A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Peter Pan is Disney's classic take on J.M. Barrie's story of the Boy Who Won't Grow Up. It's both a tale of magic and imagination and occasionally a disturbing, violent story of what happens when kids must fend for themselves. There are some very dated racist and sexist stereotypes and themes -- from the "What Makes the Red Man Red" song and the depiction of Big Chief and his tribe to the way all the girls are jealous of each other and Peter's affections. Peter even says "Girls talk too much," and Captain Hook alludes to how "jealous girls" are easy to trick. These cultural relics weren't seen as a problem when the movie came out, but they certainly are now; if you can discuss them with your kids afterward, you can still enjoy the way Wendy reminds all the Lost Boys that they do need mothering and that growing up means taking responsibility.
What's the story?
PETER PAN is the Disney version of J.M. Barrie's classic book about the boy who would never grow up. Wendy, Michael, and John Darling, three London children, meet Peter Pan, a boy who can fly. He's been drawn to their warm, comfortable home -- and to Wendy's stories. He sprinkles them with fairy dust, and they fly off past the "second star to the right," where he and his friends the Lost Boys live in a magical place called Neverland. There the Darling children help rescue an Indian princess and fight pirates led by Captain Hook, before returning home to wave good-bye as Peter returns to Neverland without them.
Is it any good?
The animation in Peter Pan is as lively as its energetic hero. The scenes set in Victorian London are beautiful, and the shift in perspective as the children round Big Ben and fly off to Neverland is sublimely vertiginous. Most children see Peter as that wonderful ideal, a child with the power to do whatever he pleases for as long as he pleases.
The story does have moments that are whimsical but also very odd: The nanny is a dog; the crocodile that ate Captain Hook's hand keeps following him for another taste; Peter loses his shadow; the Lost Boys have no parents (and, unlike Peter, no special powers, fairy guardian, or unquenchable brio). Some children find this engaging, but a few find it troublesome or worry about what happened to Peter's parents and whether he'll be all right without them. They may also be sad that the story ends with Peter bringing the Darling children home and then going back to Neverland without them.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the idea of never growing up. Have you ever thought that you didn't want to grow up? Have you ever thought that you'd like to be a grown up right now? What would you do?
Talk about how girls and Indians are portrayed in Peter Pan. What kinds of stereotypes do you recognize? Can you still enjoy the movie even if you're bothered by the stereotypes? How has society changed since this movie was made?
- In theaters: February 5, 1953
- On DVD or streaming: March 6, 2007
- Cast: Bobby Driscoll, Hans Conried, Kathryn Beaumont
- Directors: Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton Luske, Wilfred Jackson
- Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Magic and fantasy, Adventures, Book characters, Music and sing-along, Pirates
- Run time: 76 minutes
- MPAA rating: G
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.