RETURN TO NEVER LAND
Surprisingly, Return to Never Land emerges as a better film than any expectation one had of it. Especially good are the opening scenes where the filmmakers cast the story against the realistically drawn milieu of the Wartime Blitz in London. There is the appealingly sad character of Wendys daughter Jane who has grown up and is starting to dismiss belief in Never-Never Land and Peter Pan. This is very nicely depicted there is a lovely moment where Jane turns from steadfastly denying that fairies are real to her brother who says in a plaintive childs voice, Yes, they are. Theres some excellent animation during the London sequences like the opening shot that moves past the standard Disney castle logo and through the clouds, which are filled with the shapes of the characters, down to London below, gorgeously rendered in 3D animation; and the magnificently surreal image of Hooks sailing ship taking to the air over London and in one wonderfully showoffy shot passing Big Ben then heading through a squadron of Spitfires.
Unfortunately, the Never-Never Land scenes pass into standard formula. There is a good deal of slapstick with the Lost Boys and the pirates, who seem an incredibly stupid lot. And someone has written a series of insipid songs over it all. On the plus side, Jane is a much stronger character than Wendy was in Peter Pan. Wendys original role was only one of reacting to Peter and Hook in wonderment. Jane instead has a strongly written arc she must go from giving up premature adulthood and having dismissed belief in fairies and the like to regaining her childhood imagination once again. As a character, she is much better written than Robin Williamss grown-up Peter Pan was in Steven Spielbergs live-action Peter Pan sequel Hook (1991). There is the lovely, magical moment where her she falls from the mast and then flies around the ship for the first time. On the minus side, Return to Never Land is slight in terms of story, while the big face-off with Hook that the film seems to build up to pans out routinely. There is a lovely final shot where the eternally youthful Peter comes back to visit the now-adult Wendy.
Subsequently, Disney went onto make TinkerBell (2008) and a series of Tinker Bell films with Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure (2009), Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue (2010), Tinker Bell: Secret of the Wings (2012), The Pirate Fairy (2014) and Tinker Bell and the Legend of the Neverbeast (2014).
Other adaptations of Peter Pan include:- the classic Disney animated version Peter Pan (1953); Peter Pan (1955), a live tv play; Peter Pan (1976), a tv movie version with Mia Farrow!!! playing Peter; the animated tv series Peter Pan and the Pirates (1990); Peter Pan (tv movie, 2000); and the big-budget live-action Peter Pan (2003). There was also the fascinating but little-seen Neverland (2003), which gave Peter Pan a modernised interpretation with Peter a kid suffering from bipolar disorder; and the tv mini-series Neverland (2011), which offered a science-fictional rationalisation set on an alien planet. Steven Spielberg also made the live-action sequel Hook (1991), which concerns itself with a grownup Peters return to Never-Never Land, while there is also the live-action prequel Pan (2015). Finding Neverland (2004) was a biopic about J.M. Barrie, and offered a heavily fictionalised account of the writing of Peter Pan.