Since 1904, J.M. Barrie’s play Peter Pan, or the Boy Who Never Grew Up has fascinated audiences the world over. In the play, the title character takes the three Darling children on a journey to his home of Neverland, where they encounter pirates, American Indians, and mermaids. The play proved a massive hit for Barrie, who followed up on the original story with sequel plays and novels, the last of which was Peter and Wendy in 1911. Since then, the story of Peter Pan has been adapted multiple times in film, television, song, comics, and more. We’ve pointed out ten of the best or most notable of these below, and you can let us know which is your favorite in the comments.
Peter Pan (1924)
Paramount Pictures was the first to adapt Peter Pan for film, and their first attempt came during the height of the silent film era. The film is essentially a straight adaptation of Barrie’s play and even borrows the play’s dialogue for the intertitles. It leaves in Wendy’s romantic feelings for Peter, though omits the sequel scene “An Afterthought”, in which Peter returned for Wendy to discover she’d grown up.
Peter Pan (1953)
Twenty-nine years later, Walt Disney finally got his hands on the rights to release an animated film based on the story. Within Disney, it’s known for being the last of their films distributed through RKO Pictures as well as the last film that the company’s nine core animators (known as “The Nine Old Men”) worked on together. It removes the romantic subplot between Wendy and Peter while adding several musical numbers. The film would have a lasting effect on the company, with the fairy Tinkerbell being an iconic character used in many Disney title sequences.
Peter Pan (1954 Musical)
Perhaps no stage actor for Peter is as well known as Mary Martin, who starred in the 1954 musical based on the play. While there was a musical that preceded this adaptation in 1950, eventually the songs in that version were mostly dropped. This version, however, went the other direction, becoming a full-blown Broadway musical and winning several Tony Awards and being adapted for television three times.
Neverland (1989 novel by Toby Forward)
Not the most well-remembered literary adaptation of Peter Pan, Toby Forward’s novel Neverland was the first unauthorized work made after the copyright had expired in the United Kingdom. In it, Peter, Hook, and the pirates are brought to life by a video game, with Peter mistaking three modern children for Wendy, John, and Michael.
The Adventures of Peter Pan (1989 Anime Series)
Also known as Peter Pan: The Animated Series, this 1989 cartoon was a Japanese anime adaptation of the original play. The anime does more to play up the budding romance between Wendy and Peter, though, over the course of its 41-episode run, it starts to take a lot of liberties with the original including adding the character of Princess Luna. The American dubbed import was produced by Haim Saban, who would become well known for producing the American Sentai adaptation, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.
Peter Pan and the Pirates (1990 Animated Series)
Meanwhile, the Fox Network developed its own animated series, Peter Pan and the Pirates, that ran for two years from 1990-1991. The series greatly expanded on the original story, including giving much more screen time and character development to the crew members of the Jolly Roger and the Native Americans. It also introduces Wendy’s daughter Jane, who visits Neverland from a point in the future after Wendy grew up.
The first live-action film inspired by Peter Pan, 1991’s Hook was directed by Steven Spielberg and featured an all-star cast with Robin Williams, Dustin Hoffman, Bob Hoskins, Julia Roberts, and Maggie Smith, among others. The story sees a Peter who eventually returned from Neverland, growing up to marry Wendy’s granddaughter and forgetting his past life. When his children are kidnapped by Captain Hook, Peter has to return to Neverland and rediscover himself.
Peter Pan (2003)
2003’s Peter Pan was the first straight live-action adaptation of the play since the 1924 silent film. The film features Jeremy Sumpter as Pan, Rachel Herd-Wood as Wendy, Ludivine Sagnier as Tinker Bell, with Jason Isaacs playing the dual roles of Mr Darling and Captain Hook as it’s done in the play. While critically praised for its faithfulness to the original play, it failed to make back its budget and was a box-office bomb.
Jake and the Neverland Pirates (2011 Animated Series)
As mentioned earlier, Peter Pan has remained a major franchise at Disney, and in 2011, the studio developed the animated series Jake and the Neverland Pirates geared towards younger children for its Disney Junior channel. The main characters, Captain Jake, Izzy, and Cubby, are three child pirates who search for treasure by solving puzzles (called “pirate problems” in the show) while Hook and the Jolly Roger crew attempt to steal the treasure from them.
The most recent attempt to adapt Peter Pan for the screen, Pan serves as a prequel to the original tale. In the film, a young Peter is kidnapped from London by pirates during World War II and taken to Neverland, where he is forced to mine for pixie dust by Captain Blackbeard. He befriends a young Hook and Smee, and together they team up with Tiger Lily to defeat Blackbeard. In a reversal of the previous live-action Peter Pan film, 2015’s Pan was commercially successful but critically panned, so the potential sequel set up at the end of the film never came to pass.
Which one is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!