New England bus-line. Middle-ground between Greyhound-type national service and more commuter-oriented bus companies like Bonanza.

Peter Pan buses are rather extensively (and very slightly disturbingly) illustrated with characters from the relevant literature. Scary sort of old-school Mother Goose feel to it.

Disney Animated Features
<< Alice in Wonderland | Lady and the Tramp >>
Sequel: Return to Never Land

Release Date: 5 February 1953

Ah, Peter Pan. No, not the peanut butter, but the tale of the young lad who, fearful of growing up, ran away to Never Never Land, where he would never have to.

The original story was written by James M. Barrie, a successful writer who developed the story of the boy would wouldn't grow up as a tale to tell to some young boys he had befriended. The story evolved over many years until he finally wrote it down, both in a novel and in a theatrical version.

Disney chose the famous story as the basis for its next animated feature, and it was released only a year before the most famous theatrical production (with music by Jule Styne and starring Mary Martin as Peter) began. Disney's version broke with the normal theatrical tradition and cast a boy in the lead part, rather than a young adult woman.

The story is still rather straightforward. Peter arrives at the home of the Darling children, Wendy, John, and Michael, who had heard stories of the boy from their mother. After an act of kindness from Wendy, Peter takes the children to Never Never Land, where they discover the Lost Boys, Captain Hook and his pirates, mermaids, and Indians. Hook of course, is one of the classic villans; while dignified and outwardly courteous, he held a great hatred for Peter, who had fed his hand to a crocodile in the past.

Not to be forgotten is Peter Pan's little fairy companion, Tinker Bell. She never spoke, but her expressive face cleary indicated her emotions. This was a bit of an improvement, really, over the flashlight and bell by which she is represented in theatrical productions. She was intensely jealous of Wendy and the attention Peter showered upon her (attention that had previously been given to Tink). Tinker Bell is now one of the iconic Disney characters, used in a variety of its media whenever a magical effect is desired, thanks to her copious amounts of fairy dust.

The movie is a musical, although the songs are considerably more forgettable than the famous Styne-penned tunes from the later theatrical version. The most significant of them is "You Can Fly! You Can Fly! You Can Fly!" The film also failed to win any major awards, including Academy Awards, which was unusual for a Disney animated feature.

Despite the lack of awards and memorable songs, the film itself is a well-done and fondly remembered adaptation of the original story.

Information for the Disney Animated Features series of nodes comes from the IMDb (www.imdb.com), Frank's Disney Page (http://www.informatik.uni-frankfurt.de/~fp/Disney/), and the dark recesses of my own memory.


28 February 2002:

On February 15, 2002, Disney released a theatrical sequel to Peter Pan called Return to Never Land. This is surprising for Disney; with the exception of Fantasia 2000 and Toy Story 2 (which was originally not going to be released in theaters), all of Disney's recent sequels were direct-to-video. In this sequel, Captain Hook is back, and he kidnaps Wendy's daughter Jane.

J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan:
Portrait of a Play


“In this world there are no second chances.”
– Solomon Caw’s warning to Peter Pan
The Little White Bird – J.M. Barrie


“Some disquieting confessions must be made in printing at last the play of Peter Pan; among them this, that I have no recollection of having written it.” – J.M. Barrie, from the dedication to Peter Pan (1928)

       It is a rare occurrence in the literary world when a dramatic creation so profoundly impacts society that it becomes an indisputable part of cultural mythology; yet that is precisely what J.M. Barrie’s most famous work has done. Peter Pan (subtitled The Boy Who Would Not Grow Up), is not even a century old, but it is as ingrained in the minds of many children (and their parents) as are the stories of Hans Christian Anderson, the Grimm brothers, or even ancient Greco-Roman myths. So popular and widespread is Barrie’s story of Lost Boys, pirates, mermaids, fairies, and a ticking crocodile, that it is difficult to believe that the very idea of them has not existed for hundreds of years, passed down from one generation to the next in the oral tradition of age-old legends and tales. Barrie’s own “admission,” about his inability to recall the facts of the play’s authorship, only lends itself to the suspicion that somehow the story existed before the playwright himself set it down on paper.

       It’s true that much of Peter Pan was, in fact, created long before the play was ever staged for an audience. The story grew out of a love affair of sorts, and indeed, authorship could arguably be claimed by any or all of five young boys to whom Barrie considered himself a surrogate father, playmate, mentor, and friend. To these boys, Barrie said in his dedication of the play, “I made Peter by rubbing the five of you violently together, as savages with two sticks produce a flame. That is all he is, the spark I got from you.”

