‘Return to Never Land’ (Film)

‘RETURN TO NEVER LAND’

Please feel free to comment on my review.

Peter Pan and Captain Hook with Jane

This ‘Peter Pan’ Disney sequel isn’t as bad as people make it out to be!

In February/March 2002, I saw ‘Return to Never Land’, the sequel to the 1953 ‘Peter Pan’ film by Disney, on the big screen. This is unusual as most of the Disney sequels I’d seen until then had been released on VHS or DVD. This was the very first time I saw a Disney sequel like that on the big screen.

I enjoyed ‘Return to Never Land’ when I saw it on the big screen. I wouldn’t say it was a great sequel to the 1953 ‘Peter Pan’ film, but it did echo what was already good about the original Disney film and it evoked what was already established in J.M. Barrie’s ‘Peter Pan’ play. Something I’d expect. 🙂

The film takes place decades after the events of the first film. Wendy is now grown up and she’s married to a man called Edward. They have two children whom they name Jane and Daniel ‘Danny’. Soon, World War II rages, causing Edward to leave and fight as Wendy and the children stay behind.

Years go by and Jane becomes a serious girl, not wishing to believe in her mother’s stories about Peter Pan during the Blitz in London. Only her younger brother Danny believes in the stories about the boy who never grows up; Never Land and pirates whilst Jane refers to it as ‘childish nonsense’. 😐

After a furious argument with her mother and brother one night, Jane gets abducted by Captain Hook, Peter Pan’s arch-nemesis and his pirates, who sail through the night sky during a German raid on his pixie-dust enchanted ship, the Jolly Roger. Seeing that sequence of the Jolly Roger is amazing!

Hook mistakes Jane for Wendy, hoping to feed her to an angry and hungry octopus in order to lure Peter Pan into a trap. Thankfully Peter rescues Jane whilst Hook escapes the octopus. Soon, Peter and the Lost Boys help Jane to get her home, but she must be encouraged to believe as well as to fly.

What I like about this film is how Jane’s progression as a character from a girl who tries to be grown-up before believing in Peter Pan and magic is well-handled. There are echoes of ‘Hook’ found in this movie where Jane struggles to believe in the child-like aspects of Never Land, but I don’t mind that.

An intriguing fact to point out is that this film was released a year before the live-action ‘Peter Pan’ movie was released at cinemas in December 2003. I still like the Disney ‘Peter Pan’ movies and it’s fascinating how much I was able to pick up from the Disney films before seeing the live-action film. 🙂

This is especially in getting to learn that Jane was Wendy’s daughter in the original J.M. Barrie play and that she wasn’t a character invented for the Disney sequel. Jane being Wendy’s daughter gets echoed again in an alternative ending for the live-action ‘Peter Pan’ film, which I’ve seen on its DVD.

A fascinating thing I was introduced to in this film was that if you say “I don’t believe in fairies”, a fairy like Tinker Bell can slowly die. That’s something that wasn’t introduced in the original ‘Peter Pan’ film from 1953 and it’s fascinating that it gets introduced in this Disney sequel released in 2002.

After watching ‘Return to Never Land’, I understood the aspect of fairies dying off after someone said “There’s no such things as fairies” in the 2003 live-action ‘Peter Pan’ film. Despite a lot of people criticising ‘Return to Never Land’ upon release, there are amazingly good things to find in this movie.

I also like how Captain Hook gets to be seen as very manipulative, especially when persuading Jane to betray Peter and the Lost Boys upon finding his treasure. That was in the 1953 film but not to the same extent as it is in this film. It’s an aspect that gets repeated again in ‘Hook’ and the 2003 movie.

The voices for the characters are surprisingly well-matched from the 1953 film. There are issues with the Lost Boys characters’ voices, especially Chubby (who I just realised is voiced by Spencer Breslin who was in 2006’s ‘The Shaggy Dog’ and two ‘Santa Clause’ movies), but most of the voices are good. 🙂

I like Peter Pan and how he sounds like how he was from the 1953 film. He’s still boisterous and full of himself, but I like how he interacts with Jane, even after learning she’s Wendy’s daughter. I liked those moments when he got angry, especially when Jane seemingly betrayed him and the Lost Boys.

