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Theatrical aspects in the cinematographic adaptations of Peter Pan: reminders of the initial form of the story

Charlotte Wensierski

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  • 1 In the film, the camera remains static and offers a pre-eminently frontal and panoramic vision of t (...)
  • 2 As quoted by Roger Lancelyn Green in Fifty Years of Peter Pan (London: Peter Davies, 1954) 170.

1Before Peter Pan was published in the form of a novel one hundred years ago, J.M. Barrie’s story of “the boy who would not grow up” was brought to life on stage. The first performances took place in London as early as 1904, following which the play was quickly brought to New York, under the supervision of Barrie’s impresario and friend, Charles Frohman. It was an immediate and unanimous success everywhere it went from the very beginning. In 1924, as J.M. Barrie had not yet published the definitive dramatic text of Peter Pan, a black and white silent film was directed by Herbert Brenon. This early Hollywood adaptation, extremely respectful of the content and visual construction1 of the play, was criticized by Barrie, who thought that: “It is only repeating what is done on the stage… and the only reason for a film should be that it does the things the stage can’t do2”. Indeed, for the creator of Peter Pan, the then revolutionary medium of cinema should have been able to project his fairy tale still further into a world of magic and illusion: he thought that the flying sequence and Never Land, in particular, deserved to be depicted more vividly.

  • 3 « Finding Neverland is a charming but heavily fictionalized concoction, playing fast-and-loose with (...)

2Eighty years later, in 2004, director Marc Forster released a film on J.M. Barrie and his masterpiece entitled Finding Neverland. This biopic focuses on the period when the playwright found the inspiration for Peter Pan in his games with the Llewelyn boys and highlights some key moments in the preparation of the premiere at the Duke of York Theatre. Even though Forster’s effort has often been described as a toned down and romantic depiction of Barrie’s existence3, it is undeniable that the young director created a poetic film which defends the power of invention, dream and creativity – notably by using sophisticated visual effects which are meant to visualize the mechanisms of Barrie’s imagination.

3Between 1924, the date of the first screen adaptation of Peter Pan, and 2004, several retellings of Barrie’s narrative were produced: Disney’s animated film in 1953, Spielberg’s Hook in 1991, and P.J. Hogan’s more traditional rendering of the story in 2003. I would like to look at the aesthetic of these five films and, more precisely, lay emphasis on the various elements which remind the viewer of drama. My thesis is that if Brenon was limited by technical constraints and his film clearly aimed to respect the stage tradition of Peter Pan, the four other directors and their crew used typical features of drama – factitious settings, garish costumes, emphatic performances of actors, etc – on purpose. In those instances, the identity of the filmic medium is not threatened since the theatrical burden is skillfully combined with cinematographic techniques. Hence, from this point of view, the four most recent filmic adaptations of Peter Pan can be seen as exemplifying the possibility of positive interactions between different arts – drama and cinema in this particular case.

Spielberg’s tribute to theatrical sceneries

4I will start with an overview of the visual aspects of Spielberg’s Hook, a film which received mixed reviews from the press. One of the main targets of these criticisms is precisely the general aesthetic of the film. Owen Gleiberman, for instance, writes in his review for Entertainment Weekly:

When Peter arrives in Neverland, it looks like the set for some over-budgeted, cast-of-thousands musical from the late ’60s. Hook’s fantastically huge galleon dominates the local dock, and the whole place is teeming with grinning pirates and bathed in overly bright fake sunshine. Spielberg must have wanted everything to look cheesy on purpose…4

5The film critic concedes that the artificial look of the sets, whether it is considered a success or not, was probably something done intentionally. Cyrille Bossy confirms this thesis in his book devoted to the American Director Steven Spielberg, Un Univers de Jeux:

  • 5 Cyril Bossy, Steven Spielberg, Un Univers de Jeux (Paris: L'Harmattan, 1998) 175. Also, in Steven S (...)

Hook est un film sur la mise en scène et sur le spectacle sous toutes ses formes : cinéma, théâtre, comédie musicale, parc d’attractions…auxquels il [Spielberg] entend emprunter à chacun son esthétique – d’où le parti pris d’un tournage en studio, de décors ouvertement factices, d’où le choix d’un conseiller visuel issu de la production théâtrale [John Napier, who designed the outstanding sceneries for Cats and Les Misérables]5

6I argue that in order to see the aesthetic of Hook in a positive light, one has to accept that the settings intentionally remind us of pantomime but, most importantly, one has to be aware of the cinematographic skills Spielberg employs when filming them.

  • 6 L'écran Fantastique n°125, avril/mai 1992, p.38 as quoted by Bossy 176.
  • 7 Bossy 176.

7Norman Garwood, the production design supervisor on Hook, explains in an interview: “Steven avait en tête un film très théâtral, dans le sens d’une espèce de studio hollywoodien très classique. Mais, en même temps, il voulait de l’invention cinématographique6”. Similarly, Cyrille Bossy claims that Spielberg’s film successfully achieved such an aesthetic: “Si Hook ne renie pas l’origine théâtrale du matériau, il n’en demeure en effet pas moins préoccupé par une mise en scène purement cinématographique…7”.

  • 8 See illustration 10.
  • 9 « The most cinematic example of the former [time's passage] emerges in director Steven Spielberg's (...)
  • 10 See illustration 10.

