Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Walt Disney's Surprise Package: Peter Pan and the Pirates

Previously here at 2719 Hyperion, we featured material from the 1944 storybook collection Walt Disney's Surprise Package.  This Simon and Schuster publication is especially notable in that it showcased stories from animated projects then still in production at the Walt Disney Studios.  Included in the anthology is Peter Pan and the Pirates, which preceded the actual animated feature by close to a decade.

Peter Pan and the Pirates is an abbreviated tale, likely derived from whatever story notes and concepts that had been produced by the studio at that time.  In the story, Peter takes the children to Neverland where they meet the Lost Boys and briefly spy on Captain Hook and learn of his connection to the alarm clock ticking crocodile.  All but Peter are later captured by Hook.  The story ends with Peter's daring rescue of his friends and his final confrontation with Hook.

Initially, Wendy, John and Michael are wholly ignorant of Peter Pan and Neverland.  It is Mrs. Darling who first sees Peter Pan in the nursery and tucks his shadow away for safe keeping.  This connection between Peter and Mrs. Darling is actually more faithful to Barrie's original story:
   "But George . . . last night, Nana's night out, I was drowsing here by the fire, when suddenly I saw that boy . . . in the room!  I screamed.  Just then, Nana came back.  She sprang at him, but too late.  The boy leaped for the window and was gone!"
   Mr. Darling looked at his watch.  "Come, dear, we're late.  We haven't time for this foolishness tonight."
   "Wait," said Mrs. Darling.  "The boy escaped, but his shadow hadn't time to get out.  Down came the window and cut it off!  I picked it up and and put it there in the bottom drawer."  She pointed to the bureau.
   Mr. Darling laughed aloud.  "Your head is always so full of stories you're beginning to believe them yourself."
Tinker Bell's role had yet to be developed.  Her participation in the story is minimal and the key story element of her jealousy of Wendy is completely absent.  Even the concept of pixie dust bestowing the power of flight was not yet present.

One strange concept that did not survive to the final film was the toxic nature of Hook's tears:
   The pirates dragged the children off.  Now Hook was ready for his prey.  Smacking his lips, he whipped out his dagger.  He squeezed himself into the nearest tree trunk and wriggled his way to the bottom.  But there he stuck.  He was too big to go any further.  He couldn't reach Peter, who was sleeping right in front of him by the fire.  The sight of his happy face made Hook shake with rage.  His iron claw twitched.  Two fiery red spots blazed up in the centers of his blue eyes.  Hot angry tears sizzled down his cheeks.  They splashed into Peter's medicine in the sea-shell on the shelf just below.
   Hook watched them.  The corners of his mouth turned up in a villainous smirk.  He knew that the tears from his red spots were poison!    "I've got you this time, Peter Pan!"  He hissed.
In the original Barrie story, Hook simply dispatches a generic (but virulent) poison into Peter's medicine.  Tinker Bell saves Peter by drinking the medicine and is later revived by the worldwide hand-clapping of little children professing their belief in fairies.  In the Surprise Package story, Tink simply informs Peter of the poison and he believes her.  In the final film, the poison is replaced with a time bomb which very nearly dispatches Tink, but she subsequently revives and without the need of juvenile applause.  

In Peter Pan and the Pirates, the final battle between Peter and Hook ends on an odd and somewhat anticlimactic note:
   Steel blades flashed!  It was Peter Pan against Captain Hook!  The fight to the death was on!  But the fight was short.  Peter thrust with blinding, dazzling speed.  Hook was no match for him.  His sword slipped from his hand.  It crashed to the deck.
   Peter stooped down and picked it up.  He handed it back to the pirate with a joyous, cocky smile.
   This was too much for Captain Hook.  He could not face that hated smile!  He stalked to the ship's edge.  with a last flourish of his hideous claw, he climbed the rail.  He jumped.  Down splashed Captain Hook into the black lagoon!  He did not dream that the crocodile was waiting for him.  The beast had given no warning, for the clock inside of him had a last run down.
All of the stories in Walt Disney's Surprise Package, including Peter Pan and the Pirates, were adapted by H. Marion Palmer (who was interestingly enough the first wife of Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss). The artwork, including the examples reprinted here, were credited simply to the Walt Disney Studio.

Explore the 2719 Hyperion Archives:
Walt Disney's Surprise Package: Happy Valley
Walt Disney's Surprise Package: Lady