Dissecting the Disquels: (Peter Pan 2) Return to Neverland

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Rating: 7/10

Plot: Wendy has grown up and now has children of her own; a daughter named Jane and an infant son named Danny. She raised them on the stories of Peter Pan and everyone seemed to love them. However, when Wendy’s husband is sent to fight in the war, Jane is told that she needs to take care of the family until he comes back. Taking the promise with utmost seriousness, Jane puts aside childish stories of Peter Pan and Neverland in lieu of responsibility and lists. Her mother and brother try to retain her childhood, but it’s not until Peter Pan himself intervenes that Jane truly sees the light.

Breakdown: Okay, here’s the deal….I never much paid attention to Peter Pan. It was just one of those movies that never caught my interest for some reason. Even the Peter Pan segment in Kingdom Hearts, one of my favorite games ever, just didn’t appeal to me. I don’t know exactly why as there’s nothing inherently wrong with the franchise outside of the little brat Tinkerbell, but eh. Let’s see if the sequel can spark some Peter Pan excitement in me.

We start off with a pretty cool opening as we see Tinkerbell flying through the clouds creating silhouettes of all of the Peter Pan characters, and eventually we see the actual Peter Pan on a ship in the sky.

This movie takes place in the future (future as far as the last movie is concerned anyway) where Wendy is now an adult, but still always believing in Peter Pan. Wendy now has a family of her own, and her daughter, Jane, takes the reigns this time around.

I would fault this for being yet another Disquel that relies on the main character from the first movie’s child possibly rehashing the experiences of the last movie, but according to what I’ve read, Jane is actually a legitimate character in the Peter Pan books, though not thoroughly explored in the books apparently.

In addition, this is a reversal on Wendy’s character. Whereas Wendy was about doing all that she could to enjoy her childhood and not grow up, Jane is all about putting aside childish things and trying her best to grow up. And….yeah, reversals of the parents’ story is also a Disquel thing. Lady and the Tramp 2, The Little Mermaid 2, The Lion King 2, to a lesser extent.

As we get our first song of the movie, we also get our title screen. It should be noted that this movie isn’t technically Peter Pan 2 – it’s Peter Pan IN Return to Neverland, according to the title. So…is Peter a side character in his own franchise now? Well, I guess considering Tinkerbell’s little series doesn’t seem to include him, people must only want everyone but Peter Pan.

The song by the way, is ‘The Second Star to the Right’, a remake of a song from the original, and it’s pretty nice.

Our story begins in England in the….midst of World War II…..I’m sorry, this is one of the more light-hearted and non-serious movie franchises under Disney, right? World War II? In Peter Pan? That’s like seeing Donald Duck in Nazi German–

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………Oh…..well then…..*cough*….Carry on.

Jane’s father is sent off to fight in the war and leaves Jane to protect her mom and baby brother while he’s away.

Aw now, don’t be sad, Jane. Everyone knows only mothers die in Disney movies.

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…..Okay, there are rare occasions, but usually no.

We cut through some time and see the town in shambles as children are being evacuated to the countryside to help keep them safe. I commend Disney for a bit here, because that’s actually historically accurate.

We see Jane wandering around the rubble with her dog and it’s both narrated and implied by dialogue that Jane has lost sight of the fun of being a kid in such harsh times. I-…I’m sorry; is this a character flaw? It is World War freakin’ II, and she has been tasked by her father to take care of her mother and infant brother. I think she has every right in the world to be focused more on survival than hopscotch.

Back home, Wendy takes Danny into the bomb shelter after air raid sirens go off. He’s scared, but she comforts him by saying the bomb sounds are more like cannonfire from pirate ships, just like Captain Hook, and Danny dons a Peter Pan hat to play pretend.

We cut back to Jane and the dog who are trying to get back home, but the dog nearly gets caught up in a bomb blast… Think of the happiest things, it’s the same as having wings, take the path the moonbeams make, if the moon is still awake, you’ll see him wink his eye, you can fly, you can fly, you can fly…..if you get hit with an air strike……..

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Jane saves the dog in the nick of time, and makes it back home.

The item she was retrieving was a gift for Danny’s birthday; a pair of socks, which Danny dislikes and Wendy responds awkwardly as being ‘practical’…..I’d say socks, even miscolored, during World War II would be a pretty nice gift actually. In order to make the gift more interesting to Danny, she uses the socks as hand puppets and pretends that they’re Peter Pan and Captain Hoo—is Wendy obsessed?

Every single time that she’s been on screen so far it involves her doing something Peter Pan related. I mean, she made a Peter Pan doll for Jane, she made a Peter Pan hat for Danny and it seems like whenever something happens she just makes it better by bringing up Peter Pan. There’s nothing wrong with that, but she still seems very personally fixated.

