Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens

Ambiguity and Morals in Barrie’s and Disney’s Peter Pan College

Peter Pan, the 1911 novel by J.M. Barrie, has been a popular read for over a century. In the one-hundred and six years of its existence it has inspired numerous adaptations for film, stage productions and other works. Among the film adaptations reside titles such as Hook (2013) and Peter Pan (2003), but undoubtedly the most well-known adaptation is Disney’s Peter Pan (1953). According to Deborah Cartmell “the ambition of a Disney adaptation is to usurp its source . . . so that the film adaptation triumphs over its literary original, and, for most viewers, it is the film rather than the text that is the original” (169); Peter Pan has a reputation of being a true Disney classic. Disney productions take immense liberties with the texts they adapt, and do not shy away from omitting, replacing, or greatly changing characters, replacing sad or realistic endings with happy ones or adapting the plot to fit the Disney corporation’s views and goals. Whilst Barrie’s novel is often described as a children’s book, it contains some dark subject matter that might not be suitable for (all) children; for example, it is mentioned that Peter “thins out” his lost boys when they “seem to be growing up” (59). Peter’s character is not wholly the...

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