This weekend I saw the Houston ballet production of Peter Pan. It was magical. The dancing was gorgeous and the flying sequences otherworldly. It was my first time seeing this ballet and there was a big chunk of the story that I didn’t remember. It was so odd that I had to read the synopsis during one of the intermissions to figure out exactly what was going on and reassure myself that I was not misremembering Peter Pan.

In the ballet, which was created in 2004, Captain Hook shows Wendy a movie of his childhood. He is beaten by a mean teacher which misshapes his hand into this weird skeleton hook. In this version there was no Tigerlily and Tinkerbelle made a brief appearance. Those two strong sassy girls were always my favorite characters and I missed them. These strange story choices lead me to a deep dive into Peter Pan.

Neverland

Peter Pan in Neverland: a Never-ending Story

Did you know that the story of Peter Pan is over a hundred years old? He really is the boy that never grew up. Peter Pan first appeared in 1902 the novel The Little White Bird by J. M. Barrie. In 1904, Barrie’s play Peter Pan debuted and was a huge hit both in London and New York. Barrie expanded his play’s story into the book Peter and Wendy, published in 1911.

Peter Pan and his adventures in Neverland has been told many ways in many mediums from live action and animated movies to plays, musicals and even an award-winning web series. Disney’s latest live action version of their animated classics, Peter Pan & Wendy is slated to come out next year with Jude Law as Captain Hook. There is the grown up Peter Pan movie (Hook). The true story behind Peter Pan, Finding Neverland, which begin as a play, then a movie, and finally a musical. There are scores of books that reimagine the story including Peter & the Starcatchers, which became a play.

Peter Pan List

Movies & TV Specials

  1. Peter Pan & Wendy (2023) live action version of Disney cartoon with Jude Law as Captain Hook
  2. Pan (2016) Warner Brothers
  3. Peter & Wendy (2015) British movie
  4. The New Adventures of Peter & Wendy (2014-16) web series set in the present with the characters in their 20s
  5. Peter Pan Live! NBC musical TV special (2014) Allison Williams as Peter
  6. Neverland SyFy mini-series (2011)
  7. Finding Neverland (2004)
  8. Peter Pan (2003) Universal
  9. Return to Neverland (2002) Disney animated
  10. Peter Pan musical TV special (2000) Cathy Rigby as Peter
  11. Hook (1991)
  12. Peter Pan musical TV special (1960) NBC Mary Martin as Peter
  13. Walt Disney’s Peter Pan (1953) animated
  14. Peter Pan (1924) Paramount, silent

Peter Pan book list

Musicals

  1. Peter Pan (1954)
  2. Finding Neverland (2012)

Plays

  1. Wendy & Peter Pan by Ella Hickson 2013, 2015 Royal Shakespeare Company
  2. Peter & the Starcatcher by Rick Elice based on the book series by Dave Barry &  Ridley Pearson (2009)
  3. The Man Who Was Peter Pan by Allan Knee (1998)
  4. Peter Pan (1904) original

Ballet

Peter Pan (2004)

The Magic of Peter Pan

Why has the story of Peter Pan not only endured, but been expanded and reimagined over and over again through out the years?  Why does this story continue to resonate with new generations of parents and children?  I believe it is that magical combination of concept, characters, setting and theme that every writer dreams of creating.   The bittersweet dream of never growing up and remaining a child forever.  A magical land full of fairies, mermaids, pirates, a native American princess, and a group of best friends.  And the lure of a lovely family waiting for you.  Just like Dorothy said in another timeless magical adventure – there is no place like home. 

What is your favorite Peter Pan version?  Maybe you have an idea for a new one.  Do you have a favorite childhood story? 


More Peter Pan Fun Facts

Peter Pan was played by a woman in the original play because child actors had limited working hours. This tradition continued through the many iterations of the stage musical which debuted in 1954.

The Dark Side of Peter Pan. Maybe one of the reasons for Peter Pan’s longevity is the story has a dark side, giving the reimaginings grit and angst. Neverland is a violent place with the boys fighting adult pirates. The Lost Boys are alone in this hostile place without a family.

Peter Pan is a pop psychology term. Coined in 1983 by psychologist Dan Kiley in his book The Peter Pan Syndrome: Men Who Have Never Grown Up, calling a man a Peter Pan has come to mean a man who doesn’t want to live a grown up life including marriage and fatherhood.

Don’t forget The Lost Boys (1987) my favorite vampire movie. There is not Peter Pan, but the Lost Boys are a group of teenage vampires.


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