The Evolution of Peter Pan

You have to ask yourself how the theme of childhood innocence is meaningful. In the book, The Case of Peter Pan, Or the impossibility of Children’s Fiction, by Jacqueline Rose she covers just that question: “The concept of childhood innocence has been put under multiple strain… the only meaning of Peter Pan is the eternal sameness with which it(or he) recurs, but also in the wider culture, in the form of a crisis in the public perception of what, exactly, is a relation to a child.” Peter Pan was first introduced to the public by a Scottish journalist turned playwright James Matthew Barrie. In 1904, he is brought to Broadway for the first time, by Leonard Bernstein in 1950.

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He is the boy who refused to grow up, and was often portrayed by a girl in the early stages of production because they were easier to lift by cables. In 1953, Disney’s Peter Pan arrives. 1960 comes and, Martin-Richard televised the musical that became a touchstone for generations to come. Peter Pan may have been known as “the boy who did not want to grow up,” but he has changed in an amazing way that if you really paid attention, to the original playwright, was foreshadowed.

Peter was first created in the playwright by J.M Barrie in 1903 called, Peter and Wendy. A play review was done on it by Jim Craddock and, Peter is portrayed as Craddock states “an adventurous boy who refuses to grow up.” Peter meets Wendy when he revisits here home to collect his shadow that he lost. He wakes her, and she tells him all these bedtime stories. Peter invites her to come to Neverland with him. In Bethany Rickwald’s review, she says “When Peter first sets Wendy down in Neverland, he says to her, ‘”would you like to have your adventure now? Or would you like to have your tea first?'” She responds, ‘”Tea first.'” That’s what Peter/Wendy feels like, a mug of tea so nice that they never get around to that adventure. Peter/Wendy is an innocent and gentle ride that provides a fulfilling experience without feeling the need to be provocative or dangerous. There’s no need for the play to add excitement with audience participation and metaphor; it could instead raise the stakes just by playing up the story’s own innate drama.” Peter Pan, the play was a really good opening for what else is to come in the future.

In 1953, Peter Pan gets picked up by Disney. Jim Craddock made a review on it, saying “Disney classic about a boy who never wants to grow up. Based on J.M Barrie’s book and play. Still stands head and shoulders above any recent competition in providing fun family entertainment and lovely hummable music.” There are a few major differences between this version of Peter Pan by Disney and the original play and book by J.M Barrie. The first of the big differences is that in the Disney movie: The lost boys are adopted by Mrs. Darling, she tries to convince him to stay with the family, but he refuses, he does not want to grow up. The second big difference between the two is Peter’s relationship with the Darlings is multi-generational. It is hinted that Mrs. Darling had known Peter as a girl, and he comes to take away Wendy’s daughter Jane, and later Jane’s daughter Margaret, in the epilogue. Matt Brunson of Created Loafing did a review on this movie, he said “Neverland was imaginatively designed, and the pouty Tinkerbell and foppish Captain Hook remain marvelous characters. On the flip side, Peter Pan isn’t the most engaging of protagonists, and a little of the Lost Boys goes a long way.” Peter is not the most engaging but still a very different look from his original performance in the 1904 Play.

In 2013, Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis created a season of Once Upon a Time. It is a tv show on ABC and in season 3, Peter Pan makes an appearance, and he is not the Peter Pan everyone knows. He is completely reimagined. “Unlike his Disney fairytale counterpart who is slightly pompous but is otherwise heroic, this version of Peter Pan is completely evil and heartless… Careful. He may look like a boy, but he’s a bloody demon.” Peter Pan’s famous quote from this season is “Let’s play” and that is frightening because he is completely evil.

Peter Pan has undergone numerous changes, from going from an innocent kid, not wanting to grow up, to this evil, negative “thing” he became in once upon a time. The central theme even though the character might have undergone some serious changes, stayed the same throughout. I without think more research can be done in the changes that happened in Peter Pan, as it is so influential among today’s youth.

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