       Those five boys were the sons of Sylvia and Arthur Llewlyn Davies, with whom Barrie became acquainted in 1897. At that time, three of their sons had been born, George (1893), Jack (1894), and Peter (1897) (Birkin, J.M. Barrie and the Lost Boys, p. 54). During the following year, Barrie frequently saw George and Jack, who took daily walks in Kensington Gardens with their nurse. But it was with the elder boy that Barrie most closely developed a father/son relationship. Barrie used George as the basis for a character, David, in his novel The Little White Bird, which wasn’t completed and published until 1902. It was in this book that the glimmerings of Peter Pan first began to appear. Later, after the success of Peter Pan in 1904, Barrie extracted all of the chapters surrounding the story of Peter and published them as Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens (1906) (Birkin, 147).

       All of the boys worked their way into the Peter Pan stories. It was actually George who Peter Pan quoted when, faced with certain death, he declared, “To die will be an awfully big adventure!” (Birkin, 69). In 1900, Sylvia Davies gave birth to her fourth boy, Michael. For Barrie, this was a great event, as he had not yet been acquainted with the family when the other three children were born. Although he had been married for over three years, Barrie and his wife, Mary, had remained childless. Barrie’s yearning for a son of his own was evident both in his adoration of the Davies boys and in his writing, particularly The Little White Bird (Birkin, 72).

       In August 1901, the three oldest Davies boys and Barrie produced a book with photographs of their adventures that summer: The Boy Castaways of Black Lake Island. Barrie later referred to this in his dedication of Peter Pan as “the best and rarest of this author’s works” (Birkin, 86). The Boy Castaways was an even more clearly-defined precursor to Peter Pan than The Little White Bird. Here, the Davies boys played with and “hunted” the Barries’ dog Porthos, who was the basis for the Darling family’s canine nursemaid, Nana. Captain Hook made his first appearance as well, although in a different name and guise (Birkin, 86).

       That December, Barrie took the boys to see a musical play, Bluebell in Fairyland. Astonishingly, the production ran almost 300 performances, due largely to its attraction to children who saw it repeatedly. Bluebell strongly influenced Barrie, who began making notes for a fairy play of his own (Birkin, 92). The seed was planted, and it would eventually grow into the basis for making the Peter Pan story into a play.

       The following summer, Barrie finally completed The Little White Bird, and published it around the same time that his play The Admirable Crichton debuted at the Duke of York’s Theatre, under the direction of Dion Boucicault. The two works were such a contrast to each other, that it was hard to believe they were conceived by the same author. But that author was leaving an indelible impression in the minds of the literati. Barrie’s success brought recognition and financial gain, and young George encouraged him to again think about his fairy play (Birkin, 95).

       In November of 1903, just before the Davies added one more boy, Nicholas, Barrie began to work on his play, which would eventually become Peter Pan (Birkin, 100). The first draft was completed in March, 1904, and tentatively titled “Peter and Wendy.” It is interesting to note that before Barrie, the name “Wendy” had not existed. Yet it is somewhat of a misconception that he created the name. In actuality, Margaret Henley, the young daughter of one of Barrie’s associates, W.E. Henley, was largely responsible for inventing the name. Margaret, who died at the age of six, called Barrie “my Friendy,” but she couldn’t pronounce the 'r' sound, so it came out as “my Wendy.” The cloak the little girl often wore was also copied later for Wendy’s character (Birkin, 19).

       As to finding an actress to play Wendy, Barrie had set his sights on Maude Adams, who had already portrayed roles in Barrie’s plays when they were staged in the U.S. While travelling with his wife on their first trip to America in 1896, Barrie had become acquainted with the legendary Broadway producer Charles Frohman (Birkin, 38). Now, in April 1904, Frohman was again looking for a new vehicle for Adams, and Barrie wrote to her, expressing his desire that the play should be ready by the end of the month. However, Barrie knew that Frohman might not accept the play for a number of reasons, including the need for a huge cast, tremendous sets, flying apparatus for the actors, and of course the cost associated with staging such a massive undertaking (Birkin, 104).

