It’s impossible not to love The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up. Maybe that’s why there have been so many great (and, admittedly, not so great) retellings of J.M. Barrie’s classic tale.
Peter Pan’s story (canon and otherwise) seems to be all the rage lately. Last year, he had a giant, half-season arc on ABC’s Once Upon a Time that was pretty much completely devoted to him. Next year, there’s yet another live-action movie hitting the silver screen (called Pan) that supposedly tells Pan’s origin story.
However, this year we’re getting one of the biggest Peter Pan events ever: NBC’s Peter Pan Live! To celebrate this momentous occasion, we thought we’d list out all of our favorite iterations of Peter Pan so far!
Walt Disney’s ‘Peter Pan’ (1953)
For most of us, this is the version of Peter Pan that we grew up on. This is the iteration that immediately pops into our minds whenever we hear anything having to do with Peter Pan, Tinker Bell, Neverland, etc. While it certainly has its flaws and shortcomings (like its portrayal of Tiger Lily and her people), it’s magical in the best way possible. The music is iconic, every scene is brightly colored, and it just has that kind of charm that makes us want to always leave our windows unlocked at night in hopes that Peter will take us away. Walt Disney captured all of the magic of the original story in this 77-minute animated classic.
‘Peter Pan’ (2003)
Confession: This writer used to watch this movie on repeat. This writer even had a Freewebs website that was inspired by this movie. It’s just so wonderful. For those of us who grew up on the Disney version alone, this film expanded on our view of the Peter Pan universe in the best way possible. The visuals were fantastic (especially the scene where Peter and the Darlings travel to Neverland), Peter Pan is a cutie, and the music is just so iconic. In fact, James Newton Howard’s “Flying,” which was specifically written for this movie is practically everywhere now, including commercials for Disney World. Also, every generation has specific actors that they always envision when certain roles come to mind. Up until Colin O’Donoghue’s portrayal of Captain Hook came along, Jason Isaacs was ours. He was just so GOOD at it.
Rufio! Rufio! Ru! Fi! OHHHHH! There are so many wonderful things about Hook that we can’t even begin to name them all. First and foremost, Robin Williams makes an excellent Peter. We love watching his character rediscover his inner child almost as much as we loved watching him fly around yelling “Bangarang!” The Neverland created in this movie is so different from other ones we’ve seen. It’s more playful and child-like which makes it incredibly whimsical. Dustin Hoffman makes for a really classy Captain Hook, especially when he says things like “Good form!” One of the things we like best, however, is the number of new characters that aren’t in the original tale. Rufio is obviously our favorite new character. And then there’s Maggie Smith as an older Wendy and a seemingly senile Tootles… Hook is such a great addition to the tale of Peter Pan.
‘Once Upon a Time’s’ version
Alright, so maybe we included OUAT just as another excuse to show our love for Colin O’Donoghue’s Captain Hook. After all, he’s definitely the best thing to come out of the show to incorporate Pan’s story. The Peter Pan storyline itself is okay. It’s memorable in that it does something with Peter Pan’s character that hasn’t been seen before. After all, who would have ever thought of Peter as evil? Selfish and naive, maybe. But evil? Never. It was really interesting to see the OUAT writers’ take on such a classic tale and well-known fantasy land. In all honesty though, we’re just glad that Hook is still around!
‘Peter and the Starcatchers’
What was the name of Neverland before there was a Neverland? How exactly did Hook lose his hand? And was Tinker Bell once a bird? For those of you who are unfamiliar with the story, Peter and the Starcatchers is the first prequel in a series of five that set out to answer all of the questions you may have about J.M. Barrie’s classic tale. Peter and other orphans are sold onto a ship where he meets Molly.
While he is aboard the ship, named “The Never Land,” they come to discover a trunk filled with Stardust, the powers of which are coveted by the evil first mate Slank.
Peter gathers his companions to protect the precious cargo and they are eventually shipwrecked on a new land called Mollusk Island, where they run into Mr. Grin, the crocodile, Black Stache (Hook before he became Hook) and Smee. Peter’s adventures with Molly build the high-flying leader of the Lost Boys and the Starstuff that seeps into the island changes the island the magical place many are familiar with today. Peter and the Starcatchers captures the fight to stay young forever and all the imaginative joy of the original tale. It’s just a really fun ride.
In 2011, the novel took to the Broadway stage, receiving critical acclaim as one of the best plays of the season with nine Tony nominations. Christian Borle who originated the role of Black Stache, took home the Tony for Best Featured Actor in a Play. Pretty much everyone who has seen the show has loved it.
‘Finding Neverland’ (2004)
Finding Neverland isn’t your typical Peter Pan story because it’s about the creation of the story rather than the story itself. Yet, art imitates life. While the movie doesn’t follow Peter and his lost boys, the characters in the film beautifully reflect qualities that we see in and love about Peter Pan characters. We love seeing how much Peter Llewelyn Davies inspired the character of Peter Pan and how his family fits into J.M. Barrie’s vision. It’s a fantastic story for being so firmly based in reality. (Plus, it’s really great to see Johnny Depp in a role so different from other ones that he’s known for.)
‘The New Adventures of Peter and Wendy’ (2014)
You have to be careful when you stumble across a modern retelling of your favorite story. The message can get buried beneath the need for a different interpretation with new twists and turns to make a classic feel ‘fresh.’ But the fantastic web series The New Adventures of Peter and Wendy has found the perfect balance between staying traditional to each character’s personality and goals, while placing them in a world where they have to deal with the consequences of keeping secrets while also have a public vlog or drinking too much and doing something they regret.
This is a slightly grownup version of Peter Pan, but that only enhances the humor, romance, and stakes for our favorite characters. Wendy wants nothing more than to get out of Neverland, Ohio, while Peter only wants to stay and build chocolate fudge people all day. As best friends and maybe something a little more, they don’t want anything to change, but they also know things can’t stay the same. Tink is caught in the middle, as usual, and her jealousy takes us from the relative innocence of season 1 and into the dangerous waters of season 2, which will give us our first look at the mysterious Hook.
NBC’s Peter Pan Live! airs tonight at 8 p.m. EST/7 p.m. central!