This cartoon is the absolute last thing you'd expect if you heard the name "Peter Pan", which is associated with playfulness and immaturity. It warped my childhood mind.
Let's take a look at Peter himself. He's well-known as a playful trickster who is unaware of the consequences of his actions on others, and who only cares about excitement and adventure. Here, these character flaws are played totally straight. Peter steals a jewel from a villain called the Ice King, who responds by freezing Peter and his friends entirely within icicles and immobilizing them. They would have stayed that way forever had Tinkerbell not managed to melt the ice with her fairy antennae. It takes forever - plus several adventures - to convince Peter to stop being an idiot and just return what he stole.
In fact, Peter was and is my least
favorite character in the show, simply because he's such a stupid cocky jerk. But there's no denying that these traits are major plot enablers.
Another thing about the show is that it has balls. One episode had Wendy, as part of a mean-spirited prank by mermaids, grabbed and dragged underwater and tickled, causing her "laugh" to escape her in a bubble. The result of this ill-advised prank is that Wendy, now emotionless, is slowly dying and Peter and the Lost Boys must retrieve the "laugh", which flies away and ends up in some weird cloud maze. Captain Hook and his pirates show up, and in the struggle, Hook pops the bubble, killing Wendy on the spot. Peter is understandably pissed and shows genuine anger, showing a hidden side to his character.
It's just amazing that so much was put into a show that happens to be based on what's perceived as a story intended for young children. Many of the characters have fleshed-out personalities and real traits, which are used to tell some very well-told stories. Some of the stories are very powerfully told, such as the finale with Peter aging and Neverland beginning to decay as a result.
Some episodes have major Nightmare Fuel
. My personal worst is when a shrunken Wendy is eaten by the crocodile and begins to "become part of the croc" while immobilized in its stomach.
There were a number of silly episodes that didn't have any of this stuff, likely due to Executive Meddling
intended to tone it down, but at its best, this show was incredible.
No wonder it flopped.