At the end of the movie, there’s a scene where Peter reunites with Wendy as a grown-up. It’s a short scene outside the bedroom window and not much is said between them, but it’s subtle and well-handled. I believe it’s a scene that is many people’s favourite about the movie. And I’d concur there.

Like I said, Jane’s character progression is well-handled from being a serious girl to enjoying herself in Never Land and coming to learn in Peter Pan, fairies and such. The scene where Jane mourns for Tinker Bell’s death is so well-handled before Tink gets revived and it does earn Jane that belief to fly.

Tinker Bell was a joy to see in this film. She does get easily jealous again when Peter pays more attention to Jane than her. It does get worrying when Tink loses her pixie light after Jane declares she doesn’t believe in fairies. Thankfully Jane’s sorrow and belief grants her to be resurrected in this.

I greatly enjoyed Captain Hook in this movie. He proves to be a great villain in these Disney ‘Peter Pan’ films and I like how devious he gets when manipulating Jane to betray the Lost Boys. It’s a shame he doesn’t get to say “I’LL GIVE YOU A SPLASH!!!” in this movie, but it’s still great to see him.

I enjoyed Hook’s interaction with Mr. Smee too. I don’t feel it has the same comedic value as in the 1953 film, but you can tell the makers of this film were trying to evoke it somehow. The scene where Smee is massaging Hook is an example of that, especially when they get disturbed by the octopus. 😀

Yeah, about the octopus! I was disappointed it wasn’t the crocodile from the first film in this movie. There are some amusing bits with the octopus, but it’s not the same. The popping sounds it makes when chasing after Hook, his pirates and their pirate ship echoes the tick-tock from the crocodile. 😐

It’s the same group of Lost Boys characters in this film, including Cubby as a bear; Nibs as a rabbit; Slightly as a fox; the Twins as racoons and Tootles as a shunk. I didn’t like it when Peter and the Lost Boys had to spit in their hands before shaking to an agreement. That felt rather unnecessary for me.

One of the criticisms made about the film is that the songs aren’t as good as the ones in the original. Which…yeah, I had to agree. Whilst there is a good rendition of ‘Second Star to the Right’ sung by Jonatha Brooke at the beginning of the film, the rest of the songs aren’t as memorable as you’d like.

Also, most of the songs are modern-sounding from the early 2000s which doesn’t match the music featured in the 1953 film. There are songs like ‘I’ll Try’ performed by Jonatha Brooke and ‘Do You Believe in Magic’ performed by BBMak during the film’s end credits which sound pretty 2000s indeed.

There’s a song called ‘So to Be One of Us’/’Now That You’re One of Us’ that’s sung by the Lost Boys when they’re training Jane to become the first Lost Girl which isn’t that memorable either. I did like how the movie’s end credits mentioned the Great Ormond Street Hospital connected to Peter Pan. 🙂

The DVD special features are as follows. There’s ‘Disney Story Time: Never Land’s New Hero’, the ‘Rescue the Lost Boys’ adventure game; ‘Lost Treasures: Deleted Scenes’; the ‘I’ll Try’ music video featuring Jonatha Brooke, a cartoon called ‘Pluto’s Fledgling’, ‘Art Attack – How to Make Your Own Island’ and a DVD-ROM sampler of ‘You Can Fly’.

‘Return to Never Land’ has had many re-releases on DVD and Blu-ray with some brand-new bonus features added to them. I’m happy to have the original 1-disc DVD edition of ‘Return to Never Land’ from 2002.

‘Return to Never Land’ is a really nice sequel to Disney’s ‘Peter Pan’. It’s not as good as the 1953 film, but it does evoke the spirit of it. I have a soft spot for ‘Return to Never Land’ since I saw it on the big screen back in 2002 and it features an intriguing story about how Jane, Wendy’s daughter met Peter.

‘Return to Never Land’ rating – 8/10


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Return to Peter Pan
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