It's often forgotten that it actually began life as a play, before being adapted into a novel (both by JM Barrie).
And it's often forgotten that while the play was Peter Pan's first incarnation as a story, the character of Peter Pan goes back further still, to his debut in Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, which wasn't even its own standalone story but part of Barrie's novel The Little White Bird.
Alternative Character Interpretation: One of the rare cases in which it hits on something, since most of the people who consider Pan evil have no idea that early drafts of the story had him as the villain, taking children away from their parents.
The thing is, while in the earliest, earliest draft of the story, Peter may have been portrayed as slightly more antagonistic, he is portrayed as the hero in every other draft of the story. The thing is that we have different ideas and opinions of what a hero is supposed to be, than those of people in the 19th century and beyond. Today we believe that heroes are supposed to be shining examples of virtue, but that wasnt always the case. Barrie loved his character and the story and brought up a lot of good things in it. He wrote Peter as an exaggeration of a cocky overconfident boy, but Peter wasnt afraid of death. It says he felt scared, yet he felt only one shudder run through him when any other person would have felt scared up until death. With his blithe attitude towards death, he says, To die will be an awfully big adventure. and with that Barrie is showing us both a naivety and bravery we possess as children but lose as adults and is basically telling us that we shouldnt let that go. The point is growing up is inevitable but you dont have to lose everything.
Peter Pan is supposed to be a tragic hero, his fatal flaw is the fact that he choses not to grow up. More often the story makes it clear Peter is not evil or bad in nature, his acts and actions are simply a byproduct of his immaturity: being in Neverland prevents one from aging physically, meaning he cannot change; he is shown to have times of remorse and is portrayed as having a strong code of honour and the only person he truly disrespected was Captain Hook.
Moreover, the stories also make it very clear he has a very complicated personality, as Peter has a very strong sense of honour and refuses to ever break his word, even when it would be more beneficial for him to.
He also has a high level of childhood naiveté, as he's unable to grasp the idea that people might not follow his standards of honour.
Through the story that Peter tells about his own mother, whether it is true or not, Peter reveals that his hatred of mothers stems from an unresolved feeling of abandonment. From the fear of abandonment comes Peters rejection of love; if his own mother could abandon him like that, then nobody will stay for long, give love to him, or deserve to be loved in return.
Peter Pan was not a kidnapper in the original story, in fact there is a scene in the book where when Wendy decided that she wanted to go home, the Lost Boys decide to try and hold her prisoner, only to find that they had no support from Peter because he did not force anyone (let alone a girl) to stay in Neverland against their will.
The line about Peter 'thinning' the Lost Boys out when they grew old is also taken out of context of the story, it's shown when Slightly (as far as they knew then) kills Wendy, Peter cannot bring himself to kill him. In the 2005 sequel novel (something that had to completely adhere to the canon rules and characterisations established by J.M. Barrie) its revealed that thinning them out means that he banishes them and cuts off his ties to that person as its revealed in the novel that growing up can be avoided by not thinking about the future (In fact the novels villain almost manages to trick Peter into growing up), those who do are banished. Banishment means that Peter and his followers ignore and no longer interact with the person who was banished.
In everyone who goes to Neverland; in Peter himself so much it's scary.
The one thing he ever briefly has angst over is the fact that he had no parents, and he'll never have a family or know true love because he can't grow up, which is a bit of a Tear Jerker. In Hook he gives in to this and leaves Neverland.
In the original novel it is mentioned that he cries a lot in his sleep. This implies that even if he has forgotten all the horrible things that have happened to him, he still remembers them subconsciously.
John mentions fantasizing about becoming a pirate and calling himself Red-handed Jack. In Hook, Peter's son Jack does become a pirate, and he dresses up like a miniature Captain Hook. Had he gone the whole nine yards, he would have been Jack with a Red Right Hand.
No Yay: Wendy/Hook. Good god, Wendy/Hook. "For a moment she was entranced by him." See the 2003 film version as well.
Rooting for the Empire: Peter Pan is such a sociopath it can be hard to cheer for him in the final battle on the pirate ship.
Toy Ship: Peter and Wendy. Also Wendy and Hook, depending on the handling of the adaptation.
Unbuilt Trope: Its practically a cliche for modern writers to depict a character who Never Grew Up as a sociopath, subverting the image of eternal childhood innocence. Its easy to forget that Peter, the character theyre ostensibly deconstructing, was originally a thoughtless, selfish, amoral Jerkass, explicitly because as an perpetual child he never learned right from wrong.
