Return to Never Land (2002)

Rated: G
Length:  72 min.
Age: 4 and up.                        commonsense media sez: 5+

Scary Factor: opening scenes of WWII blitz in London may be alarming; as in the first film, pirate shenanigans are more slapsticky than scary

Also: separation from father, Captain Hook smokes

Interests: magic, fairies, pirates

Next: MOVIES: Peter Pan (1953) of course, The Sword in the Stone (1963), The Little Mermaid (1989); BOOKS: Peter Pan, Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens

In the midst of the blitz in London during WWII, Wendy’s daughter Jane is an ultra-serious little girl, with no time for her little brother’s make-believe. When Captain Hook returns to London and kidnaps her, thinking she is Wendy, she finds herself in Never Land with no way to get home. Joining forces with Peter, she becomes the very first Lost Girl, along the way re-learning how to be silly and have fun. One thing eludes her, however – even with pixie dust she can’t seem to trust in it enough to fly. Unfortunately, however, she accidentally betrays Peter to Captain Hook and must go to his rescue, finally finding it within herself to be able to fly. She returns home just as her father appears at the front door for a joyful reunion.

A full-fledged sequel to the 1953 Disney film, with the same overall look but a slightly darker and heavier tone. Before Jane is whisked off to Neverland we see London in the grip of the blitz. This general situation – the noise of bombs, the sight of burning buildings – may cause younger viewers alarm, though no actual explosion or injury is actually seen. Jane dashes about in the dark alone and is nearly hit by a truck, while her little brother Danny is genuinely scared in their air raid shelter. There is also separation in the family: Jane’s father leaves to fight, and it is decided that the two children will be sent to the country for safety. For once real life is scarier and more deadly than Never Land.

Strenuous attempts have been made to make Jane a strong female character, no doubt a reaction to the original, passive Wendy. Jane is an adventurous ‘do-er’, and actually becomes the first ever Lost Girl, rather than being a mother to them all like her mother was. It’s refreshing to see her squabble with Peter, rather than admiring him unreservedly. Jane is a well-rounded character, with both virtues and flaws. She is tempted by Hook with a ride home, if she just reveals to him the location of the treasure Peter has taken from the pirates. After becoming an official Lost Girl she realizes her folly, but the damage is done and she has to make things right again. Jane is quite a good female role model, conscientious and responsible, if a little humourless at the start.

Though this is a direct-to-DVD movie, the animation is great, especially some fantastic scenes of Hook’s pirate ship flying through London at the beginning, encountering WWII fighter planes over the Thames. Sadly the crocodile is gone (no reason given), but his place has been taken by a genuinely funny octopus who also terrorizes Hook in some very funny sequences.

A good sequel for kids who are fans of the 1953 Disney film and want more. The tone may be a little darker due to the WWII setting at the beginning and Jane’s general state of anxiety. You may have to provide some explanation and background regarding the Blitz.

To read about the original literary classic Peter Pan, see the shortform Overview.


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All writings posted here are © Kim Thompson, unless otherwise indicated. For all artwork on this site, copyright is retained by the artist.
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