Peter Pan after 70 years has lost none of its magic

Peter Pan after 70 years has lost none of its magic

Peter Pan 120 years after J. M. Barrie created him, remains one of the symbolic characters of childhood and of the concept of formative storytelling. Almost all of us have known it thanks to what Walt Disney offered the world exactly 70 years ago, with an animated film capable of acting as a point of reference from that moment on, not only in technical or artistic terms, but in terms of content. Over the years, however, his Peter Pan would have been gradually downsized, 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 even misunderstood Disney films that exist.

The genesis of a small animation masterpiece

Peter Pan was a real passion for Walt Disney, who absolutely wanted to make an animated version of it already at the time it was released on the big screen his fantastic Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. But between the problem of the rights of the original work, the difficulty in creating a suitable script that was however also faithful to Barrie's ideas and above all the Second World War which almost bankrupted Disney, the project had to wait until the end of the 40s to come to light. However, the final result left the critics of the time literally 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 a younger audience but also capable of impressing and striking the more mature one.

Since then, entire generations of children have grown up watching Peter fly 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 all dreamed of going to Neverland, and it is something that has often become 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 made evident in 1953: everything changes, nothing stays the same or forever. Peter Pan was one of the most loved Disney films but at the same time also one of the most semantically underrated. 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 grow up because adulthood seems incredibly boring, sterile and loveless.

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This theme has become central only with time, and in particular 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. Disney's Peter Pan was able to go beyond the apparent lightheartedness of his storyline with his songs, delightful aesthetics and the laughter given by the boy who never wanted to grow up, with his rivalry with the evil and at the same time ridiculous Captain Hook . Peter Pan with Tinker Bell in Wendy's room, explains to her and the others how to fly, the importance of happy thinking. He represents the light-heartedness, the most total disengagement, the abstraction that dominates everyday life when you are young.

These are all things that many of us regret today, linked 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 the time we have ahead of 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 passes 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 was actually one of the most different films from the Disney norm, is to start from him, from Peter. At a closer look, we realize that Peter Pan is not actually a completely positive character, far from it, many over the years have in fact defined him as Disney's first true anti-hero.

A character between contradiction and immobility

As Peter progresses, he reveals himself to be selfish, narcissistic, never listens to others, is self-referential in an absolute way, rejects all possible change and is never questioned; but above all he is locked in an existential vicious 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 you have to wake up from a dream, 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 a sort of totem on the ultimate meaning of adolescence, and the meaning of him is very simple: it doesn't last. It is a transitional stage into adulthood as are others. Peter Pan told us all of this through Wendy's eyes, fascinated at first by this new life, by the prospect of never having to listen to her father. But eventually she realizes that even the most incredibly beautiful and lighthearted things have to lead somewhere.

The most fascinating thing about Peter Pan is how this message arrives not as a mere hymn to conformism, which was the distinctive trait of Victorian England, so classist but shrouded in 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 despite being without it. An obvious symbol of this is the alarm clock contained in the belly of that crocodile that hunts down the notorious pirate after having already devoured a hand.

For Hook that sound is an obsession, because it reminds him not only that the fair he fears more than any other is nearby, but also because that ticking represents the passing of time and therefore the death that breaks the spell of its 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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Look at the gallery The character of Hook was a notable innovation for the time, because he was a villain who, if on the one hand mimicked the myth of the buccaneer, to men like Calico Jack, Roberts or Henry Morgan, on the other he was a really interesting fusion of light and shadow.

Ruthless, choleric, haughty, decadent, he hates Peter Pan and the lost children in an all-encompassing way, but at the same time is also cultured, intelligent, elegant, a great musician and above all strangely treats Wendy with unusual respect. In addition, the pirate is often melancholic and sad. Hook therefore appears to be a sort of metaphor for those adults who can't stand the younger ones because they regret the past with all the opportunities it has. Peter Pan was therefore above all a film that spoke to us about our personality, its contradictions and the difficulty in accepting that not everything can be under our control. Even more interesting, he rejected a Manichaean view of the world.

Tinker Bell herself, who has become a symbol of Disney since then, is a mutable entity with a double meaning. Positive and negative elements coexist in her, as it was in the characters of the Greek myth, she is courageous but selfish, she is jealous but also generous.

And yet, Tinker Bell, so small yet so powerful, reminds us that age is just a number, that happiness is a daily conquest that is not limited only to certain phases of life. True youth is the inner one. She deduces from this that if evil and good can often coexist, then perfection, the promised land, the perfect time and place are simply illusions or rather they cannot be connected to the absolute but to the relative. Neverland exists, but it's within us, it's a place of the mind, it's something we have to renew day after day, reminding us that it's not right to be like Peter Pan, immobile while everything flows and changes, nor such as Captain Hook, who sees in others an enemy and something to be despised.

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