Biggest changes from Disney animated film
“Peter Pan” has been adapted countless times for the big and small screen.
But for Jude Law, none compares to his memories of acting out the story with his young son Rafferty, now 26.
Growing up, “his love of it was so infectious,” recalls Law, who stars in the Disney+ film “Peter Pan & Wendy” (streaming Friday). “Playing that with him was probably my favorite version, until this one.”
Directed by David Lowery (“The Green Knight”) and featuring Law as Captain Hook, the live-action remake leans into the bittersweet coming-of-age theme of J.M. Barrie’s 1911 novel. Here’s how the new movie updates Disney’s 1953 animated classic:
Jude Law’s Captain Hook isn’t a mustache-twirling villain
Unlike flamboyant past versions of Hook, this iteration is deeply tragic. Over the course of the film, we learn that Hook has a complex history with Peter Pan (Alexander Molony) that goes beyond swordplay, which makes him more “frightening” yet “sympathetic,” Law says. He also looks less dapper and more grizzled than the animated character.
“I wasn’t really interested in necklaces and earrings,” Law says. “I wanted him to be a tactical pirate. I liked the idea that his hat and coat are from different admiralties: that he would’ve conquered a Spaniard, or a Frenchman, or an Englishman and taken these as trophies to wear. And I loved that he was disheveled and very much the symbol of scarred aging. He dyed his hair and was clearly trying to hide he was falling apart.”
Wendy is a broody teen who doesn’t want to grow up
Wendy (Ever Anderson) has the most fleshed-out arc in this adaptation. In the beginning, she butts heads with her parents and revolts against boarding school, but eventually comes to realize that there is genuine joy in getting older. “We’ve all felt that sense of being yanked out of our comfort zone and lashing out,” Lowery says. “What I wanted her to do was to learn how to go through this inevitable change with a sense of grace. That was one of the key cornerstones for the movie: to get to that point where she sees that growing up doesn’t have to be wrong.”
The Lost Boys no longer ‘exclude anyone’
Peter’s mischievous cohorts in Neverland are no longer just Lost Boys, but rather, Lost Kids. Girls and boys of different races make up the group, which also includes a teenager with Down syndrome (Noah Matthews Matofsky). “I’ve got so many nieces and nephews who would all love to go on this adventure,” Lowery says. “Then I started thinking of all the other kids around the world who (love this story). I wanted them all to be able to take part and see themselves in it.”
Adds Law: “It just broadens the sense of, ‘Oh, Neverland is in my mind and I can go there if I want.’ And why would you exclude anyone from that?”
Yara Shahidi’s Tinker Bell is kinder and more supportive
In most retellings of this story, Tinker Bell is jealous of Wendy and wants to keep Peter for herself. But Lowery wanted to do away with any romantic rivalry, instead showing how Tink teaches Wendy to fly. Later, Wendy saves Tink and helps the fairy find her voice. “The old version, while iconic in its own right, just didn’t hold water anymore,” Lowery says. “There’s this frustration when you watch, like, ‘These two characters could be so complementary.’ Why wouldn’t we take advantage of that and allow them to change one another for the better?”
Live-action Tiger Lily is a ‘corrective’ to the problematic original
Unsurprisingly, the live-action movie does away with the animated film’s racist song and harmful stereotypes of Indigenous people. Instead, Lowery gave the reins to Native consultants and Alyssa Wapanatâhk, who plays warrior princess Tiger Lily. The actress pulled from her own Cree heritage to help ensure authenticity in everything from costumes to language.
“We wrote a version of Tiger Lily that I felt was not only integral to the story but was sort of a corrective to the original animated version, which is of course incredibly problematic,” Lowery says. “But I’m a white dude writing this part and I wanted to hand it over to Alyssa, and let her invest the character with all the things that were important to her in terms of representing a culture.”
The animated Crocodile was a lot more cutesy
In the animated movie, the Crocodile is a somewhat goofy reptile who swallowed Hook’s hand and a ticking clock. But in the live-action remake, he’s a massive, dinosaurian creature who’s out for blood. Lowery pulled inspiration from one particular monstrosity in the original “Star Wars” trilogy.
“As a child, I remember loving the scene in the Rancor pit in ‘Return of the Jedi,’ where the Rancor is eating all of the guards. That was such a thrilling sequence,” Lowery says. “And I was like, ‘If we can bring a little bit of that to our crocodile, we’ll be in great shape.’ ”
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