Anyway, as Jane listens to radio for news and ideas for supplies that they might need, Wen—Holy crap, Jane has way better handwriting than I do. Geez. She’s like, what, eight? I write like a coke addict in an earthquake and she’s basically a teacher in calligraphy.

Anyway, Wendy tells Danny the story of Peter Pan stealing treasure from Captain Hook just for kicks, and that somehow makes him a hero or something. Jane starts to listen to the story with a smile, but once it’s over she puts her headphones back on and brushes it off as BS. Again, I don’t really blame her. Even if she is still at an age where she may still believe those stories, it’s incredibly hard to believe stories of magic flying unaging children and pixie dust when, again, you’re in the midst of World War freakin’ II.

The air raid ends and they go back inside. Jane chastises Wendy for filling Danny’s head with silly stories, and Wendy tries to reply but a knock at the door stops her. As Jane carries Danny to bed, Wendy meets with an old soldier at the door who says her children are to be evacuated in the morning. Wendy’s shocked as she hadn’t even been able to tell them that the evacuations were even happening, but accepts the soldier’s message.

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Wendy tells Jane about the evacuation, but Jane vehemently refuses to go both because she simply doesn’t want to leave and because she promised her father that she’d protect both Danny and her mother. Wendy asks Jane to promise to protect Danny and keep telling him stories about Peter Pan because he needs them to cope, but Jane flips out and says that faith, trust and pixie dust are all nonsense. Danny comes into the room and disagrees with his sister, but she points out the reality of the world they’re living in and how believing in that stuff is foolish.

Danny then runs off in frustration while Wendy scolds Jane for speaking to Danny like that. She tells her that she thinks she’s mature, but she has a lot to learn.

Here’s where I’ll give some leeway into this being a flaw with Jane. It’s perfectly normal for her to wish to give up ‘childish’ things like playing and listening to fairy tales since she has put the weight of her family on her shoulders, forcing her into adulthood. But she’s also trying to rob Danny of having a childhood at all when he’s barely out of the toddler years.

It’s obvious to her that these Peter Pan stories do offer him comfort and help keep him and Wendy sane and happy during these tough times. It’s counter-intuitive to try and rip that from him for no reason. There’s nothing he can do to help himself right now. He’s too young to do anything useful. Keeping him safe, fed, watered and clothed doesn’t require taking away his happiness. Look at Grave of the Fireflies.

Jane is likely just taking everything too far, but she is doing it in a realistic way.

This still holds the problem of it being too much of a character flaw in Jane. The only reason that Danny and Wendy are seen as the more, for lack of a better word, ‘rational’ ones here is because we know that Peter Pan, the lost boys, Captain Hook and pixies are all real. But even knowing that they are….she still has a point!

If magic, Peter Pan and pixie dust exist, it’s difficult to believe that they do given that they live in a war zone. I also understand that the real point is to not let reality rob you of your inner child and that tiny part of you that believes in magic in some form, but that’s a hard message to sell when the reality that is robbing you is World War freakin’ II.

Sure, it was harsh to tell a three year old that all that stuff wasn’t real in lieu of forcing him to face the harsh realities of war; that’s probably within the realm of telling a kid that Santa’s not real and pointing out that they live in a third world country, but it’s not like it’s entirely unreasonable for her to have such an outburst.

We then get our next song, I’ll Try, and it’s actually really good. One of the best I’ve heard from any of the Disquels, and it’s actually a pretty good stand alone song even if some of lyrics seem silly out of context. It’s basically about what we already know; that Jane feels heavy responsibility on her shoulders to take care of the family and she doesn’t have time to believe in magic and Peter Pan, but she tries and wants to believe. It’s just hard to since she can’t ignore everything that’s going on around her.

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The pirates and Captain Hook arrive at Wendy’s house and mistakenly kidnap Jane thinking that she’s Wendy. They put her in a sack and cause all sorts of damage across London in their bleh-y CGI ship before heading to Neverland.

When the pirates get back on the water, they hold Jane in a sack over the water and lure a giant octopus to her location. Apparently, this octopus is our replacement for the crocodile with the clock in its stomach. It’s schtick is the same thing, constantly tormenting Hook only with the sound of rhythmically popping suction cups instead of a clock ticking. There’s really no reason for the octopus to be making those sounds other than to be a rip-off of croc, who actually had a purpose in making the clock ticking noises.

The reason he was afraid of the croc was because he took Hook’s hand. The reason the croc kept following him was because he ate his hand, liked the taste of his blood and flesh and decided to pursue him in hopes of eating him completely. The croc also ate a clock, and the ticking sound scared the hell out of Hook because he knows the sound indicates the croc is nearby.