       Barrie took his play to actor-manager Beerbohm Tree to get an opinion of it. But Tree did not have a favorable reaction, which understandably made Barrie nervous when the time came to meet with Frohman at the end of April (Birkin, 104). However, the American producer loved Barrie’s play, and suggested that he keep the title simply as Peter Pan. He also told Barrie that Maude Adams should not play Wendy, as the playwright had initially thought, but Peter, the part which Frohman perceived to be the starring role of the play. Although having a boy character played by a young woman may have seemed odd, it was actually a wise decision. English law at the time did not permit minors (children under fourteen) to appear on stage after nine p.m., and if Peter were played by a boy, the ages of the other children would have to be lowered proportionately. As it turned out, Adams was not available for the rest of that year, so Frohman, impatient to produce the play, went ahead with a production in the West End set to open for Christmas time (Birkin, 105).

       With the decision to cast a female in the role of Peter, Nina Boucicault was cast as the lead, and her brother Dion was chosen to direct. Barrie’s first choice for Wendy was the actress Ellaline Terriss, who had caught Barrie’s eye as the star of Bluebell in Fairyland three years before, but she was pregnant at the time, and in her place, Hilda Trevelyan was chosen. Trevelyan had taken over Nina Boucicault’s role in a production of Barrie’s most recent play Little Mary, and her performance impressed the playwright enough to recommend her to the director (Birkin, 109). Sylvia Davies’ brother, actor Gerald du Maurier, was cast in the roles of Mr. Darling and Captain Hook. Nearly all of the Lost Boys, as well as young Michael Darling, were played by women or girls, and Nana, whose coat had been copied from the Barries’ new dog Luath, was played by Arthur Lupino (Birkin, 116).

       The play went into rehearsal in late October of 1904, at the Duke of York’s, and was immediately enveloped in secrecy. The actors were only given the pages of the script that were relevant to their parts, and were instructed to keep all knowledge of the play from the public (Birkin, 109). Because four of the characters (Peter, Wendy, John, and Michael) were required to do extensive flying in the play, and because flying apparatus at the time were primitive and restricting, Barrie challenged George Kirby, who operated a flying ballet company, to come up with a system of flying that allowed for greater motion and complexity of flight. Kirby revolutionized the business by inventing a harness that overcame those previous restrictions, and instructed the actors for the first two weeks of rehearsal in its use (Birkin, 109).

       The play rehearsed for six weeks, undergoing numerous changes and constant revisions all the while. The opening was set for December 22nd, but the weeks leading up to the premiere were plagued with difficulties, not the least of which involved problems with the scenery and special effects. Dion Boucicault “had worked himself almost to death,” and had to postpone the opening until the 27th (Birkin, 112). Barrie himself, also overworked, spent much of the Christmas holiday rewriting the ending, making it the fifth revision thus far (Birkin, 114).

       Despite the circumstances, the curtain rose at 8:30 p.m. on the evening of December 27th, 1904. While a bleary-eyed cast, exhausted from an all-night rehearsal the previous day, took the stage, Frohman waited across the Atlantic in upstate New York for his London manager to wire him with news of the play’s reception. At midnight, that news finally arrived, relayed by telephone from Frohman’s office (Birkin, 115):

“PETER PAN ALL RIGHT. LOOKS LIKE A BIG SUCCESS.”

       That cable vastly understated the reaction of the elite London audience, who had been taken unaware by the spell-binding performance. Barrie had feared that in the scene where Peter Pan speaks to the audience, to beg them for help in bringing Tinker Bell back to life after she has drunk poison to save him, there would be only an embarrassing silence in response. In fact, the author instructed the conductor to have the orchestra leaders put down their instruments and clap as instructed by Peter:

PETER: Her light is growing faint, and if it goes out, that means she is dead! Her voice is so low I can scarcely tell what she is saying. She says – she says she thinks she could get well again if children believed in fairies! (He rises and throws out his arms he knows not to whom, perhaps to the boys and girls of whom he is not one) Do you believe in fairies? Say quick that you believe! If you believe, clap your hands! (Barrie, Peter Pan and Other Plays, pp. 136-7)
But Barrie’s fears proved to be unfounded, and his precaution completely unnecessary. As Birkin writes, “When Nina Boucicault turned to the distinguished gathering and begged their belief in fairies, the response was so overwhelming that she burst into tears” (Birkin, 117).

       Even eminent critics were caught up in the play’s magic. An American critic from the Evening Telegram of New York, George Henry Payne, wrote of the audience’s reaction to Peter’s appeal for help in saving Tink: “And from orchestra stall to gallery I doubt if there was one who did not respond. The demonstration lasted several minutes, and as an insight into human nature was one of the finest scenes one could witness” (Hammerton, Barrie, The Story of a Genius, pp. 358-9).

