiger Lily's father, warns them that if Tiger Lily is not back by sunset, the Lost Boys (along with John and Michael) will be burned at the stake.
Meanwhile, Peter takes Wendy to see the mermaids. Wendy is considering leaving when the mermaids try to drown her, but things change when the mermaids flee in terror at the sight of Hook. Peter and Wendy (who quickly spy on Hook) see that he and Smee have captured Tiger Lily, so that they might coerce her into revealing Peter's hideout. Peter and Wendy free her, and Peter is honored by the tribe. Hook then plots to take advantage of Tinker Bell's jealousy of Wendy, tricking her into revealing the location of Peter's lair. However, his plan to kill Peter becomes a bit compromised when Tinker Bell makes him promise to "not put a hand or hook on Peter". He agrees, and then locks Tinker Bell in a lantern as a makeshift jail cell. Wendy and her brothers eventually grow homesick and plan to return home. They invite Peter and the Lost Boys to return to London and be adopted by the Darling parents. The Lost Boys agree, but Peter is so set against growing up that he refuses, presumptuously assuming that all of them will return shortly. The pirates lie in wait and capture the Lost Boys and the Darlings as they exit, leaving behind a time bomb to kill Peter. Tinker Bell learns of the plot just in time to snatch the bomb from Peter as it explodes. (This scene is completely different from Barrie's play; in the play, Captain Hook secretly poisons Peter's medicine, and Tinker Bell drinks it to save his life. Peter then pleads with the audience to clap their hands if they believe in fairies. They do, and Tinker Bell is made well again.)
Mr. and Mrs. Darling return home from the party to find Wendy not in her bed, but sleeping at the open window; John and Michael are asleep in their beds. The parents have no idea that the children have even been anywhere. Wendy wakes and excitedly tells about their adventures. The parents look out the window and see what appears to be a pirate ship in the clouds. Mr. Darling, who has softened his position about Wendy staying in the nursery, recognizes it from his own childhood, as it breaks up into clouds itself.
Peter Pan was one of Walt Disney's favorite stories and in 1935 he intended for Peter Pan to be his second film after Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. However he could not get the rights until four years later, after he came to an arrangement with Great Ormond Street Hospital I London, to whom Barrie had bequeathed the rights to the play. The studio started the story development and character designs in the late-1930's and early-1940s, and intended it to be his fourth film, after Snow White, Bambi and Pinocchio (Bambi was later put on hold for a short while for technical difficulties and ended up being his fifth film while Pinocchio became his second film).
During this time Disney explored many possibilities of how the story could be interpreted. In the earliest version of the story, the film started by telling Peter Pan's back story. But on May 20th 1940 during a story meeting Disney said "We ought to get right into the story itself, where Peter Pan comes to the house to get his shadow. That's were the story picks up. How Peter came to be is really another story.". Walt also explored opening the film in Neverland and Peter Pan coming to Wendy's house to kidnap her as a mother for the Lost Boys. Eventually, Disney decided that the kidnapping was too dark and went back to Barrie's original play where Peter comes to get his shadow and Wendy is eager to see Neverland.. The scene in the nursery went through many alterations. For instance in one version it was Mrs. Darling who found Peter Pan's shadow and showed it to Mr. Darling as in the original play. In another version of the film, Nana went to Neverland with Pan and the Darling children, and the story was told through her eyes. In other interpretations of the story John Darling was left behind for being too serious, practical and boring. The film also included Wendy taking her "Peter Pan Picture Book" and Peter and the children eating an "Imaginary Dinner". At one point there was a party in Peter's hideout where Tinker Bell got humiliated and in her rage went and deliberately told Captain Hook the location of Peter Pan's hideout at her own free will. However, Walt felt that this was against Tinker Bell's character and that she had "gone too far" and changed it to Captain Hook kidnapping and persuading Tinker Bell to tell him. There is a point in Barrie's play where Captain Hook puts poison in Peter's dose of medicine and Tinker Bell saves Peter by drinking the poison herself only to be revived by the applause by the theater audience. After much debate Disney discarded this fearing it would be difficult to achieve in a film. In earlier scripts there were more scenes involving the Pirates and the Mermaids that were similar to what Disney had previously done with the "Seven Dwarfs" in Snow White. Ultimately these scenes were cut for pacing reasons. The film was also a little bit darker at one point since there were scenes involving Captain Hook being killed by the crocodile, the Darling family mourning over their lost children, and Pan and the children discovering the pirates' treasure which is loaded with booby traps.
Then on December 7, 1941, the United States joined the Second World War after Pearl Harbor was attacked. The following day the U.S military took control of the studio and commissioned them to produce war propaganda films. They also forced Peter Pan as well as Alice in Wonderland, Wind in the Willows, Song of the South, Mickey and the Beanstalk and Bongo, among others, to be put on hold. After the war ended in 1945, the studio was in debt and they could only produce package films to support themselves. It was not until 1947, as the studio's financial health started to improve again, that the actual production of Peter Pan commenced, even though Roy O. Disney did not think that Peter Pan would not have much box office appeal.
Rumor has it that Tinker Bell's design was based on marilyn Monroe, but in reality her design was based on Tinker Bell's live-action reference model, Margaret Kerry. Margaret Kerry posed for reference film shots on a sound stage; the footage was later used by supervising Tinker Bell animator Marc Davis and his team when they drew the character. Kerry also provided the voice of the redheaded mermaid in the film.
Like Kerry, Bobby Driscoll was both the live-action reference model, mainly used for the close-up scenes, and the voice actor for Peter Pan. Peter's flying and action reference shots, however, were provided by dancer and choreographer Roland Dupree. In an interview, she said she had to hold out her arms and pretend to fly for all the scenes requiring it. Kathryn Beaumont, the voice of Wendy, eldest of the Darling children, also performed for the live-action reference footage. Similarly, Hans Conried, the voice of both Captain Hook and Mr. Darling, also performed the live-action reference footage for those characters (it was one of the few elements left over from the play, that Hook and Mr. Darling were played by the same actor). In contrast to rotoscoping the animators did not merely trace the live-action footage, for this would make the animation look stiff and unnatural. Instead the animators used it as a guide for animating by studying the human movement in the situation required. For example: "How far does the head turn when a character looks over his shoulder?" Milt Kahl the supervising animator of Peter Pan and The Darling Children, claimed that the hardest thing to animate was a character floating in mid air.
The movie was adapted by Milt Banta, William Cottrell, Winston Hibler, Bill Peet, Erdman Penner, Joe Rinaldi, Ted Sears, and Ralph Wright from the play and novel Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie. The film was directed by Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, and Hamilton Luske.
The songs in Peter Pan were composed by Sammy Fain, Sammy Cahn, Frank Churchill, Winston Hibler and Ted Sears. Oliver Wallace composed the incidental music score.
The melody for "The Second Star to the Right" was originally written for Alice in Wonderland as part of a song to be entitled "Beyond the Laughing Sky".
The CD compilation, Classic Disney: 60 Years of musical Magic, contains the songs, "You Can Fly!" on the red disc, "The Second Star to the Right" on the blue disc, and "Following the Leader" on the green disc. On Disney's Greatest Hits, "You Can Fly!" is on the blue disc, and "The Second Star to the Right" is on the green disc. You can also order the sound track from the ITunes store.