The reason he’s afraid of the octopus later on and is freaked out by the popping noises? Because Tinkerbell drops the octopus on Hook’s head, he ends up in its mouth, but escapes without harm, the octopus develops a taste for him so I guess he chases him everywhere….Well okay. I think I’ve delved too far into anime culture to be comfortable with this, but okay. Where did the croc go? Did it die?

Anyway, Peter Pan shows up to save the day, finally. It’s 20 minutes in for God’s sake. He saves Jane from the octopus and Tinkerbell drops the octopus on Hook. The octopus tries to drag Hook underwater to eat him, but he gets saved by his crew.

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Peter brings Jane over to a nearby rock and frees her from the bag to realize that she’s not actually Wendy, but is actually her daughter. Jane initially doesn’t believe what’s happening and thinks it’s merely a dream. Hook’s crew starts firing cannons at them so Peter escapes with Jane through Neverland.

They have some fun flying around, with Tinkerbell being a bitch as per usual (so how exactly does she end up with a bunch of shorts and her own spin-off movie?), and they eventually reach Peter’s house to meet the Lost Boys. Peter then proclaims that Jane will stay with them forever, be their mother and read them stories. Yeah, they’re still doing that.

The kids want to play games and screw around, but Jane says no, despite the fact that the youngest boy reminds her of Danny. She says she has to leave and walks away. Peter then points out that she acts like a grownup to which the Lost Boys reply ‘Eww’. I understand this because, again, that’s another point of Neverland, but were they looking for a mother that acted like a kid too?

We get more Hook and Octopus shenanigans where Hook actually states that he was finally rid of the croc and now this is happening. I decided to look this up and surprise surprise, there is no reason for what happened to the croc beyond Hook ‘losing’ him somewhere between movie 1 and 2.

I can imagine that they flat out didn’t want the croc to make a reappearance because of the fact that it ate Hook’s hand was probably deemed as too scary in this day and age so they replaced it with a silly octopus. Though apparently the croc, known as Tick-Tock, later makes an appearance in the DISNEY JUNIOR show, Jake and the Neverland Pirates. Yeah, this thing is seemingly too violent for a Disquel set in England during WWII, but shove it into a Disney Junior show, that’s much better.

The point is that Hook is going after Peter again.

Peter spots Jane trying to head home on a homemade raft she must’ve made in ten minutes. She says she needs to go home and make things right with her brother and mother for saying Peter didn’t exist when he does. Oh, I guess she doesn’t think this is a dream anymore.

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Despite Peter stating that she won’t be able to get home in such a manner, Jane says she has to try anyway and bids Peter goodbye. However, Jane sucks at raft building and the raft sinks before she even gets ten feet out. Peter explains that the only way out of Neverland is to fly, and he’s willing to show her how.

Back at Peter Pan’s Uninsured Flight School, Peter and the others are trying to teach Jane to fly, but she doesn’t believe that she can. Peter says all she needs to fly is faith, trust and pixie dust, but Tinkerbitch, of course, doesn’t want to give her any. Peter persuades her into doing so by taunting that if Jane doesn’t learn how to fly, she’ll be stuck in Neverland forever and have to live with them.

So, Tinkerbell responds by assaulting Jane with a sack of pixie dust. Nice. But she does get comeuppance when she sneezes from so much dust and sends Tink flying around bouncing all over everything.

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Jane fails in flying and slams into the ground. I guess Neverland basically gives you cartoon physics because Jane makes a human shaped crater in the ground and comes out perfectly fine.

As she gets out of the hole, Peter notices a list Jane made earlier and explains it’s stuff like that that makes her unable to fly.

They play keepaway with her notebook, which accidentally ends up getting eaten by one of the Lost Boys. They laugh about it, but Jane has a fit yelling at them, calling them children, saying she doesn’t believe in them and when Tink starts being annoying again she adds that she especially doesn’t believe in fairies.

Jane, you can’t really say that anymore. Call them children, sure. But you are seeing and experiencing Neverland, Peter Pan and fairies. You flew through a rainbow earlier. I’m pretty sure the time for ‘I don’t believe’ is long since passed.

Jane then leaves, but Peter and the others seem glad to be rid of her due to her outburst. After she leaves, Tinkerbell falls ill and you can already tell it’s because of Jane’s comment about not believing in fairies. By the way, why is it called pixie dust if she’s a fairy and not a pixie?

Jane tries to camp outside, ending up taking shelter in a small cave in the rain as we get a clip show of times she spent with her family, specifically the time when her father asked her to take care of Danny and her mother. While this isn’t particularly needed, it does showcase why it’s easier to sympathize with Jane each and every time.