       Denis Mackail, then only twelve years old, who later wrote The Story of J.M.B. said of Nina Boucicault’s performance: “[She] was the Peter of all Peters . . . She was unearthly but she was real. She obtruded neither sex nor sexlessness, which has so far beaten everyone else. Above all she had the touch of heart-breaking tragedy that is there in the story or fable from beginning to end; yet she never seemed to know it. . . . Barrie, lucky in so many of his actresses, was never luckier than here” (Birkin, 117). Of Barrie himself, Mackail observed, “Though he put his heart and soul and all his thoughts into it, something deeper and still more individual had actually guided his pen.” Peter Pan was “three hours of magic, utterly different from anything yet known” (Green, Fifty Years of Peter Pan, p. 89).

       The Daily Telegraph called Peter Pan “so true, so natural, so touching that it brought the audience to the writer’s feet and held them captives there” (Green, 85-6).

       Max Beerbohm, half-brother of Beerbohm Tree, wrote not of the play, but of Barrie: “Undoubtedly, Peter Pan is the best thing he has done – the thing most directly from within himself. Here, at last, we see his talent in its full maturity; for here he has stripped off from himself the last flimsy remnants of a pretence to maturity. . . . Mr. Barrie is not that rare creature, a man of genius. He is something even more rare – a child who, by some divine grace, can express through an artistic medium the childishness that is in him” (Green, 88).

       Peter Pan ran at the Duke of York’s until April, 1905, when Frohman closed it to make way for Barrie’s next play, Alice-Sit-By-The-Fire, and for the American opening of Peter Pan (Dunbar, J.M. Barrie: The Man Behind the Image, p. 142). But he announced that the show would be revived in December, and Peter Pan played in London every December thereafter right up until WWII forced it to close in 1939.

       Of course, Barrie’s masterpiece wasn’t loved by everyone. There were mixed reactions from the press, and some critics simply panned the show. Of the latter, Bernard Shaw called Peter Pan “an artificial freak which missed its mark completely, and was foisted on children by the grown-ups” (Birkin, 118). Ironically, Androcles and the Lion, Shaw’s own attempt to “show Barrie how a play for children should be handled,” ran for only eight weeks and was considered by some to be “one of the weakest and silliest of [Shaw’s] works” (Green, 89).

       W.A. Darlington wrote, “It is thus that great plays are written, and Peter Pan, even though it looks backwards rather than forwards, is a great play” (Green, 89).

       Peter Pan was, and still remains, a great play. Even regardless of the general laudatory critical reaction to it, or of its reception among the “distinguished elite” of London society, its sociopsychological standpoint and profound impact on cultural mythology were, and are, remarkable in and of themselves. Freudians have attempted to psychoanalyze it for decades; it has been called Oedipal in its nature; it has been viewed as the courageous baring of the author’s soul to the public, in his attempt to justify his own desire to remain a little boy for ever and ever; and by children, it has been seen or heard in various forms all over the world as one of the greatest gifts anyone could ever have given to them. Yet Peter Pan defies definition – as noted by R.D.S. Jack: “[The] refusal clearly to define [the play] has been an unconscious leitmotiv in many studies of the playwright. . . . That this play is unique, most thinking people agree, but what – precisely – is it?” (Jack, The Road to the Never Land, p. 159).

       Studies can be made of the parallels to the pagan god Pan, or to the Greek definition of the word as “everything” (Jack, 160). So too can a myriad of images be examined and re-examined in a search for symbolism. Among them, female sexuality, sexlessness, and the Oedipal complex. It is this last that has most often struck a chord in those who’ve chosen to study the story in depth. If one were to lend any credence to Freud’s theories of psychosexuality – mainly (in summary) that little boys love their mothers and hate their fathers, whom they fear will castrate them; and that little girls are the opposite, they love their fathers and hate their mothers – if one were to give weight to these hypotheses, then one could argue an intriguing case concerning Peter Pan: clearly, the play revolves around Barrie’s own Oedipal complex, and his not entirely unique desire to refuse to grow up.