8The opulent baroque set of the pirates’ harbor8, for example, illustrates well the old-fashioned atmosphere the director tried to evoke. Its central element is the “Croc Clock”, a gigantic stuffed crocodile, undoubtedly the very one which used to terrify Hook and eventually succeeded in eating his prey in Barrie’s original tale. Its jaws contain a clock, the hands of which turn abnormally fast. It is only one of many objects Spielberg uses to underscore the passing of time9. Around this threatening figure, ruins of former ships form a sort of extravagant and lively village. The other locations in Neverland look just as artificial: the forest where the Lost Boys live; the circuit they arrange to train Peter Banning, with its cardboard and plaster rocks; or even the small pool which contains the underwater world of the mermaids10. Actually, even though most of the film is supposed to take place in outside-door locations, with the exception of a few panoramic shots, the characters seem to live in closed and circular areas. The effect is like an entertainment park where each attraction is supposed to isolate you in a different world, even though it belongs to a larger environment.

9Spielberg does not content himself with the theatrical aspect of his settings, however also brings out the dramatic origins of Peter Pan through cinematographic techniques. For instance, when Peter Banning has just landed in Neverland, the camera adopts alternatively the character’s viewpoint – his field of vision is hampered by his children’s bed-sheet which acts as a screen – and, in the reverse short, an exterior viewpoint which shows the sheet deformed by the character it hides. When Peter eventually tears the sheet apart and discovers the new landscape he has set foot in, the camera ultimately places itself behind the sheet, so that the harbor is revealed like theatrical scenery behind the raised curtain. A few minutes later, a vertical dolly shot films the sail of a boat from top to bottom, so it can also be likened to a theatre curtain which rises to display the procession of pirates walking eagerly to meet their captain and chanting “Hook, give us the Hook!”. Actually, in this sequence, the pirates resemble an audience and Peter an actor putting on costumes and adopting new gestures so he will not be identify as an intruder. Moreover, he performs under the direction of Tinker Bell, who plays, hidden in his hat, the role of a stage director. The pirates’ harbor looks like a sort of microcosm where even prostitutes seem to be taking part in a show. For instance, at one point, one of the women is standing at a balcony made of wood and crimson velvet, leaning among garish red pearls curtains. When she notices Smee, she screams with excitement and the camera subsequently reveals three other prostitutes bowing and repeating his name, while a group of drunken sailors play instruments.

10Hence, through this “mise en scene” which merges camera movements, actors’ direction, settings and costumes, Spielberg builds up an atmosphere which reminds us of drama without neglecting the specificities of cinema.

Presenting the histrionic Captain Hook

11Another effective way to insist on the dramatic inheritance in all the adaptations is to look at Captain James Hook: the way his first entrance is managed and the actor’s performance itself are the most important histrionic element in the films.

12James Hook is described as such in J.M. Barrie’s published dramatic text:

Cruellest jewel in that dark setting is Hook himself, cadaverous and blackavised, his hair dressed in long curls which look like black candles about to melt, his eyes blue as the forget-me-not and of a profound insensibility, save when he claws, at which red spot appears in them. He has an iron hook instead of a right hand, and it is with this he claws. He is never more sinister than when he is most polite, and the elegance of his diction, the distinction of his demeanour, show him one of a different class from his crew, a solitary among uncultured companions […]. A man of indomitable courage, the only thing at which he flinches is the sight of his own blood […] he bore a strange resemblance to the ill-fated Stuarts. A holder of his own contrivance is in his mouth enabling him to smoke two cigars at once. (108)

  • 11 Peter Hollindale, a lecturer specialized in literature for children who wrote the preface from the (...)

13In the films, the captain’s first appearance is actively managed by the film makers so it is as impressive and spectacular as it was on stage. It is also a conspicuous way for the directors to make their presence felt and hint at the fact they organize information and display actions in a certain way. It brings to mind J.M. Barrie’s interventionist voice both in the script of the play and in the novel11.

14Here is what Cyrille Bossy writes about the entrance of the Captain played by Dustin Hoffman in Hook:

  • 12 Bossy 176. In his essay « Barrie's Immortal Pirate in Fiction and Film », Lester D. Friedman simila (...)

Le capitaine Crochet, véritable Némésis de Peter Pan, est lui aussi un acteur. C’est un personnage de pantomime, caricatural, grotesque et pathétique. Son entrée en scène est elle aussi traitée sur le mode théâtral : lever de rideau (les voiles du navire lors du plan-découverte du Jolly Ranger), venue annoncée, préparée par un autre personnage (Mouche), apparition sur un promontoire face à une foule (son équipage), descente d’un escalier, tapis rouge. Sa prestation achevée, il regagne sa loge (cabine) pour se débarrasser de son accoutrement face à une multitude de miroirs. Fardé, il porte une perruque et se fait passer pour un précepteur auprès des enfants de Banning12.

  • 13 See illustrations 13,14. Gleiberman describes Hoffman in his role of Hook: « Dustin Hoffman is hidd (...)
  • 14 For both quotations, Friedman refers to Yeoman Now or Neverland 133 in Kavey 202.
  • 15 « In the 1850s elements of burlesque theatre were introduced into pantomime […] new stock character (...)
  • 16 See illustrations 15.

