Yesterday I watched one of my favorite movies with my daughters – Peter Pan. I watched a version that I have deemed more true to the book than any other version that I have seen, and each time I watch it I am astounded by how well the producers of this movie have done in portraying the child.
The story of a child who doesn’t want to grow up is intriguing to me for many reasons, because childhood is such a wonderful time. I have often considered myself a child at heart; it doesn’t take much to intrigue me or catch my interest. I love to play and laugh like a child does, some children’s television is much more interesting to me than most adult television, and children’s toys are sometimes as fun for me to play with as they are for a child – depending on what type of toy it is.
On the other side of the coin, however, is the adult in me that is vastly intrigued by the development of the child. I love to watch children as they think through a problem, figure out a task that has so far proven to be difficult, and interact with others around them. It is this view of childhood that makes the movie such a great one for me.
One aspect of the movie that caught my attention was the weather in Neverland. As we all know, children’s worlds revolve around them – they are completely egocentric – and Neverland is Peter’s world. When we are first introduced to Neverland in the movie, the pirate ship is stuck in a sea of ice and the entire land is covered in snow. Smee takes note of the ice cracking and runs to tell Captain Hook, who states, “He’s BACK!” referring to Peter. As long as Peter is happy while in Neverland, the skies are sunny and the weather is gorgeous. But when emotions run high for Peter, the weather acts accordingly. The most notable instance of this is when Tinkerbell dies after drinking the poison meant for Peter and he experiences intense grief: A violent storm brews in the skies, the sea forms whirlpools, and it begins to snow. This weather pattern makes Hook and the pirates think that it is Peter who has died. As Tink comes back to life, the skies clear, the snow stops, and the sun shines again, and Hook realizes that Peter is actually alive.
Peter’s mood also affects his ability to fly; he tells Wendy, John, and Michael that they need to think happy thoughts because they lift you in the air. Hook uses this information to try to defeat Peter when he talks to Peter of Wendy forgetting all about him. As he thinks about this, Peter becomes sad and falls to the ground, and the skies around him grow dark with night. But as Hook is getting ready to sink his hook into Peter, Wendy intervenes and gives Peter a kiss. This sparks uncontrollable happiness in Peter, which practically flings him into the air and causes light to shine all around him.
From a developmental perspective these are interesting lessons because of how children deal with emotions. Anger or frustration, or disappointment causes temper tantrums that are not unlike a violent storm within a child; happiness can cause a child to be alive with excitement, almost to the point of bursting. In fact, some children can become so happy that they almost seem to bounce off of walls. I love how this movie portrayed these emotions in Peter and made them a part of his environment.
I am sure that there are many more lessons from the movie, and some day I will discuss more of them (such as when Wendy tells Peter that he is “deficient” and that his desire to be a boy forever is his “biggest pretend”), but for now I am content with the lessons we get from the showing of Peter’s emotions from the movie.