       Through examining some of Barrie’s earlier writings, specifically the novels Sentimental Tommy and its sequel, Tommy and Gizel, it is apparent that Barrie was writing about his own failing marriage, and his inability to grow up. It’s entirely possible that he expounded upon these themes in the writing of Peter Pan. After all, Peter and the Lost Boys look to Wendy to be their mother, and while it is made perfectly clear that not only she but also Tiger Lily and Tinker Bell are beginning to express their burgeoning sexuality, the boys are completely unaware of this, especially Peter, who remains naïve and blind to the entire issue. The girls/young women are not looking for the platonic love that exists between mother and son, the love for which the boys are searching, but rather for the sexual love that exists between adult men and women, and which leads to marriage.

       The twin figures of Mr. Darling and Captain Hook further reinforce the Oedipal themes. Here, the father figure is portrayed as either stupid or evil, and in any case, entirely capable of doing children harm. It is only after Hook has been destroyed that Peter can murder his own Oedipal complex, and allow Wendy and her brothers to return home.

       Keeping these not-unlikely themes in mind, it is clear that while Peter Pan may have been aimed at an audience of children, Barrie was also imbibing his work with serious adult content, which did not go unnoticed by the British and American theatre-going public of the early 20th century. Although he created a fairy land of delightful imaginings to amuse and bewitch children for ages to come, he also illustrated the darker side of that childhood land of imagination.

Peter Pan, by highlighting the cruelty of children, the power-worship of adults, the impossibility of eternal youth, the inadequacy of narcissistic and bisexual solutions, presents a very harsh view of the world made palatable by humour and held at an emotional distance by wit and the dream” (Jack, 167).


WORKS CITED


     Barrie, J.M. Peter Pan and Other Plays. Peter Hollindale, ed. Clarendon Press. Oxford: 1995.

     Barrie, J.M. The Plays of J.M. Barrie. Charles Scribner’s Sons. New York: 1948.

     Birkin, Andrew. J.M. Barrie and the Lost Boys: The Love Story that Gave Birth to Peter Pan. Clarkson N. Potter, Inc. New York: 1979.

     Dunbar, Janet. J.M. Barrie: The Man Behind the Image. Houghton Mifflin. Boston: 1970.

     Green, Roger Lancelyn. Fifty Years of Peter Pan. Peter Davies. London: 1954.

     Hammerton, J.A. Barrie, The Story of a Genius. Dodd, Mead and Co. New York: 1930.

     Jack, R.D.S. The Road to the Never Land. Aberdeen University Press. 1991.


Node Your Homework!
James M. Barrie donated all rights to Peter Pan to Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital in 1929. This source of income enabled the hospital to become the country's premier children's hospital.

Fifty years after Barrie's death, in 1987, the copyright expired according to UK law. However, a year later, former Prime Minister Lord Callaghan managed to have a section added to the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act that granted Great Ormond Street the unique right to royalties from Peter Pan in perpetuity. This is valid only in the UK, but general copyright extensions in the US and the EU now grant limited (but still valid until 2023 and 2007 respectively) spans of copyrights in these areas as well.

The case has recently received special attention after Canadian writer J. Emily Somma published a derivative work (which was legal in Canada).

 

If I could wave a magic wand and make one children's book not exist anymore, it would have to be Peter Pan.

I know, I know; magical fantasy land, the foundation of the Disney empire, unsurpassed inventiveness and creativity, humour, adventure and fun, blah blah blah, I am a literature heretic and a traitor to EngLit majors everywhere.

But has anybody actually read it recently? Oh my effing GOD! It is without a shadow of a doubt the most sexist book I have ever read, a minefield of gender stereotypes - and what's so, so wrong about that is that most of them were actually invented for the book! You read earlier fiction from the 19th century and there is none of this bullshit about compulsive mothering (I'm telling you, Wendy totally suffers from Munchausen's By Proxy) and competitive drama-queening between women to gain a man's attention (at least not described with anything less than utter scorn).

Helen Fielding can say what she likes about pinching the plot for Bridget Jones from Pride and Prejudice, but unless she's telling me that her heroine is kind, intelligent and loves her sister and father very much, she's telling porkies. That particular brand of neurotic, spineless, dependent female with no moral center or any sense of identity (let alone self worth) outside of a man's perception is a decendant of Barrie, not Austen.

And before anyone jumps down my throat for being too much of a feminist, just remember Mr Darling in that book. Every TV ad that makes family men seem vain, useless, lazy, stupid, oblivious and arrogant traces its pedigree directly to Mr Darling not taking his medicine.

Peter Pan blows, it really does. It makes me thankful for the depravity of the modern age to think that kids these days probably just watch the Disney cartoon and read the Wiki synopsis.

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