15Hook clearly enjoys and keeps the ceremony surrounding his appearance alive: “Where’s the carpet Smee?”, he enquires of his obsequious sailor at some point. Costumes and make-up are essential to Hook and his court: pirates wear earrings and cutlasses, brightly colored sashes and blunderbusses, ponytails and pistols. Captain Hook, in particular, is rigged out in long curls, foppish and ornate clothing like the red and gold braided waistcoat he has on in this scene, and his eyes are underlined with mascara13. He symbolically dresses Peter Banning’s son Jack exactly like himself when he holds him under his influence and yearns to become a father-like figure. Hence appearance and clothes seem to take special values and functions just like in drama. In addition, Friedman identifies “a subtle confounding of masculine and feminine attributes” in this character and he goes even further asserting that: “[…] the symbol of Hook’s appearance and personality points to a complex, undifferentiated and dark interrelation of masculine and feminine qualities14.” This kind of ambiguous character appeared frequently in pantomimes or even in the Commedia dell’arte and one cannot help but identify James Hook as a character extracted from such popular dramatic entertainments15. Furthermore in Spielberg’s film, Hook’s cabin seems to contain a stage since his bed is on an elevated spot and the luxury of the room brings to mind the decorations of beautiful theatre houses and their dressing rooms16. It is a theatrical setting well fitted to such and overweening character.

  • 17 Ernest Torrence was a Scottish actor who appeared in several Hollywood films, both silent and talki (...)
  • 18 Kavey 205-206.

16In the other adaptations, the gender ambiguity of Hook is far less exploited but his initial appearance is no less striking than in Spielberg’s version. In Brenon’s silent film, the Captain’s entry is undeniably less prolonged and elaborated but it is the only cinematic version in which, respectfully to Barrie’s text, the character does not first appear on his boat but ashore. While his crew of pirates is hauling a chest, Hook comes out from behind the crest of a hill, strides into the frame, and scatters them. He is wearing a lace shirt with frilly sleeves, a long coat, a tricorn hat and a pistol tucked prominently into his belt. An inter title indicates: “Everyone shudders at the approach of Captain Hook” and the actor Ernest Torrence17 brandishes his hook, starting to recount how he lost his hand to the scoundrel Peter Pan. He is put in a situation very similar to the monologue or the aside in drama when the actor’s lines are addressed to himself or the audience rather than the other characters. This position is reinforced by the framing which isolates him with medium shots, underlining his facial expressions and overdone gestures. Friedman describes him as an “operatic Hook”, probably because of his costume and the acting tradition Torrence belongs to. For Friedman, this rendering of the character “amuses modern viewers” although Brenon’s James Hook represents “a menacing antagonist” for Peter and his first introduction “confirms how much his own men fear him18”, which is something that is also well conveyed in Hook in 1991.

  • 19 « Peter Pan » films in review 4 (1953) 94 as quoted in Kavey 178.
  • 20 See illustrations 16,17.
  • 21 In the novel, J.M Barrie elaborates on each pirate, giving them a background and a few striking fea (...)

17In Disney’s animated film, Captain Hook looks more like a dandy buffoon than a comic character which encompasses subtle elements of pathos. Elspeth Chapin, a reviewer of the 1953 film writes: “Disney seems to eschew the subtler points of human frailty. It has to be slapstick, bump-your-head, fall down, sees stars19”. This efficiently summarizes the treatment Walt Disney and his animators had in store for the character of Hook20. The episodes with the captain seem to be so many occasions to celebrate the possibilities of animation. When the Captain appears for the first time, he is gesticulating above a map, his two-cigar holder in his mouth blowing small puffs of smoke as he enumerates the different locations of his targets. As in the other filmic adaptations, most of the attention is turned toward Hook while his pirates are not treated as individuals21 – with the exception of the right-hand man Smee – but as part of a crowd or just “the crew” in the scenes on the boat. It may be yet another strategy to leave more room for Hook who definitely steals the show. He is grandiloquent – he rolls his r’s the old English way, which perfectly fits Barrie’s description of the character as educated and even sophisticated – and he unleashes his wrath against Peter Pan, throwing a table away and threatening the clumsy Smee. Then his mood seems to change on a dime when he thinks about his other enemy, the crocodile. He speaks in a complaining tone and puts his arm on his forehead the way a fainting lady would. A few seconds later, the first of a series of encounters between Hook and the crocodile occurs. These confrontations, which are multiplied and expanded in the film, are treated with the full resources of animation: speed and agility of the characters, humorous repetition of movements, and tight synchronization of image and sound. The stress is put on the exuberance of Hook’s personality and his eccentricity, in situations of danger that are visually artificial and unrealistic: the Captain’s somersaults in the air which defy the law of gravity, the way he jumps out of the animal gaping jaws. These distortions of reality and caricatural visions of life which rely on an aesthetic of excess echo some aspects of the dramatic tradition. But, of course, as Susan Ohmer points out, the animated medium offers the possibility to go beyond what was presented on stage and to transcend these theatrical features:

  • 22 Kavey 171-173.

Similarly the confrontation at the end of the film is a tour de force of cinematic techniques: rapid editing, multiple and constantly shifting perspectives of the ship, the rope and the deck, characters leaping and flying and the music synchronized with them. In the play much of the action takes places inside a cabin, an offstage space, and the dramatic climax of the fight is achieved largely through sound effects22.

