Saturday, January 12, 2013

Tonight's Movie: Peter Pan (1953) at the El Capitan Theatre

Last year I somehow managed to see 55 movies on a big theater screen. I don't know if I can repeat that record this year, but I'm on my way, having seen my first big screen film of the year today, PETER PAN (1953) at the historic El Capitan Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard.

PETER PAN has always been a special Disney movie for me. As I wrote last summer when I saw Kathryn Beaumont, the voice of Wendy and Alice, her voice is one of my earliest childhood memories; I had a storybook album with PETER PAN on one side and ALICE IN WONDERLAND on the other which I played more times than I could possibly guess.

I saw the film on one of its reissues when I was a child, and in more recent years, I have fun memories of my younger son exclaiming "Boy coming!" in awed tones whenever he saw the DVD as a toddler. It had been a very long time since I actually sat down and watched the movie myself, so the film's run at the El Capitan was a wonderful reason to do so.

As was the case with CINDERELLA (1950), I loved the exquisitely colored title sequence, and I got a kick out of realizing that Tom Conway, the Falcon himself, was one of the voice actors. In fact, I recognized his voice as soon as the movie started -- he's the opening narrator!

The story is so well known I won't mention it here, other than to say it's funny how my mind tends to mix up the Disney movie with the Mary Martin version which I taped from an NBC broadcast when my oldest daughter was small. (Why on earth isn't that version currently "in print" in an affordable DVD?!) I was thus a bit surprised that the Lost Boys didn't go home with the Darling children at the end!

Bobby Driscoll voices Peter Pan; his other Disney credits included SONG OF THE SOUTH (1946), SO DEAR TO MY HEART (1948), and TREASURE ISLAND (1950). Hans Conreid is both Captain Hook and Mr. Darling, with Heather Angel as Mrs. Darling. June Foray, who is in her 90s and still working today, was both a mermaid and an Indian squaw. Margaret Kerry, one of the "live" models for Tinker Bell, voices a mermaid. The great Thurl Ravenscroft (Tony the Tiger) sings in the chorus.

Aside from the film's beautiful look, which was partly styled by the great Mary Blair, I especially love the film's Sammy Fain-Sammy Cahn score, which includes "You Can Fly!" and "The Second Star to the Right." These songs are incredibly evocative for me, a mixture of memories of the movie itself, my childhood, and the beloved Disneyland ride.

A couple of the songs were written by others; Frank Churchill, one of the SNOW WHITE composers, wrote "Never Smile at a Crocodile," and the multitalented Winston Hibler wrote "Following the Leader" with Ted Sears.

This 77-minute movie was directed by Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, and Hamilton Luske; IMDb also lists an uncredited Jack Kinney.

PETER PAN has been released on DVD in a very nice two-disc Platinum Edition and a simpler Special Edition. It will be out in a new Blu-ray/DVD combo pack on February 5, 2013.

The movie has also been released on VHS.

Prior to the movie an episode of the Disney children's TV series JAKE AND THE NEVERLAND PIRATES was shown, and I regret to say it was absolutely mind-numbing in its dumbed-down simplicity. The movie was also preceded by the traditional El Capitan organ music and confetti drop; the confetti blast never fails to thrill the small fry in the audience!

We hope to go see MULAN (1998) at the El Capitan in a few weeks' time!

Previously: Tonight's Movie: Lady and the Tramp (1955) at the El Capitan Theatre and Tonight's Movie: Cinderella (1950) at the El Capitan Theatre.


Blogger Robby Cress said...

This one of my favorite Disney animated films as a young boy. I would enjoy seeing this one on the big screen. Now that I have 9 month old daughter, it is definitely been a lot harder catching screenings in the theater. I can't wait until she is a little older and I can take her to these types of screenings!

8:29 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Having four children, I can certainly relate to that, Robby! You'll be amazed, though, how quickly time will pass, and before you know it you'll be able to enjoy movies with your daughter. My oldest daughter came along today and it was fun to reminisce about seeing Disney movies with her when she was little! Time really does fly.

Best wishes,

8:37 PM  

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