Disney Animated Features
Release Date: 15 February 2002
This film is a sequel to 1953's Peter Pan. Although released 49 years (minus ten days) later, the new film takes place only a generation after the first one. World War II is disrupting life in London, and Wendy's young daughter Jane is having a hard time dealing with it. Unlike her little brother Danny, she doesn't much care for Wendy's tales of the boy who wouldn't grow up. She has little use for imagination when there's the troubles of war to worry about.
But then Captain Hook shows up. He's survived and found his way on his flying pirate ship to London, where he kidnaps Jane -- thinking she's Wendy. It's all part of a plot to lure Peter Pan into his clutches once more, but we all know it isn't going to be that easy...
This film is a bit of a disappointment. It starts off strong, with an inventive opening sequence -- where we see events (and hear the music cues) from the original film depicted in silhouette in the clouds and Tinker Bell flitting around them. The introduction to the characters is good, establishing Jane as an intelligent and independent young girl.
One night, Jane finds out she and her brother are to be shipped off to the countryside (for safety from the German air raids). She explodes, angry at her inability to do anything and at her mother's insistance on filling Danny's head with all those 'silly stories' when there's a war going on. Her reaction is realistic and both well acted and well animated.
But then the problems show up. Wendy informs Jane that she may think she's grown up, but she has a lot left to learn. Well, duh. Regardless, Jane *is* growing up -- faster than Wendy would like, to be sure, but she is. Yes, Jane was wrong to yell at her brother, denouncing Peter Pan's existance to his face -- but no one ever acknowledges Jane's feelings as having validity.
Once Captain Hook kidnaps Jane, it's obvious where the film is going. Peter and the Lost Boys will rescue Jane and teach her how to have fun before she returns home.
The plot is predictable and has some holes, but that can be forgiven. My main concern was with the charactizations. Jane is a very strong character, fortunately, and easy to like despite her seriousness at the start. Peter, however, is somewhat more weakly defined. In this film, he seems more mature, more understanding. Perhaps his experience with Wendy changed him a little, but that would violate his primary property -- of never growing up. Yet it seems he has.
Captain Hook has, in this movie, become a caricature of himself. Here the popular depiction of Hook has been solidified, exaggerated into a boring, two-dimensional shadow. Hook should be cunning and honorable, but here he's foolish and duplicitous.
Tinker Bell is, suitably, jealous of Jane, just as she was of Wendy. But -- and this is admittedly a subtle point -- she seems more sadistic in this film than in the previous. Not in actions, necessarily, but in the way she acts. In this film, she seems to take a bit too much joy in Jane's predicaments -- and a bit too much anger when Peter rescues her. It turns Tink into an unsympathetic character at the beginning.
The crocodile has, inexplicably, been replaced in this film by an octopus. Hook makes a brief reference to finally being rid of the clock-swallowing beast, but the octopus makes a poor replacement.
One nice touch, though, is an element of the original play that was not included in the original Disney film. Jane at one point declares her disbelief in fairies -- to Tink's face, no less -- which causes Tink to fall ill and her light to fade. While there's no exhortation to the audience to clap, the element of disbelief being harmful to fairies is still there.
Overall, the film is light and enjoyable for children, with very good animation but not-so-good charactization and plot. Jane is a wonderful character and is well realized in animation, but that alone, unfortunately, can't sustain the film.
Information for the Disney Animated Features series of nodes comes from the IMDb (www.imdb.com), Frank's Disney Page (http://www.fpx.de/fp/Disney/), and the dark recesses of my own memory. I also got some info for this writeup from Disney's own Return to Never Land page (http://disney.go.com/disneypictures/neverland/).
Update 27 April 2002: Saw this film today; verified that it was produced by Disney's Television Animation division. Updated writeup.