18Finally, P.J. Hogan’s handling of Hook’s presentation in 2003 conspicuously departs from his filmic forebears but is just as memorable. In this version, it is James Hook’s sinister and virile facets which are accentuated. Lester D. Friedman vividly describes the original appearance of the character:

  • 23 Kavey 204.

[…] from the right corner of the screen, a large hook stabs the timepiece and smashes it to pieces. A disheveled Hook slumps head-down on a scarlet and gold throne-like chair at his desk, his unkempt hair spilling out and dominating the image. Left arm bare and adorned with a tattoo of Eton’s coat of arms […], he slowly rises and speaks: “I was dreaming, Smee, of Pan. And in my dream I was magnanimous, full of forgiveness.” He pauses to drink from a gilded cup, his long black hair cascading down his naked torso. As he begins the next sentence, his right hand rises from underneath the desk and we view, for the first time in any film, his scarred stump…23

  • 24 See illustrations 18,19.

19This presentation relies on provocation. There is violence in the actions of Hook and consequently in the images that are displayed: a pocket watch being smashed, a nude torso and a scarred stump. In traditional drama, it would have been considered a transgression of decorum although it was not unusual: in Shakespeare’s plays, for instance, characters were often ferociously amputated or slain on stage. Another remarkable aspect of this scene is the setting with the throne-like chair, which provides the same kind of authority as the red carpet and stairs do for Dustin Hoffman’s Hook, and creates a similar baroque atmosphere. Props are important, as signaled by the close up on Smee’s clock, but also the captain’s never-seen-before cumbersome leather and metal shoulder contraption on which is eventually affixed and screwed the legendary hook. The scene occurs indoors and is dimly lit with candles24. This introduction provides an effective foretaste of what the audience should expect of the new Captain Hook: he is far from being as preposterous and endearing as Disney’s and is also far from Spielberg’s eccentric dandy. Nonetheless, however dark his first appearance in the intimate environment of his cabin is, it also contains theatrical dimensions and follows the tradition established by Barrie’s play and the filmic antecedents.

  • 25 See illustrations 20,21.
  • 26 See illustration 20.

20Besides paying tribute to Peter Pan’s formal origins, these films are also instrumental in enhancing the positive relationship arts can share. For instance, to underscore fantasy visually, Hogan and his design team purposefully worked with blue colors and lights which give the film an artificial atmosphere25. Another example from this latest cinematographic adaptation is the image of Peter lying against a statue during the fight which takes place in Marooner’s Rock26. This sight generates pathos but also visually reminds viewers of Shakespeare’s character Puck with his pipes, or even of a pastoral painting. It shows evidence of a successful dialogue amongst different arts, due to the fact that a cinema in its prime does not feel threatened by exterior aesthetics anymore.

The settings of Hook: an aesthetic tribute to drama

1. Hook, S. Spielberg, 1991

© Amblin Entertainment-Tristar

2. Hook, S. Spielberg, 1991

© Amblin Entertainment-Tristar

3. Hook, S. Spielberg, 1991

© Amblin Entertainment-Tristar

4. Hook, S. Spielberg, 1991

© Amblin Entertainment-Tristar

Costumes Design For The Film Hook (1991)

5. Hook, S. Spielberg, 1991

© Amblin Entertainment-Tristar

6. Hook, S. Spielberg, 1991

© Amblin Entertainment-Tristar

7. Hook, S. Spielberg, 1991

© Amblin Entertainment-Tristar

James Hook’s Cabin In Hook (1991)

8. Hook, S. Spielberg, 1991

© Amblin Entertainment-Tristar

9. Hook, S. Spielberg, 1991

© Amblin Entertainment-Tristar

10. Hook, S. Spielberg, 1991

© Amblin Entertainment-Tristar

The Character Of Captain Hook Filtered Through Disney’s Slapstick Aesthetic

11. Peter Pan, Walt Disney, 1953

©Walt Disney Production

12. Peter Pan, Walt Disney, 1953

©Walt Disney Production

13. Peter Pan, Walt Disney, 1953

©Walt Disney Production

14. Peter Pan, Walt Disney, 1953

©Walt Disney Production

15. Peter Pan, Walt Disney, 1953

©Walt Disney Production

The Presentation Of A Sinister And Virile Captain Hook In Hogan’s Peter Pan

16. Peter Pan, P.J. Hogan, 2003

© Universal Studios

17. Peter Pan, P.J. Hogan, 2003

© Universal Studios

18. Peter Pan, P.J. Hogan, 2003

© Universal Studios

19. Peter Pan, P.J. Hogan, 2003

© Universal Studios

Visuals For Peter Pan (P.J. Hogan 2003)

20. Peter Pan, P.J. Hogan, 2003

© Universal Studios

21. Peter Pan, P.J. Hogan, 2003

© Universal Studios

22. Peter Pan, P.J. Hogan, 2003

© Universal Studios

“Mr. Hogan, the production designer Roger Ford and the cinematographer Donald M. McAlpine (who also shot Baz Luhrmann’s”Moulin Rouge“) conjure a Neverland of lurid purple shadows and thick brightly colored foliage.”
A.O. Scott, “Even in Fabled Neverland, a World of Contradictions

Beyond the plastic dimension: Finding Neverland, a comment on the possible dialogue between Peter Pan’s original form and the more recent filmic medium.

21Like Steven Spielberg before him, Marc Forster stated his intentions for the art direction and set decoration of Finding Neverland:

  • 27 Personal transcription from the bonus material « La Magie de Neverland » (Making of) DVD Neverland. (...)

