Walt Disney had been trying to buy the film rights to J.M. Barrie's play since 1935, having been smitten by a traveling production of the play when he was a child. The hold-up in negotiations was because Barrie had bequeathed the rights to Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children in London. Disney finally secured the rights in 1939.
Though the film was extremely successful, Walt Disney himself was dissatisfied with the finished product, feeling that the character of Peter Pan was cold and unlikable. However, experts on J.M. Barrie praise this as a success, as they insist that Pan was originally written to be a heartless sociopath.
In the play, the Lost Boys were infants who fell out of their prams while the nurses weren't looking. Whereas Peter Pan is a permanent resident of Neverland, the Lost Boys are only temporary lodgers. If they seem to grow up, Pan would kill them to prevent Neverland from an overpopulation and reduce the chances of a challenge to his rule.
In compliance with the tradition of the stage version, the same actor, Hans Conried, performed the roles of both Mr. Darling and Captain Hook; the two characters' looks were even modeled after his. Nana and the Crocodile are also a "dual role" on stage, which the animators acknowledge by giving the Crocodile canine qualities.
The Darling children become very sleepy as their parents leave the room. This may not be merely because it is their bed time. The "tonic" given to the children by Nana may have been morphine. It was quite common in the early 20th century to give children "soothing syrups" and "tonics" to control their behavior. These concoctions turned out to consist of several different narcotics.
22 year-old Margaret Kerry (who measured 35-25-36, and provides the voice of the red-haired mermaid) was the real-life model for Tinker Bell. Persistent rumors have incorrectly named Marilyn Monroe in this position.
Kathryn Beaumont, who provided the voice for Wendy, also performed the live action references. In an interview, she said she had to hold out her arms and pretend to fly for all the scenes requiring it.
Michael Jackson's favorite film. He bestowed the name Neverland on his ranch in Santa Barbara, complete with a private amusement park. (Jackson was forced to vacate it after controversy over his involvement with young, unsupervised children on the premises in 2005.)
This is the second film production of "Peter Pan" in which Tinker Bell has a form. The first, the silent Peter Pan (1924), starred Virginia Brown Faire as Tinker Bell. In stage productions she is portrayed as a bright light which is accompanied by the sound of bells when she is meant to be speaking.
This film marked three "lasts" for Disney: first, it was the final Disney film in which all nine members of the Nine Old Men worked together on it as directing animators; second, it was the last full-length Disney animated film distributed by RKO Radio Pictures. All of Disney's films after early 1954 would be distributed by Buena Vista, as well as all of the post-1954 re-releases of his earlier films; third, it was the final Disney animated feature film that Ward Kimball worked on.
Disney attracted negative comments for their stereotypical depiction of Indians, as indeed did J.M. Barrie with his original play. It's probably for that very reason that the Indians do not appear in the 2002 sequel, Return to Never Land (2002).
The fact that George Darling recognizes the shape of the cloud in the form of a ship from his childhood suggest that he once had an adventure with Peter Pan when he was a child. This is further suggested by the film's opening narration, stating "All this has happened before..."
Unlike the voices in animated films today (which use and are promoted by big name film stars), this drew a lot of its voice cast from the radio, a medium where actors are used to performing solely by their voice. Bill Thompson, who voices Smee in the film is one such example.
Although original author J.M. Barrie is credited, this is the only major film version of "Peter Pan" which uses little of his original dialogue. (Even the live-action musical versions, as well as the silent film Peter Pan (1924), use much of Barrie's original dialogue.)
The phrase "Second to the right and straight on till morning" was changed into "Second star to the right..." for the Disney version. Also, since the stage musical version with Mary Martin opened on Broadway in 1954, non-Disney versions have used the term "Never Never Land" as opposed to "Neverland."
GOOFY HOLLER: Heard during Captain Hook's fight with the crocodile inside the cave at Skull Rock, when Smee accidentally hits Hook on the head with his oar. The "Goofy holler" is partially obscured by gargling noises as Hook goes underwater after taking the hit.
Supervising animator Milt Kahl recalled that he had a particular challenge on this film. He had to learn how to animate a character's weightlessness as much of the time Peter Pan was not flying but simply floating in midair.
