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Neverland: enough Peter Pan adaptations to keep us all from growing up

Weirdly, I never read Peter Pan when I was a kid. I had my nose in a book constantly as a child, but I never came across that one or even a movie version. I never watched all the classic Disney cartoons when I was a kid- they seemed to be everywhere after The Little Mermaid- but I don't remember them being on TV or otherwise available like they are now.

I was vaguely aware of the story about a flying kid who fought pirates, but when I went to the movies to see Hook, I was pretty lost. I didn't like it all that much. I had heard of Tinkerbell and Captain Hook and Neverland, but they were just names. I think I saw the movie because Robin Williams was in it, and that was reason enough. (I realize how I'm dating myself by saying that I saw Hook in the theaters.)

I don't remember when I did read Peter Pan- maybe after watching Finding Neverland, or when I was in a children's lit class in college. Obviously, the whole thing about having "Indians" on the island who aren't real characters is gross, and there's that awful song in the Disney cartoon, but I liked the idea of a boy who runs away to the fairies to avoid growing up. It has a great first line; "All children, except one, grow up."

Now there are more Peter Pan stories and movies than you can shake a hook at. (Sorry, couldn't help it.) I'm not even looking for them, but recently I watched one and read another, and it got me thinking about all these adaptations.

I watched Hook on Hulu because I was bored and was in the mood to watch something easy- a kid's movie sounded perfect, and there it was. I hadn't seen it since it was new, and couldn't remember much about it. I was surprised at how much I liked it! I liked it much better this time than when I was a kid. If you aren't familiar, the idea is that Wendy convinced Peter finally to grow up and he marries her granddaughter and becomes a boring old. (Like me!) He and his family go to visit Wendy and Hook abducts Peter's children, so Peter, who can't remember Neverland, has to go and rescue them. Robin Williams is Peter and Dustin Hoffman is Captain Hook. It's good.


I just bought the 2003 version of Peter Pan that used to be on TV all the time. I was a whole grown-up when this came out, but it used to be on around some holiday and it would be on at one of the family gatherings. I think we watched bits of it three years in a row. I don't know if I've ever seen all of it in order, so I'm intrigued. Maybe it was Thanksgiving? I don't know.


Peter Pan and Wendy is on Disney+. I liked it. It's another live-action remake of a Disney cartoon more than an adaptation of the original book, but that's fine. I haven't watched many of their live-action remakes, but I figured I'd give it a try. It's cute. Jude Law made

a good Captain Hook. The Tiger Lily character was much more interesting in this one.


I already mentioned Finding Neverland, which isn't actually an adaptation, but has bits of the play and the stories throughout, and which made me cry in public. (Not cool, Kate Winslet.)


I picked up the book Heartless, by H. G. Parry, at the library because the cover caught my eye and I loved her The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep. This is a novella that is like a prequel of the Peter Pan story that's focused on Captain Hook and their friendship. It explains how Peter got from living with the fairies in Kensington Gardens to meeting Hook and making his way to Neverland. The fairies have a bigger part to play in this version, and the people who were native to the island are portrayed as real people with their own lives and needs. It's definitely not a kid's story; it's sad and violent, but many people are already very aware of the sadness inherent in the original kids' version of the story. I thought the way it used the original story to make a new one was clever. I thought it was going to be too dark for me at first, but it was intriguing and I ended up liking it.


Of course, there's the original Peter Pan in many editions. I've got one with illustrations and inserts by Minalima. (Here's a link to her shop, with lots of other classics.)


I still haven't read the sequels.


 

For anyone else, like me, who was too far gone into growing up when you were introduced to Peter Pan, take heart from this quote from Ogden Nash:


You are only young once, but you can stay immature indefinitely


If anyone has a favorite adaptation, please recommend it in the comments.

 

Note: movie links are to IMDB, so you can see the previews. Book links are to bookshop.org and are affiliate links. You can always get the info and take it to your library :)



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