“It was important to have both an old style, old Hollywood movie making where everything was built in stages and sets and then, at the same time, have this kind of new technology to play with and use it in a very elementary, childlike way27.”

  • 28 See illustrations 25.

22Kevin Tod Haug, his visual effects designer, explains the purpose of such an aesthetic: “We wanted to show where to draw the line between fantasy and reality: how thin this line is […] you can slip back and forth.” Probably the best illustration of this idea is the sequence in which Barrie is playing the role of Captain Swarthy on the ship which Forster and his artists call the “puppet theatre”28. This fascinating setting is conspicuously fake, but it is also animated, given life by special effects and the use of real water thrown on the deck. It is a clever mixture of tradition and modernity: one can still see or guess how an element such as the sea could be animated on stage without the help of today’s technology – setting the waves into motion can be achieved manually with mechanical devices hidden behind the wood panels, for instance.

23Finding Neverland has already been introduced as a work examining art and imagination, and among other things, Forster shows us that, in drama like in cinema, the audience needs to relinquish part of its incredulity and by extension releases its imagination:

  • 29 Quote extracted from the bonus material « La Magie de Neverland (Making of) » DVD Neverland.

24The audience needs not to notice the visual effects as such. I mean there are certainly things that are fantasies, but I’m kind of hoping that at least some of that appear just to be part of the movie. People pretend that they don’t realize it was impossible that it was there, that maybe someone built that and it’s just fine29.

25The director, while describing the state of mind required to enjoy properly his film, implicitly alludes to the more general concept of “suspension of disbelief” which was already at the center of the English poet Samuel T. Coleridge’s attention as soon as the beginning of the 19th century.

  • 30 See illustrations 26.

26Another crucial set that carries an essential message in the film is the reproduction of Neverland at the Llewelyn Davies’ house. Sylvia, who has been too ill, has not been able to attend the play inspired by her boys, so Barrie decides to organize a performance in her living room. This sequence points at the essential role scenery or setting plays in the creation of illusion, insofar as spectators collaborate by suspending their disbelief. The amazing setting Barrie has prepared completely transcends the tale being told, but it is only after Sylvia, her reticent mother and the children declare their faith in fairies – and by extension in the play and storytelling in general – that they are rewarded with an extraordinary utopic landscape inhabited with gracious winged women, some of them dancing and others swinging peacefully on lianas. Actually, this scenery is so sophisticated that one can hardly believe it fits in the garden, nor can one imagine that it was possible to achieve such realistic sets at the time30. Once again, the border between fantasy and reality is blurred and so is the distinction between cinematic resources and more modest theatrical ones. At the end of the scene, Sylvia walks into the magical world her garden has become, and the director uses this moment metaphorically to suggest her death. It is no wonder Forster’s film was mostly praised for its visual style and most of the award nominations and wins for this film were collected in categories such as “Achievement in Art Direction” or “Excellence in Production Design”.

  • 31 The Man Who Was Peter Pan (1998) by Allan Knee.
  • 32 Besides, J.M. Barrie's behaviour, throughout his life, betrayed a desire to leave his writings unst (...)
  • 33 Plana enlarges up on the benefits of the contacts between several art forms: « L'art conscient de l (...)

27Finding Neverland, a film which is an adaptation in itself since inspired by a Broadway play31, was directed in 2004 as an homage to the centennial celebration of the first dramatic appearance of Peter Pan. During these one hundred years, Barrie’s original play went through many interpretations, during the author’s lifetime and especially after his death. While insisting on the notion of an interaction between cinema and drama in the aesthetic of his film, Marc Forster, who was the last to release a major production of Peter Pan, puts the cinematic rewriting and remodeling of Peter Pan into perspective. I personally find it very striking that all the adaptations retain something of the dramatic origins of Peter Pan: Brenon, who was very meticulous about respecting the dialogue and smallest details; Disney which created its most manic villain; but also Spielberg with his old-fashioned garish sets; and finally Hogan who, despite all the modern resources at his disposal, decided to opt for a conspicuously artificially lit Neverland and interpreted the histrionic character of Hook as excessive in his violence and perversity. It is probably because it originated from oral narratives and was generically reconfigured by its very creator32 from drama to literature that Peter Pan has been the ideal vector for directors to experiment with their art and offer hybrid aesthetics33. The variations of content and form Peter Pan underwent were, I argue, greatly instrumental in insuring the tale’s pertinence for contemporary audiences and therefore in keeping the interest in Peter Pan alive throughout the years. But there is also a very perceptible sense of tradition in all the films. It is epitomized in the opening of Hook in which the hero, Peter Banning, a grown-up yuppie version of Barrie’s Peter, attends the school play of his daughter Moira, who performs the role of Wendy – her grandmother in the film. This “Mise en Abyme” is one more hint at the existence of a connecting thread – the one of the dramatic origins– binding all the adaptations.

The Puppet Theatre in Finding Neverland

23. Finding Neverland, M. Forster, 2004

© Walt Disney Production

24. Finding Neverland, M. Forster, 2004

© Walt Disney Production

25. Finding Neverland, M. Forster, 2004

© Walt Disney Production

The Scenery Of Neverland At The Llewelyns’ House

26. Finding Neverland, M. Forster, 2004

© Walt Disney Production

27. Finding Neverland, M. Forster, 2004

© Walt Disney Production

28. Finding Neverland, M. Forster, 2004

© Walt Disney Production

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Bibliographie

I. Primary sources

1. Books

Barrie, James Matthew. Peter Pan. Reading: Penguin Books, 1995.

