A half hour into Peter Pan’s otherwise deservedly effusive commentary track, some discouraging words are heard. They belong to Walt Disney. ”With every laugh, there must be a tear somewhere,” he half apologizes, in an archival audio recording. ”I had it in Snow White. I mean, you felt sorry for her…. You felt for Cinderella. I had a hard time getting it in Peter Pan, and I don’t think I did get it. I had so many other things…the action, the adventure…but I could never get close to Peter Pan.”
He’s partly right: This is the one golden age Disney ‘toon that’s nearly nonstop slapstick, as if Petey himself snuck into the studio to rub out any wanton grown-up sentiment. But a pathos deficit is hardly fatal with Pan, which might be the apotheosis of the studio’s comedic character animation — what with Hook ‘n’ Smee as the proto-Burns ‘n’ Smithers, a single-minded syncopated croc, and a juvenile-delinquent action hero who bravely battles his own shadow.
The movie’s greatest creation remains Tinker Bell, a testy bombshell who wreaks jealous havoc and even pantomimes fury over her hip size. That retrograde sexuality would never fly in 2007; case in point, the dreadful-looking teaser for Tinker Bell, a CGI DVD sequel that’ll supply her with a voice, ‘tude, and marketable fairy friends who all resemble Bratz with wings. Our Tink, denatured simply to launch a line of pixie swag? Somewhere, Uncle Walt is crying.