Originally, this was intended to be the second animated feature created by the studio after Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). Active story development began in the early 1940s as Walt Disney intended for Peter Pan (1953) to be a follow-up to Bambi (1942). Plans were put on hold, however, with the US entry into World War II and would stay that way up until after the war ended. The Reluctant Dragon (1941) features a tour of the Disney studios in which drawings of Captain Hook can be clearly seen, indicating that the film was in active development as early as 1941.
The original Broadway production of "Peter Pan", or "The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up" by J.M. Barrie opened at the Empire Theater on November 6, 1905. It ran for 223 performances, closed on May 20, 1906, and starred nineteenth-century stage actress Maude Adams, who never made any films and should never be confused with model-actress Maud Adams.
Ronald D. Moore, one of the executive producers and developer of the revamped Battlestar Galactica (2004), cites this film as the inspiration for one of the recurring themes of his series concerning the cyclical nature of time. The opening line of the film "All of this has happened before, and it will all happen again" is frequently quoted as a piece of scripture in Moore's series.
There's passages in the original book by James Barrie, "Peter and Wendy" that talk about Peter Pan switching sides when the Lost Boys were at war with the Indians, and him killing the Lost Boys just for fun. There's also passages in the original "Peter and Wendy" James Barrie novel about Peter "thinning out" the Lost Boys when they got too old or disruptive, which some people have interpreted as killing them.
Animator Frank Thomas, who was responsible for animating Captain Hook, had some initial difficulty trying to get the character started. Thomas was torn between two iterations of Hook: as Erdman Penner's foppish dandy or as Clyde Geronimi's snarling heavy. Eventually, Walt Disney came to Thomas' aid in regards of his approach to Captain Hook. Disney told him, "I think you're beginning to get him," and then advised him to keep going in that direction.
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. Kahl resolved the latter by having Peter's upper body arrive first, with his lower body catching up afterward.
Peter's flying and action reference shots were provided by dancer and choreographer Roland Dupree. In an interview, Kerry said she had to hold out her arms and pretend to fly for all the scenes requiring it. Kathryn Beaumont also performed for the live-action reference footage. Similarly, Hans Conried also performed the live-action reference footage for Captain Hook and Mr. Darling. 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?"
Several passages in the original play link Peter Pan to ancient Greek mythology: In the play Mrs Darling mentions that she's heard of Peter Pan, but she heard he was a fairy like spirit that accompanies children on their way to Heaven after death. This is essentially what the Greek god Hermes does in ancient Greek Mythology; and Hermes is the father of Pan; who was the inspiration for Peter Pan's name.
The opening line of this film, "All (of) this has happened before, and it will all happen again," is quoted frequently in the song "Seek 200" by Information Society, though it is not a direct sample. (Information Society adds the preposition "of.")
Walt 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 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 and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). 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.
The melody for "The Second Star to the Right" was originally written for Alice in Wonderland (1951) as part of a song to be entitled "Beyond the Laughing Sky", while "Never Smile at a Crocodile" was meant for an earlier version as "Lobster Quadriddle".
The film has been seen as racist in recent years due to the way Disney portrayed the Native American "Indians" in the film. They are displayed as wild, savage, and violent, and speak in a stereotypical way. The characters often call them savages and at one point Captain Hook refers to them as "redskins". John, Michael and the Lost Boys go hunting them like animals - the Lost Boys mention lions and bears as other alternatives. In the song "What Made the Red Man Red?" the Indians themselves reflect on how they got the color of their skin; they maintain a permanent blush due to their ancestor's pursuit of a woman; and that asking "How?" is a major catalyst for Indian education. These stereotypes are present in J.M. Barrie's play. Marc Davis, one of the supervising animators of the film, said in an interview years after the production that "I'm not sure we would have done the Indians if we were making this movie now. And if we had we wouldn't do them the way we did back then."
The Peter Pan franchise started with a play, and then eventually branched out and was adapted into a book, and then other books and stories, movies and musicals. The character has been around since 1904, over 110 years!
Peter Pan is named after Pan, the Greek god of nature, a woodland creature, half man half goat, who frolicked through the enchanted forests of Arcadia with the nymphs and satyrs, playing his flute. Peter Pan is not a faun like Pan, but he does frolick through enchanted forests with otherworldly creatures and he does play a flute.