Barrie, James Matthew. Peter Pan and Other Plays. Ed. Peter Hollindale.Oxford: Oxford World’s Classics, 2006.

2. Films

Brenon, Herbert dir. Peter Pan. Perf. Betty Bronson and Ernest Torrence. Paramount Pictures 1924.

Forster, Marc dir. Finding Neverland. Perf. Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet. Miramax Film, 2004.

Hogan, P.J. dir. Peter Pan. Perf. Jason Isaacs and Jeremy Sumpter. Universal Studio, 2003.

Jackson, Wilfried , Hamilton Luske and Clyde Geronimi dir. Peter Pan. Disney Pictures, 1953.

Spielberg, Steven dir. Hook. Perf. Robin Williams, Dustin Hoffman and Julia Roberts. Tristar Pictures, 1991

II. Secondary sources

2.1 Books

Bossy, Cyrille. Steven Spielberg - Un univers de jeux. Paris : L’Harmattan, 1998.

Girveau, Bruno. Il était une fois Walt Disney. Aux sources de l’art des studios Disney. Paris : Editions de la réunion des musées nationaux Disney, 2006.

Green, Roger Lancelyn. Fifty Years of Peter Pan. London: Peter Davies, 1954.

Hanson, Bruce K. The Peter Pan Chronicles – The Nearly One-Hundred-Year History of the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up. New York: Carol Publishing Book, 1993.

Kavey, Allison B. and Friedman Lester D. Second Star to the Right: Peter Pan in the Popular Imagination. N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2009.

Plana, Muriel. Roman, théâtre, cinéma – Adaptations, hybridations et dialogues des arts. Paris: Bréal, 2004.

Poncet, Marie-Thérèse. L’esthétique du Dessin Animé. Paris : A-G Nizet, 1952.

White, R. Donna and Anita C. Tarr and. J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan In And Out of Time: A Children’s Classic at 100. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2006.

2.2 Film Reviews and Essays

Allen, Norman. “Peter Pan turns 100”, Smithsonian Washington: Dec 2004. vol. 35, Iss. 9; pg. 108, 6 pgs. Academic Research Library Proquest Mar. 15, 2009.

Birkin, Andrew. “Peter Pan and his Creator” http://www.jmbarrie.co.uk/boycastaways/ab_on_JMB_RSC.html

Gleiberman, Owen. “Hook”, http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,316539,00.html

Godard, Jean-Pierre.“Hook”, in a Chapter extracted from his Book Steven Spielberg, Mythes & Chaos. Paris : Horizon Illimité, 2003.

Hallett, Vicky. “The pain behind Peter Pan”, U.S. News & World Report. Washington: Nov 8, 2004. vol. 137, Iss. 16; p. 73. Academic Research Library Proquest Mar. 19, 2009.

Haun, Harry. “Peter Pan Complex: Marc Forster Enters J. M. Barrie’s World with ’Finding Neverland’.” Film Journal International 107.10 (Oct. 2004): 14. MLA International Bibliography. EBSCO Mar. 26, 2009

Nevins, Debby. “Peter Pan Across Time: From the Page to the Big Screen”, Writing, Oct 2004; 27, 2; Academic Research Library Proquest Mar. 19, 2009.

Scott, A.O.“Even in Fabled Neverland, A World of Contradictions”, The New York Times (Late Edition (East Coast)). New York, N.Y.: Dec 25, 2003. p. E.5. Academic Research Library Proquest Mar.19, 2009.

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Notes

1 In the film, the camera remains static and offers a pre-eminently frontal and panoramic vision of the scenes placing the viewers in a remote position similar to the one of the audience in the orchestra of a theatre. It is probable it was partly due to material and technical reasons at the time, but the director might also have purposefully wanted this.

2 As quoted by Roger Lancelyn Green in Fifty Years of Peter Pan (London: Peter Davies, 1954) 170.

3 « Finding Neverland is a charming but heavily fictionalized concoction, playing fast-and-loose with the facts of Barrie's life in order to tell a simpler, more romantic story. » Andrew Birkins, « Peter Pan and his Creator » http://www.jmbarrie.co.uk/boycastaways/ab_on_JMB_RSC.html .

4 Owen Gleiberman, « Hook » http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,316539,00.html

5 Cyril Bossy, Steven Spielberg, Un Univers de Jeux (Paris: L'Harmattan, 1998) 175. Also, in Steven Spielberg Mythe and Chaos (Paris: Horizon Illimité, 2003), Jean-Pierre Godard reports: « Il [Spielberg] veut refaire  »du vieux« , revenir aux films […] avec des décors tout studio. Il raconte d'ailleurs que son plateau était un des plus grands jamais vus à Hollywood depuis le temps du Magicien d'Oz, film qui l'inspira […] » 93.

