×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Return to Never Land

"Return to Never Land" represents a passable follow-up to the venerable Peter Pan story and mercifully, at 72 minutes, is exactly half the length of the last attempt at same, Steven Spielberg's lamentable "Hook." Although Disney isn't saying so, this Walt Disney Television Animation production was originally a straight-to-video release.

With:
Voices: Jane & Young Wendy - Harriet Owen Peter Pan - Blayne Weaver Captain Hook - Corey Burton Smee & Pirates - Jeff Bennett Wendy - Kath Soucie Danny - Andrew McDonough Edward - Roger Rees Cubby - Spencer Breslin Nibs - Bradley Pierce Slightly - Quinn Beswick Twins - Aaron Span

“Return to Never Land” represents a passable follow-up to the venerable Peter Pan story and mercifully, at 72 minutes, is exactly half the length of the last attempt at same, Steven Spielberg’s lamentable “Hook.” Although Disney isn’t saying so now, this Walt Disney Television Animation production was originally conceived as a straight-to-video release along the lines of the recent sequels to “The Lion King,” “The Little Mermaid” and “Lady and the Tramp” and the imminent “Cinderella II,” and it’s at least a cut above some of the division’s five previous bigscreen offerings, such as “The Goofy Movie” and “The Tigger Movie.” As such, it would seem to justify the decision to go the theatrical route for a quick payoff over the Presidents’ Day holiday weekend and for a short time beyond prior to a long life on kids’ vid shelves, where Disney’s 1953 animated “Peter Pan” remains a staple.

For a modern animated effort that grafts CGI work onto traditional ‘toon techniques, “Never Land” has a harder-edged look but at least doesn’t betray the old school Disney style exemplified by its predecessor. Storywise, scripter Temple Mathews found a simple way of recapitulating James Barrie’s story of Peter Pan and the Lost Boys’ ongoing battle with Captain Hook while updating the sensibility of the girl at the center of it.

Popular on Variety

Set during the London blitz, tale presents Peter’s former partner in adventure, Wendy, as the mother of two, Jane and Danny. Latter is an eager lad who craves his mother’s tales of Peter Pan. But Jane is a serious, pragmatic sort who disdains her mum’s “silly stories” and announces with annoyance that, “I’ve no time for fun and games,” what with the war going on and her father gone.

Back in Never Land, Captain James Hook, well restored from having been consumed by a crocodile decades earlier, is still having no luck winning as much as a single skirmish with his eternal nemesis Peter Pan. But managing to get his ship, the Jolly Roger, covered in pixie dust, Hook flies it to London and kidnaps Jane, in the mistaken belief that she is Wendy, who he would use as bait for the mischievous boy in green.

Succeeding in threading through an onslaught of German bombers on the way out of London, Hook loses Jane to Peter shortly after arriving back in Never Land. But even a spectacular airborne tour of the island in Peter’s arms isn’t enough to convince the stubborn lass to emulate her mother and stick around for a bit of fun. So it takes the rest of the colorful movie for Peter to pry Jane from Hook’s clutches — the buffoonish pirate has her convinced that he is the only one who can return her to England — to make her “believe” and therefore able to fly, and to prevail over the hapless Hook one more time.

With Peter and Hook quite set in their ways at this point, Jane provides some welcome gravity, at least in comparison to those around her, as well as a character arc; her dilemma of feeling incapable of the faith required to believe in fairies, pixie dust, et al., is nicely caught in a fine song, “I’ll Try,” written and sung by Jonatha Brooke.

One of the few changes wrought on the original is the famous ticking croc having been replaced in Hook’s nightmares by a giant octopus that pucks its suckers upon approaching its prey.

Return to Never Land

Production: A Buena Vista release of a Walt Disney Pictures presentation of a Walt Disney Television Animation production. Produced by Christopher Chase, Michelle Robinson, Dan Rounds. Directed by Robin Budd. Co-director, Donovan Cook. Screenplay, Temple Mathews; additional material written by Carter Crocker.

Crew: (Technicolor); editor, Anthony F. Rocco; music, Joel McNeely; art director, Wendell Luebbe; sound (Dolby/DTS/SDDS), Judy Nord, Jeanette Cremarosa; supervising sound editor, Ronald Eng; associate producers, Chris Henderson, Lizabeth Velasco; voice casting/dialogue director, Jamie Thomason. Reviewed at the Avco Cinema L.A., Feb. 9, 2002. MPAA Rating: G. Running time: 72 MIN.

With: Voices: Jane & Young Wendy - Harriet Owen Peter Pan - Blayne Weaver Captain Hook - Corey Burton Smee & Pirates - Jeff Bennett Wendy - Kath Soucie Danny - Andrew McDonough Edward - Roger Rees Cubby - Spencer Breslin Nibs - Bradley Pierce Slightly - Quinn Beswick Twins - Aaron Span

More Film

  • Endeavor Content Studio Logo

    Endeavor Content, Studio Exile Strike First-Look Deal With Mexican Producer Subtrama (EXCLUSIVE)

    Endeavor Content is upping its local-language game, signing a significant first look deal with Mexico City-based producer Subtrama. Endeavor enters the deal with studio Exile, a long-form English and Spanish content maker. Subtrama is behind series like Cary Fukunaga’s Netflix drama “Maniac” and films like Gael García Bernal’s “Museo.” Mauricio Katz, Manuel Alcalá, and Panorama [...]

  • Taylor Swift Variety Facetime

    How Midterm Elections Inspired Taylor Swift's New Song, 'Only the Young'

    Miss Americana was keeping another song about America in her back pocket, as it turns out. Taylor Swift recorded a song during her “Lover” album sessions, “Only the Young,” that was held back and kept under wraps for the right occasion — that occasion turning out to be “Miss Americana,” the Lana Wilson-directed documentary that [...]

  • Bradley Cooper Nightmare Alley

    Netflix Nabs Bradley Cooper's Leonard Bernstein Drama

    Netflix will back Bradley Cooper’s upcoming drama about Leonard Bernstein, the legendary conductor and musical maestro behind “West Side Story” and “Candide,” Variety has confirmed. The film was initially set up at Paramount. It has an A-list lineup of producers, including Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Emma Tillinger Koskoff, and Todd Phillips. Kristie Macosko Krieger from [...]

  • The Simpsons - Disney parodies -

    Disney Mashes Up 'The Simpsons' Parodies of Disney Films, Theme Parks

    Disney has embraced some of the gentle ribbing dished out by “The Simpsons” over the years — hoping to convince more people to sign up for Disney Plus. The media conglomerate released a compilation of what it calls “the best Disney references in ‘The Simpsons,'” which is now part of the Disney empire, with past [...]

  • Lin-Manuel Miranda

    Sundance 2020: Will the Market Be Colder After Last Year's Spree?

    When it comes to big acquisition deals for independent movies, Sundance is the room where it happens, to borrow a lyric from “Hamilton.” So it’s a lucky coincidence that Lin-Manuel Miranda will be a guest at this year’s film festival. For the first time, Miranda will hit the slopes in Park City, Utah, to rub [...]

  • Oprah Russell Simmons Documentary

    Oprah Defends Decision to Exit #MeToo Doc: 'This Is Not a Victory for Russell' Simmons

    Oprah Winfrey explained her decision to step away from “On the Record,” an expose about sexual harassment in the music industry, including women who have accused mogul Russell Simmons of misconduct. The documentary, from filmmakers Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering, will premiere at Sundance on Jan. 25. Winfrey, who served as an executive producer and [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content