With Peter Pan Live! airing on December 4, and the film Pan coming out in 2015, Peter Pan is experiencing his (and sometimes her) own comeback. Of course, Peter Pan is a beloved children's classic and throughout the years there have been a tremendous amount of Peter Pan stage and screen adaptations. Ever since Scottish playwright J.M. Barrie first introduced Peter Pan to the world in 1904, the entertainment industry has tried numerous ways to tell the tale of the boy who never grew up. And why the hell not? If we are going to keep getting reboots of franchises from the entertainment industry anyway, I guess I'd prefer a story with pirates, mermaids, and — of course — flying.
The story is so timeless and it's hard to shake our preconceived notions of what we expect. But how did we get here? As Allison Williams will don the green tights for NBC's live version of the stage play (with a bunch of new songs), it made me wonder what I'll be comparing her performance to. So let's head to Neverland to check out some of the most iconic adaptations of the Peter Pan story — it's just the second star to the right and straight on till morning! (And sorry, Once Upon a Time fans — they have messed with all sorts of fairy tales, so I'm not giving them credit for Peter.)
Disney's Peter Pan (1953)
Disney's 1953 animated movie forever cemented what Peter Pan should look and sound like in most people's minds. Although there are differences between Disney's spin and the stage version (Disney always has a way of making things less dark), it's hard to not imagine ginger-boy Peter since him flying with Wendy and her brothers around Big Ben is a classic scene.
Peter Pan on Broadway and TV (1950s–1970s)
Mary Martin is the person I most associate with the stage version of Peter Pan. She was Peter in the Broadway musical version (which she won a Tony Award for in 1955) and was in three NBC television specials. I owned the 1960 TV version on VHS (recorded off the TV — commercials and all) and though there are other versions of women in the role (including Mia Farrow in 1976), Martin's rendition of a grown woman playing Peter will forever haunt my dreams.
This 1991 movie from director Steven Spielberg showed what happened to Peter after he left Neverland (spoiler alert: He became a total adult buzzkill in the form of Robin Williams). He ends up going back and fights Hook (portrayed by Dustin Hoffman) for stealing his lame-ass son Jack (am I the only person who couldn't stand that kid?).
Peter Pan (2003)
In this 2003 movie, Draco Malfoy's father (aka Jason Isaacs) played double duty as Captain Hook and Mr. Darling. Jeremy Sumpter was the titular character, and I appreciated his age-appropriateness — although the tension between Wendy and Peter in this Christmas Day–release makes me feel a bit uncomfortable.
Finding Neverland (2004)
Not strictly an adaptation of the story, Finding Neverland is the origin tale of how Peter Pan came to be. It follows playwright Barrie as he befriends a widow named Sylvia and her four sons — one which becomes the inspiration for Peter. With an amazing cast of Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, and Dustin Hoffman (who must really love Peter Pan), the movie snagged an Academy Award Best Picture nomination in 2005.
Peter Pan Live! (2014)
NBC is trying to re-create the Mary Martin magic on December 4 by having Allison Williams fill the role. Although we can't be sure the quality of the live version until we see it at 8 p.m., I'm hoping it's better than Sound of Music Live! (it's gotta be, right?). If not, maybe Williams' version of the boy will take the coveted position of haunting my dreams over Martin's version.
Finding Neverland on Broadway (2015)
The musical version based on the film Finding Neverland will open on Broadway in March 2015. The tryout version of the musical was playing at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts and starred Broadway alums Jeremy Jordan and Laura Michelle Kelly. When it opens on Broadway, Matthew Morrison will take over the role of J.M. Barrie, and we've seen how good Morrison is with working with kids, thanks to Glee.
Pan, the dark-looking movie from director Joe Wright, looks to shake up the tale of Peter Pan with Hugh Jackman being the main villain as Blackbeard. I have a lot of faith in Wright, who is best known for his gorgeous, lush-looking films and frequently casting Keira Knightley. Although the film is facing some deserved scandal for casting Rooney Mara as Tiger Lily, the visual stunner will be out in July 2015.
Considering how many adaptations there have been over the years, this Peter Pan love really isn't anything new. In the immortal words of LL Cool J, "Don't call it a comeback."