6 L'écran Fantastique n°125, avril/mai 1992, p.38 as quoted by Bossy 176.

7 Bossy 176.

8 See illustration 10.

9 « The most cinematic example of the former [time's passage] emerges in director Steven Spielberg's lavish production of Hook […] To visually underscore the importance of lost time, Spielberg fills the mise-en-scène with an almost numbing variety of time pieces, from postcard-perfect shots of Big Ben, to the intimate pocket watch Peter gives his son Jack (Charlie Korsmo), to Hook's (Dustin Hoffman) emblematic museum of broken clocks. », Allison B. Kavey. and Friedman Lester D., Second Star to the Right: Peter Pan in the Popular Imagination. (N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2009) 196.

10 See illustration 10.

11 Peter Hollindale, a lecturer specialized in literature for children who wrote the preface from the 1999 Oxford Classic's edition of the play Peter Pan, explained about Barrie that « he remains a strong, ostensibly self-denying but actually conspicuous persona between his creations and their audience. » J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan and Other Plays (Ed. Peter Hollindale.Oxford: Oxford World's Classics, 2006) XVIII.

12 Bossy 176. In his essay « Barrie's Immortal Pirate in Fiction and Film », Lester D. Friedman similarly compares Captain Hook's entrance in Spielberg's film to « the grandiose preambles spewed forth at a pro-wrestling match » and he quotes the film: « 'The cunning kingfish, the bad barracuda, a man so deep he's almost unfathomable, a man so quick he is even fast asleep. So let's give him a very big hand 'cause he only got one. I give you CAPTAIN JAMES HOOOOOK!' The crowd takes up the robust chant like a Jerry Springer audience: 'Hook. Hook.Hook.'[…] The camera swings around to view the man from behind, as the mantra continues and the captain takes a deep bow.  »(Kavey, Friedman 205).

13 See illustrations 13,14. Gleiberman describes Hoffman in his role of Hook: « Dustin Hoffman is hidden under pounds of ornate costuming – flowing black musketeer curls, a 17th-century mariner's coat with lace shooting out the cuffs, blocky-elegant shoes with shiny red heels. Almost nothing about this man seems to have very much to do with flesh […]. His Captain Hook is crafty, exuberant, cock-of-the-walk, a villain who drinks in the pleasure of his own nastiness […]. Hook's voice, with its rolling British cadences, its echoes of Boris Karloff's lispy melancholy, is unexpectedly gentle, even fawning. At times, Hoffman might be doing a parody of those effete, decadent British villains of the '50s and early '60s. Hook, who seems to revel in how grotesque he is, is harmlessly, lyrically nutty. » (Gleiberman 1).

14 For both quotations, Friedman refers to Yeoman Now or Neverland 133 in Kavey 202.

15 « In the 1850s elements of burlesque theatre were introduced into pantomime […] new stock characters like the comic Dame played by a man in drag. » White xii. « Rooted in the Italian tradition of the Commedia dell' arte, the  »panto«  form began appearing on British playbills in the early eighteenth century […]. By the late nineteenth century, the typical pantomime was a comic manifestation of the fairy tale and contained a number of stock characters, including the Dame, the part of an adult woman played by a grown man, and the Principal Boy, the part of a juvenile hero played by an adult woman. » Donna R. Whie and Anita C. Tarr and. J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan In And Out of Time: A Children's Classic at 100. (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2006.) 225.

16 See illustrations 15.

17 Ernest Torrence was a Scottish actor who appeared in several Hollywood films, both silent and talkies. Torrence also brought his talent to Broadway where he took part in musicals, operas and operettas such as The Night Boat, The Dove of Peace or Modest Suzanne in the 1920s. He often played villains.

18 Kavey 205-206.

19 « Peter Pan » films in review 4 (1953) 94 as quoted in Kavey 178.

20 See illustrations 16,17.

21 In the novel, J.M Barrie elaborates on each pirate, giving them a background and a few striking features.

22 Kavey 171-173.

23 Kavey 204.

24 See illustrations 18,19.

25 See illustrations 20,21.

26 See illustration 20.

27 Personal transcription from the bonus material « La Magie de Neverland » (Making of) DVD Neverland. The same applied to the following quotations.

28 See illustrations 25.

29 Quote extracted from the bonus material « La Magie de Neverland (Making of) » DVD Neverland.

30 See illustrations 26.

31 The Man Who Was Peter Pan (1998) by Allan Knee.

32 Besides, J.M. Barrie's behaviour, throughout his life, betrayed a desire to leave his writings unstable and irresolute as he kept delaying the publication of the various texts for Peter Pan.

33 Plana enlarges up on the benefits of the contacts between several art forms: « L'art conscient de lui même n'ignore pas les voisinages, les connexions entre les modes d'expression, les assume et, rejetant de plus en plus l'idée de sa « pureté », y voit un agent d'enrichissement, de remise en question productive, voire de progrès. Le paradoxe est que, dans ce rapprochement même des formes, les artistes (et ceux qui analyseront leurs oeuvres) pourront percevoir plus clairement ce qui reste de l'identité d'un art : devenus proches, cinéma, roman et théâtre doivent plus que jamais s'assurer de ce qui les rend uniques et irremplaçables... » Muriel Plana, Roman, théâtre, cinéma – Adaptations, hybridations et dialogues des arts (Paris : Bréal, 2004) « Avant-propos ».

