Peter Pan after 120 years since JM Barrie created it, remains one of the symbolic characters of childhood and of the concept of formative storytelling. Almost all of us have known him thanks to what Walt Disney offered the world exactly 70 years ago, with an animated film able to act as a point of reference from that moment on, not only in technical or artistic terms, but in terms of content. Over the years, his Peter Pan however, it would have been little by little guiltily reduced, when instead he anticipated themes and above all a vision of the concept of growth and the coming-of-age story that not everyone understood, fascinated by the tone and its visual component. And instead, it remains one of the most atypical and in some ways misunderstood Disney films that exist.
The genesis of a small animation masterpiece
Peter Pan was a real fascination for Walt Disneywho absolutely wanted to make an animated version of it already at the time his fantastic film was released on the big screen Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. But between the rights issue of the original work, the difficulty in creating a fitting script that was also faithful to Barrie’s ideas and above all the Second World War which almost made Disney go bankrupt, the project had to wait until the end of the 1940s to come to light. The end result, however, literally left the critics of the time speechless, often not very tender with the films of the Mickey Mouse house, due to the meticulousness of the animation and an incredibly innovative chromatic dimension. Someone objected to the differences from the original work in terms of plot and characters, but the consensus was unanimous in noting that it was a film designed for younger audiences but also capable of impress and strike the more mature one.
Since then, entire generations of children have grown up watching Peter that flies as only birds can do, with Wendy and her brothers following him and that little Tinker Bell fairy who accompanies him everywhere. At least once, when we were young, We’ve all dreamed of going to Neverland, and it is something that often became all the more unconsciously pressing the more paradoxically time passed, from childhood we entered pre-adolescence and then adolescence. One therefore learned the universal rules that this film, in its own way, already in that 1953 made clear: everything changes, nothing stays the same or forever. Peter Pan it was one of the most loved Disney movies but at the same time also one of the most underrated from a semantic point of view. This film spoke to us in an absolutely innovative way about the difference that existed between youth and adulthood, about the incommunicability that often divides these two worlds. Growing up is inevitable, but we often refuse to do it because adulthood seems incredibly boring, barren and devoid of love.
This theme has only become central over timeand in particular with in recent years, when animation has begun to be more interested in psychological dynamics, with films such as Soul or the imaginative Red. However, if we want to look for the origin of such a particular desire for artistic introspection, which today paradoxically according to many has also reduced the variety of characters and eliminated the villains from Disney’s narration, it is to this 1953 film that we must turn our gaze to find a prototype. The Peter Pan of Disney was able to go beyond the apparent light-heartedness of its storyline with its songs, delightful aesthetics and laughter given by the boy who never wanted to grow up, with its rivalry with the evil and at the same time ridiculous Captain Hook. Peter Pan with Tinker Bell in Wendy’s room, explaining to her and the others how to fly, the importance of happy thinking. He represents light-heartedness, total disengagement, the abstraction that dominates everyday life when you are young.
These are all things that many of us regret todaylinked to the concept of discovering the new, of experience with which to fill a container still in progress, mostly empty. Because the reality is that youth is not so much age, but time that we have before us and the more this is reduced, the more our mind is filled with experiences, the more everything appears to be a repetition of what we have already had. Time, we realize as we age, is the only currency we have but also our master. But time never runs out for Peter, he will always remain a little boy, and it is a gift that initially Wendy will envy, it seems a promise of eternal happiness. Or not? Because the fundamental point to date is to understand how this actually happened one of the most different films from the Disney norm, is starting right from him, from Peter. At a closer look, you realize that Peter Pan is actually not a completely positive characterfar from it, many over the years have in fact defined it Disney’s first true anti-hero.
A character between contradiction and immobility
Peter as you go along turns out to be selfish, narcissistic, never listens to others, is self-referential in an absolute way, rejects any possible change and never questions himself; but most of all is locked in a vicious existential circle which in reality almost always makes him distant from others. It is also compared to those friends he brought directly from London at the beginning of the 1900s, to those lost children who, like him, live on that seemingly dreamlike island. But from a dream you have to wake up, you have to get away, because real life is out there and it’s made of a passing time, of the change that needs to be embraced, of the flow that can’t be stopped. This character still today remains accordingly a sort of totem on the ultimate meaning of adolescenceand its meaning is very simple: it doesn’t last. It is a transitional stage into adulthood as are others. Peter Pan he told us all of this through Wendy’s eyes, initially fascinated by this new life, by the prospect of never having to listen to her father. But she eventually realizes that even the most incredibly beautiful and carefree things have to lead somewhere.
The most fascinating thing about Peter Panis how this message gets there not as a mere hymn to conformitywhich was then the distinctive trait of Victorian England, so classist but surrounded by legends, but on the contrary as a process of personal liberation, of self-determination.
Captain Hook, Peter Pan, pirates and lost children and Indians are conditioned by the passing of time even though they don’t have it. It is an obvious symbol of this the alarm clock contained in that crocodile’s belly who hunts down the notorious pirate after having already devoured a handful of them.
For Hook that sound is an obsessionbecause it reminds him not only that the fair he fears more than any other is nearby, but also why that ticking represents the passing of time and therefore death which breaks the spell of his existence. Wendy will eventually understand that that world is not for her and her little brothers. Peter Pan will never fully develop his potential because he doesn’t want to question himself, while Captain Hook has killed that innocent part within himself that allowed him to look at the world with renewed curiosity and empathy.
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