Peter Pan: If you’re Wendy’s daughter you’re gonna love it here.
Disney sequels don’t often have the best reputation. Many of them have been straight to video and often prove to be massive downgrades in terms of not only animation but also storytelling. Aside from this one, only one other Disney sequels released in theatres were Jungle Book 2 and Rescuers Down Under. But despite its flaws, this movie proves to have a great deal of heart and effort that made it worth putting on the big screen.
The story is that a now grown-up Wendy Darling has two children of her own: a daughter named Jane and a son named Danny. Unfortunately, they are born during the devastating time of World War 2 and her husband is sent off to fight in it. Jane due to the war has forced herself to grow up faster than most children. Wendy tries to keep stories of Peter Pan alive but this ultimately proves futile particularly with Jane dismissing them as nonsense due to the ongoing war. To make matters worse Jane and her brother are to be evacuated from London due to the bombings. However, Captain Hook and his crew kidnap Jane and take her to Neverland mistaking her for Wendy. Peter Pan rescues her and with his and the Lost Boys’ help she has to figure out how to get back home and find her inner child in the process all while avoiding the pirates’ wrath.
Not unlike Spielberg’s Hook before it, the story is basically the main character learning how to be a kid again. But unlike Hook, you see some of the pressures of the war such as being forced to give up childhood pleasantries like toys, facing daily bombings, etc. and the effect it has on Jane making it understandable why she’s forced herself to mature faster and why it is difficult for her to be happy.
The movie also has very subtle hints of conveying emotion. Such an example includes Jane in a fit of frustration about to hurt one of the Lost Boys but hugs him instead upon being reminded of her brother. Another example includes when Jane tries to shake Peter’s hand and Peter having never been let alone known a grown-up has no idea how to respond to his gesture. There’s also a scene at the end where the young Peter Pan meets the grown-up Wendy and it’s shown in both a very simple yet emotional way.
The new voice actors, particularly for the returning characters, are incredible. They manage to not only sound but also capture the magic of the original voice actors.
The animation is top notch. All the imagery when CaptainHook is flying Jane through London on his ship has some of the most incredible imagery throughout the movie and you feel like you’re in the moment at every turn. But also the animations on the characters help convey the aforementioned emotions throughout the movie.
The movie does, however, have its fair share of flaws. For starters, they use pop songs, which do not at all fit in a movie that takes place during World War 2. Outside of the one song, the Lost Boys sing none of the songs are particularly memorable.
Another flaw is that instead of the crocodile chasing Captain Hook an octopus is chasing him now for no apparent reason. It even seems to make a similar ticking sound with its tentacles for even less reason. Even though the slapstick between the two is well done there seems to no reason as to why the crocodile couldn’t be put back in.
Despite its flaws, Return to Neverland genuinely feels like something the creators wanted to continue the story. It didn’t feel like something that they were pressured into by the studio. If you’re looking for flaws there are no shortage of them. However the magic and whimsy of Neverland is strong in this one.