The boys go out and have adventures, and Wendy is their 'mother' and does all of the cooking and mending. At the end of the story Peter returns to London to find Wendy grown up, and her daughter goes off with him for a month to do his spring-cleaning. The whole story is built around children's fantasies, so the fundamental premise is that its' boys' fantasies to have adventures with pirates and Indians and the like, and girls' fantasies to be mothers and keep house and that's all. (Tiger Lily is an exception, being described as a formidable warrior, but the only scene we really see her in is when Peter saves her and she more or less disappears from the story after that, making her a Faux Action Girl.)
The horribly racist depiction of the Indians, particularly after Peter saves Tiger Lily.
The insinuation that all families have/need both a mother and father, which is blatant in the Disney adaptation.
The Woobie: Say it with us, everyone—"Poor Tootles!" Despite being the only Lost Boy who might accurately be called "nice", he's Born Unlucky and his self-esteem is virtually non-existent. Not to mention that he's always saying things like this:
"I did it...When ladies used to come to me in dreams, I said, 'Pretty mother, pretty mother.' But when at last she really came, I shot her."
Adaptation Displacement: The movie adds "star" to the book's quote "Second star to the right and straight on til morning", which is almost invariably how the phrase is quoted, often even with mistaken attribution to Barrie.
Alternative Character Interpretation: By the time of her musical number in Peter Pan's hideout, Wendy doesn't want to go back home because she misses her parents. She wants to go home, because of the bad experiences she's had in Neverland. Said experiences include Tinkerbell trying to kill her, the Mermaids trying to kill her, the Indians treating her like a slave, and Peter laughing at and/or ignoring her through the whole thing.
Awesome Music: If you can get past the nowadays-offensive lyrics, What Made the Red Man Red? is definitely worth a listen for the musical accompaniment alone.
Broken Base: The movie itself has entered this in the modern age. Some still view it as a Disney classic, while others feel it's a bad adaptation. The racist portrayal of the Indians doesn't help.
Crosses the Line Twice: The 'Indians' of Never-Land are so ridiculously caricatured, and so many different native cultures are mashed together, that for some the initial 'Were the animators really this racist?' reaction gives way to 'I'm not laughing at the film, I'm laughing at the ignorant bigots who animated it.'
Mr. Smee has a lot of funny moments for being a villain's sidekick and so has a lot of fans.
Tick Tock the Crocodile has become iconic for the tick-tock that announces his presence, and the hilarious fright it provokes in Hook.
Tiger Lily is also the only Native American character that is somewhat well-liked, since she isn't a racist caricature like the rest of her people and is actually pretty cool as the silentonly sane character in Neverland.
The Mermaids, who don't even have names, get a lot of fan love, especially on Tumblr.
Evil Is Cool: Captain Hook. It was said that Hans Conried really had fun doing Hook's voice.
Ho Yay: Hook and Smee. Smee seems to live for nothing more than serving Hook, which he does quite cheerfully. He's also quite the bumbler, and yet Hook hasn't killed him yet, despite shooting a man for singing distractingly or hurling one overboard for an irksome comment. He also calls exclusively for Smee with insane gusto any time he needs saving, and during the 'life of a pirate' song there's the affectionate little feather tickle Hook gives Smee, and Smee seems quite smitten by it. In Return to Neverland the octopus gives Hook a kiss with one sucker, which Hook accepts with no problem because he thinks it's from Smee. Smee also gives the Captain a rough massage.
Tinker Bell, once you learn the Disney-omitted detail about how she's so small (being a fairy) that she only has room for one emotion at a time. She spends far more of the movie being broken-hearted than jealous.
Captain Hook qualifies, too. He may be an evil pirate that most definitely Would Hurt a Child, but he's such a miserable, pathetic loser that suffers more than he deserves and, unlike most Disney Villains, has an understandable reason to want to kill his nemesis.
Captain Hook shooting the accordion-playing pirate, whose song is usually replaced with a different song in YouTube Poops.
"We were only trying to drown her!"
A GIF of Wendy smiling and blinking, with the subtitle "Internally screaming", is a minor meme on Tumblr.
Think of Batman pooping snakes. Explanation A case of Mondegreen during the "You Can Fly" number, heard during the line "Take the path that moonbeams make". It gets mentioned in the comments of nearly any video that features this song.