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Table des illustrations

Légende 1. Hook, S. Spielberg, 1991
Crédits © Amblin Entertainment-Tristar
URL http://journals.openedition.org/belphegor/docannexe/image/397/img-1.png
Fichier image/png, 202k
Légende 2. Hook, S. Spielberg, 1991
Crédits © Amblin Entertainment-Tristar
URL http://journals.openedition.org/belphegor/docannexe/image/397/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 12k
Légende 3. Hook, S. Spielberg, 1991
Crédits © Amblin Entertainment-Tristar
URL http://journals.openedition.org/belphegor/docannexe/image/397/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 16k
Légende 4. Hook, S. Spielberg, 1991
Crédits © Amblin Entertainment-Tristar
URL http://journals.openedition.org/belphegor/docannexe/image/397/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 16k
Légende 5. Hook, S. Spielberg, 1991
Crédits © Amblin Entertainment-Tristar
URL http://journals.openedition.org/belphegor/docannexe/image/397/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 20k
Légende 6. Hook, S. Spielberg, 1991
Crédits © Amblin Entertainment-Tristar
URL http://journals.openedition.org/belphegor/docannexe/image/397/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 28k
Légende 7. Hook, S. Spielberg, 1991
Crédits © Amblin Entertainment-Tristar
URL http://journals.openedition.org/belphegor/docannexe/image/397/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 28k
Légende 8. Hook, S. Spielberg, 1991
Crédits © Amblin Entertainment-Tristar
URL http://journals.openedition.org/belphegor/docannexe/image/397/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 16k
Légende 9. Hook, S. Spielberg, 1991
Crédits © Amblin Entertainment-Tristar
URL http://journals.openedition.org/belphegor/docannexe/image/397/img-9.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 16k
Légende 10. Hook, S. Spielberg, 1991
Crédits © Amblin Entertainment-Tristar
URL http://journals.openedition.org/belphegor/docannexe/image/397/img-10.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 16k
Légende 11. Peter Pan, Walt Disney, 1953
Crédits ©Walt Disney Production
URL http://journals.openedition.org/belphegor/docannexe/image/397/img-11.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 20k
Légende 12. Peter Pan, Walt Disney, 1953
Crédits ©Walt Disney Production
URL http://journals.openedition.org/belphegor/docannexe/image/397/img-12.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 16k
Légende 13. Peter Pan, Walt Disney, 1953
Crédits ©Walt Disney Production
URL http://journals.openedition.org/belphegor/docannexe/image/397/img-13.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 16k
Légende 14. Peter Pan, Walt Disney, 1953
Crédits ©Walt Disney Production
URL http://journals.openedition.org/belphegor/docannexe/image/397/img-14.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 16k
Légende 15. Peter Pan, Walt Disney, 1953
Crédits ©Walt Disney Production
URL http://journals.openedition.org/belphegor/docannexe/image/397/img-15.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 20k
Légende 16. Peter Pan, P.J. Hogan, 2003
Crédits © Universal Studios
URL http://journals.openedition.org/belphegor/docannexe/image/397/img-16.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 20k
Légende 17. Peter Pan, P.J. Hogan, 2003
Crédits © Universal Studios
URL http://journals.openedition.org/belphegor/docannexe/image/397/img-17.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 20k
Légende 18. Peter Pan, P.J. Hogan, 2003
Crédits © Universal Studios
URL http://journals.openedition.org/belphegor/docannexe/image/397/img-18.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 20k
Légende 19. Peter Pan, P.J. Hogan, 2003
Crédits © Universal Studios
URL http://journals.openedition.org/belphegor/docannexe/image/397/img-19.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 16k
Légende 20. Peter Pan, P.J. Hogan, 2003
Crédits © Universal Studios
URL http://journals.openedition.org/belphegor/docannexe/image/397/img-20.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 28k
Légende 21. Peter Pan, P.J. Hogan, 2003
Crédits © Universal Studios
URL http://journals.openedition.org/belphegor/docannexe/image/397/img-21.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 20k
Légende 22. Peter Pan, P.J. Hogan, 2003
Crédits © Universal Studios
URL http://journals.openedition.org/belphegor/docannexe/image/397/img-22.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 16k
Légende 23. Finding Neverland, M. Forster, 2004
Crédits © Walt Disney Production
URL http://journals.openedition.org/belphegor/docannexe/image/397/img-23.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 16k
Légende 24. Finding Neverland, M. Forster, 2004
Crédits © Walt Disney Production
URL http://journals.openedition.org/belphegor/docannexe/image/397/img-24.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 16k
Légende 25. Finding Neverland, M. Forster, 2004
Crédits © Walt Disney Production
URL http://journals.openedition.org/belphegor/docannexe/image/397/img-25.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 16k
Légende 26. Finding Neverland, M. Forster, 2004
Crédits © Walt Disney Production
URL http://journals.openedition.org/belphegor/docannexe/image/397/img-26.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 16k
Légende 27. Finding Neverland, M. Forster, 2004
Crédits © Walt Disney Production
URL http://journals.openedition.org/belphegor/docannexe/image/397/img-27.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 16k
Légende 28. Finding Neverland, M. Forster, 2004
Crédits © Walt Disney Production
URL http://journals.openedition.org/belphegor/docannexe/image/397/img-28.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 13k
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Référence électronique

Charlotte Wensierski, « Theatrical aspects in the cinematographic adaptations of Peter Pan: reminders of the initial form of the story », Belphégor [En ligne], 10-3 | 2011, mis en ligne le 10 janvier 2013, consulté le 13 décembre 2017. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/belphegor/397 ; DOI : 10.4000/belphegor.397

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