Series: Fox’s Peter Pan and the Pirates
Season.Episode: 1.1 “Coldest Cut of All”
Original Air Date: 8 September 1990
Length: about 30 minutes
Writers: Karen Willson, Chris Weber
Voice Actors: Peter = Jason Marsden; Wendy Darling = Christina Lange; Tinkerbell = Debi Derryberry (yes that’s her real name); Captain Hook = Tim Curry!
Spoiler-free Synopsis: Peter steals a magical stone from the Ice-King, who declares war on him and the Lost Boys in order to get it back.
Reason for Watching: Mentioned by the Nostalgia Critic as an underrated gem of a kids’ animated show. Plus, the concept of the further adventures of Peter Pan is a great one!
Recommendation: Show looks interesting and fun, although the first episode wasn’t a great intro. If you like the more innovative kids’ TV shows or the idea of an animated series following Peter’s adventures in Neverland, then at least check it out. You’ll have to watch the show on YouTube, though. The company that produced was acquired by Disney ages ago, and they’re unlikely to release on DVD a show with a different version of one of their signature characters.
First, I must say, the idea of a kids’ TV show based on the further adventures of Peter Pan and the Lost Boys is just plain brilliant. There’s a ready and widely-known-and-loved backstory available, plus endless room to invent and innovate. The story is already ripe with symbolism and meaning, and the engaging characters ready to be further developed. Too bad it didn’t last very long. I’d love to see the concept revived and done well.
Second, the theme music is amazing; absolutely perfect for the subject matter and suitably thrilling. Just listen to it. In fact, the music is heavily inspired by the theme music to the 1940 Errol Flynn swashbuckler The Sea Hawk (listen here), which is in my opinion one of the best pirate movies ever. They almost plagiarized there, it sounds so similar. But it works, wonderfully.
So far I’ve only viewed this pilot, and not the rest of the series yet. If it were an episode in the middle of the series, it would be just fine, but it’s rather weaker as an introductory piece. For one thing, it does no introducing. It starts in media res, as it were, with Peter, the Lost Boys, Wendy, John, and Michael all living together comfortably under the tree house in Neverland. The adventure begins almost immediately with no buildup, involving a villain invented completely for the show: The Ice-King, a mostly solitary warlock who seems to control all that is cold and wintry on the island. Additionally, Captain Hook and his pirates of the title barely appear at all, and have nothing to do with this episode’s plot.
Usually the first episode of a series is supposed to offer viewers an idea of what is “normal” for the show, what to expect in tone and character. There’s often some kind of summing up of “the story so far.” Not so here. Now granted, that’s not a huge deal, since the story of Peter Pan is such a part of popular culture here in the West. It’s not hard to figure out what’s going on. It’s just that if you weren’t told this was the pilot episode, you’d never guess.
It keeps me interested in the series, though. I was initially worried, because the animation style is very much early 1990s saccharine Don-Bluth-at-his-sugariest, which I don’t mean as a compliment. The voices at first seemed a little too exaggerated also. Magic seem to be treated as a deus-ex-machina. And Tink talks. I’m of the opinion that Tinkerbell is best as originally portrayed in the play — silent, but with expressive tinkling noises, like in Disney’s cartoon and the 2003 live action film.
However, none of these potential negative elements ended up bothering me as much as I thought they would. The cutesiness doesn’t go overboard, and mostly works the desired effect. And some of the animation is really pretty good. There’s a joy and innocence in it, and in the story as well, that lifts you up and carries you along. It’s just plain fun to see Peter flying around again with the same ease and confidence the Disney version has — and this time, to know that he’s got a good two seasons to spread his adventures over, rather than just a single well-known story lasting 1.5 – 2 hours.
The story ends up yielding some neat effects as well, such as when Neverland is briefly covered in a thick layer of magical ice. There are hints of darkness and maturity below the colorful surface that intrigue me.
In fact, this first episode deals squarely with Peter’s most fundamental character flaw: his enormous ego. It causes him to disregard the warnings and safety of others, and puts all his friends in great danger. In the climax, Peter is forced to fight an evil version of himself, and finds just how bad his hubris really is. Whether he’ll take the lesson to heart in the rest of the show is left to be seen. But it was interesting to see the morality tale play out. Peter seems to act consistently in the show. He’s young and petulant, but clearly cares for his friends. The balance and conflict in his character that has made it so enduring and intriguing throughout all adaptations is present here. I look forward to the rest of the series.