Let’s talk about the Disney Fairies™.
For all my cynicism about the Disney Corporation I have to give them credit for knowing how to turn content into a product. I didn’t visit a Disney theme park until I was 40 and the wife will tell you that I grumbled all the way. But once we were there I was impressed with the way they integrated the content with the experience. Peter Pan has been a part of that experience since the animated movie debuted in 1953. And now, especially if you have a daughter, you are no doubt aware of Disney’s latest marketing juggernaut, the Disney Fairies. This has resulted in a metric ton of books, movies, and merchandise with which to shower your little princess. Some of this bounty I can highly recommend, particularly the books by Newberry Award winning author Gail Carson Levine. Other material, like the movies, might be harder for a Dad to tolerate. As you can probably guess testosterone levels in these productions are almost nonexistent. But you can rest assured, they are scrupulously harmless. So fire up the DVD, give her a kiss on the top of her little head, and open up your app of choice on the ol’ mobile device.
But where did this conucopia of pixie dust and dreams come from anyway? Well, chances are you’ve seen the aforementioned animated movie, or perhaps even the televised Mary Martin stage version (not that there’s anything wrong with that), or one of the many other film versions. But I would bet cash money you’ve not read the book, which just turned 100. As you may or may not know, the story was originally a play before J. M. Barrie adapted it into a novel and the gravy train has been rolling full steam since the play debuted in 1907.
After my kids fell in love with the Disney version we slowly made our way through the other cinematic adaptations – not to mention the fact that my daughter was steeping herself in all things Disney Fairy. At some point I was looking for audiobooks to keep the little darlings entertained and what should I find in the library but Peter Pan read by that paragon of Harry Potter audiobooks, Jim Dale.
Now, I should step even further aside in my already disgressive commentary (have we talked about the book yet?) to mention that if there’s one thing in this life more important to my kids than air, it’s Harry Potter.
But what, you may rightly ask, does this Jim Dale/Harry Potter business have to do with Peter Pan? My primary concern with giving the kids a 100 year old book is that the language will be too archaic, the narrative style too impenetrable for them to enjoy it. Just think how it feels when you watch a Shakespeare play. If you’re like me it takes a good five mintues at least before my brain adjusts to the language and I can clearly follow what’s going on. Even though I’m getting the gist of the story there are scuttles of cultural references that are just blowing past.
I shouldn’t have been worried. Once they heard the familiar and comforting tones of Jim Dale they dove right in as if it were some strange cousin to Harry Potter, which of course it is.
So after all this, I’m not going to belabor the review with recounting the plot points you should already be intimately familiar with but I will say there are wonderful details in the book that have not translated to the movies. Tinkerbell, for example, is marvelously profane for 1911.
And I’m still haunted by the final scene where the never changing Peter Pan returns again and again to visit successive generations of Wendy’s children. It’s one of the more effective passages illustrating our fleeting moment in a long line of ancestry.