About the Film
Peter Pan is a 1953 animated fantasy film produced by Walt Disney. It is based on the play Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up by J.M. Barrie. The film follows the story of Wendy Darling and her adventures in Neverland with Peter Pan, the boy who never grows up. Peter Pan is considered one of Disney’s most iconic animated films.
As an animated film, Peter Pan was not filmed on location like a live-action movie. Instead, it was created entirely at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California. The animators and production team worked to bring the world of Neverland to life through hand-drawn animation.
Walt Disney Animation Studios
All of the animation for Peter Pan was done at the Walt Disney Studios which was located at the Hyperion Avenue studio complex in Silver Lake, Los Angeles at the time. This facility served as the headquarters for Walt Disney Animation from 1940 to 1984. The animators worked to create the characters, backgrounds, and scenes entirely by hand.
The Disney animators used live-action reference footage to help them animate the human characters realistically. Live actors and actresses dressed up as the characters and acted out scenes which were filmed as reference for the animators. Margaret Kerry reportedly served as the live-action reference model for the character of Tinker Bell.
Peter Pan is considered a landmark in Disney animation. Though not filmed on location, the artwork and animation succeeded in bringing the fantastical world of Neverland to magical life on screen. Peter Pan continues to be beloved by audiences decades after its original 1953 release.
Creating the animated world of Peter Pan required immense talent and effort from Disney’s animators. Some of the supervising animators who worked on the film included Milt Kahl, Frank Thomas, and Marc Davis. The legendary group of Disney animators known as the “Nine Old Men” all contributed to Peter Pan in various ways.
The character design of Peter Pan and the supporting cast was crucial to bringing the story to life visually. Each character had a unique look that matched their personality, from the impish and mischievous Peter to the elegant Indian princess Tiger Lily. The animators used techniques like squash and stretch to give the characters appeal and dynamism.
Neverland presented unique challenges for the Disney background artists and layout team to depict this imaginary world. Locations like the lush Rainbow Falls and Skull Rock required extensive research and artistry. The scene of the Darling children flying over London to Neverland also demonstrated the studio’s advances in effects animation for its time.
The memorable songs of Peter Pan such as “You Can Fly!” and “Following the Leader” added to the film’s magic. Disney story men like Ted Sears worked closely with composers like Oliver Wallace to integrate the songs into the story. The songs helped bring Neverland to life in a vibrant way that further captured audience’s imaginations.