Thanks to Honest Trailers, the scene where Tinker Bell tries in vain to get out of a keyhole while appearing to be "twerking" has been getting a lot of traction.
Narm: The explosion that destroys the Lost Boys' lair creates a cloud so big it reaches the ship. Yet not only do Peter and Tinker Bell survive (despite being literally next to the bomb when it went off), they're both completely fine afterwards.
Newer Than They Think: You know that iconic image of Tinkerbell creating magic with her magic wand? Yeah, she never actually does that in this film. That came later, with the Walt Disney Presents TV series.
Continued with the sequel, Return to Neverland. While the captain was made more vicious and sinister, he still winds up being the most sympathetic character, as, even without the crocodile, his abuse continues (this time even more so). By the end of the film, the Jolly Roger even gets destroyed, leaving him and his crew without a home.
Smurfette Breakout: Tinker Bell has her own spinoff franchise. In a more meta sense, she's more recognizable as the Disney mascot. When one thinks of the Disney version of Peter Pan, Tink is the first thing that comes to mind.
The hardcore J.M. Barrie purists criticised the portrayal of Tinker Bell for her Hotter and Sexier image and emphasising her Clingy Jealous Girl nature.note The book and play make it clear that fairies only have room for one emotion at a time - and that Tinker Bell isn't normally so nasty and jealous. The movie doesn't mention that, just making Tink look like a Yandere.
Removing the "I do believe in fairies" scene gets some criticism too. Especially since Tinker Bell inexplicably recovers from being nearly blown up.
Toy Ship: Peter/Wendy. Also Peter/Jane in the sequel.
Watching "What Made the Red Man Red?" today can be... uncomfortable to say the least. Though the music itself is still awesome.
To a lesser extent, the mermaids are a lot racier than one would expect from Disney. One has Godiva Hair and another is only covered by her flower necklace. The next time Disney would do mermaids, they would all wear a Seashell Bra.
The amount of sexism that's present (from degrading comments said by the main character, to the fact that nearly all the female characters are either defined by their crush on the lead, or their cattiness) can be very, very uncomfortable to sit through, to the point that it's hard to just enjoy the film.
Most girls today would find getting their own room and no longer having to share with their younger brothers a far more attractive prospect than Wendy did.
The Woobie: Wendy, a sweet girl who was dreaming of Neverland stories since she was a child...and once she finally visits Neverland, she's treated like a Butt-Monkey for the entire movie and all the female characters (except Tiger Lily) have it in for her just because she happens to be a woman. When the mermaids tried to drown her, even her childhood hero Peter was laughing at her.
Ensemble Dark Horse: Slightly, the Lost Boy who arrives home late and gets adopted by Aunt Millicent instead. The actor who played him only did the one film but was surprised at his character being so remembered years later.
All the talk about Peter being afraid of love and of his own sexuality becomes funny if you know that Jeremy Sumpter went on to star in a notoriously bad Lifetime movie about a teenager getting addicted to internet porn.
This movie preceded Disney's live-action remake series by more than a decade, causing several snarky fans of this filmnote particularly those with an It's the Same, Now It Sucks! reaction to the Disney remakes to call it the best of the remakes.
Jerkass Woobie: Peter. Hook too, to some extent, but this version constantly squanders this sympathy.
Memetic Molester: Hook, mainly thanks to his lack of personal space, tendency to grab the protagonists whenever they're close enough, and the incredibly creepy way he first greets Wendy when she wakes up on his ship (stressing her surname into an endearment).
The more monstrous portrayal of the mermaids and the only one to date to actually show the stump of Hook's severed arm.
Hook's eyes actually do turn red as he attempts to murder an unarmed Peter Pan.
The Crocodile is absolutely terrifying. Absolutely huge and apparently highly intelligent. This particular beast seems based more on gigantic, prehistoric "super-crocs" like the forty-foot Deinosuchus than modern crocodiles.
Sometimes the response to the Hook/Wendy dynamic, including from several professional reviewers. Word of God says they didn't realize when they were shooting just how that was going to look on film. Never mind that it's a pretty accurate portrayal of Wendy's attraction to Hook in the novel. One reviewer didn't have a problem with that as much as with his perception of Hook's attraction to her.
The Foe Yay between Hook and Peter can fall into this category, too.
One reviewer speculated that a lot of the creepiness could be attributed to the fact that Hook has No Sense of Personal Space with either of them. At◊ all.◊ Jason Isaacs has mentioned in interviews how incredibly uncomfortable some of that was to portray.