Besides the whole World War Freakin’ II stuff, she also feels a heavy burden on her shoulders and responsibility to her dad, and when she tries to be responsible people just roll their eyes and talk about fairies or they screw around and mock her. I’d be frustrated too. She shouldn’t dedicate her life to being a stick in the mud but WORLD WAR—You get the picture. Even if Peter Pan and the others have been proven as real beyond any shadow of a doubt, it doesn’t change how she feels about her promise nor the status of things back home.

Back with Tinkerbell, they confirm my suspicions and say that Tink’s light will go out if Jane doesn’t start believing in fairies…..No idea why. Millions of kids probably don’t believe in fairies, why is Jane the case that makes Tink terminally ill? Because she’s the only one in Neverland who doesn’t believe? Because she said it to her face?

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Peter believes the only way to make Jane believe in fairies is to make her one of them; A Lost Girl.

Cut back to Jane where she hears Hook crying. She smartly takes his sword from the ground and threatens him with it before asking what’s wrong. He claims he lives in the real world and misses his mother. He can take his ship and leave to the real world to reunite with her, but Peter Pan has his treasure and his crew would mutiny if he went off without it. He’s obviously lying, but Hook tricks her into agreeing to getting back his treasure from Peter with the promise that she will be able to go with him on his ship back home. He even signs a contract stating that he will not harm Peter, and she agrees as long as the treasure’s rightfully his….Well, of course it’s not rightfully his. HE. ARE. PIRATE. When pirates have treasure, chances are they stole it from someone.

Peter, Jane and the Lost Boys reunite, and Peter apologizes to Jane for ruining her notebook. However, they want to make it up to her by turning her into one of them. She suggests they play Treasure Hunt, and Peter agrees, but only on the condition that she acts like a Lost Boy.

We get our next song, ‘These are the Things We Lost Boys Do,’ which is…alright. It’s not particularly bad, but I don’t really enjoy it much. It’s also the only song that’s actually sung by the characters as opposed to merely being played over regular footage.

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Throughout the song, Jane just starts having fun with all the shenanigans she and the boys are getting into and she eventually stumbles upon the treasure chest. She debates calling Hook with the whistle that he gave her, but ultimately throws the whistle away. Peter finds her with the treasure and congratulates her on winning the game by dubbing her the first official Lost Girl.

The Wiki page for Jane also confirms that she is the first and only Lost Girl on record (Supposedly because Lost Boys were made up of boys who fell out of their prams when the nurse was looking the other way. If the boys were not claimed within seven days, Peter would take them to Neverland. Girls do not become lost because, as Peter puts it, girls are ‘Too clever’ to fall out of their prams.)

They cheer, give her an honorary….wolf (?) hat like the other boys all have animal outfits and reprise the song about Lost Boys.

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Then, uh oh, one of the Lost Boys finds the whistle in the water and blows it, instantly calling Hook to the scene to capture Peter Pan and the Lost Boys.

He thanks Jane for her assistance, outing her actions to Peter, who calls her a traitor and tells her that Tink’s light is going out because of her not believing in fairies….Uhhhh, it was stated in the beginning that Peter steals from Hook and hides his treasure for no good reason besides to have fun as Hook pursues him. If it’s just a big game to him, how is she a traitor for telling him the location of the treasure? It takes away the fun, sure, but Peter can always steal it back. In addition, Hook’s plan would’ve failed for the most part if Jane hadn’t suggested they play Treasure Hunt to begin with. All she needed to do was find the treasure, not Peter. It’s not like she needed Peter to tell her where it was, she stumbled upon it on her own.

Anyway, Hook also turns his back on his promise to not harm Peter as his exact wording was to not harm a hair on Peter’s head. So he merely plucks out one of his hairs, declares not to harm it and throws it to Jane. She promises that she’ll save Peter and heads off to the house to try to save Tink.

However, it’s too late. She’s dead and boy do I feel bad.

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Oh come on, of course she’s not dead. Jane’s grief apparently sparks belief in fairies which causes Tink to regain her strength and cheer Jane back up.

Hook is having fun tormenting Peter in the most tame way possible, and finally decides to make him walk the plank while tied to an anchor. However, Jane and Tinkerbell, who is much more likable when she’s not being a jealous twat, arrive on the ship to save Peter and the Lost Boys. She frees the Lost Boys while Tink distracts Hook and Smee, and they send the pirates overboard by flinging the treasure into the ocean with slingshots. Jane manages to get the key for Peter’s handcuffs from Hook, but he chases her up the mast and corners her.

However, she finally believes she can fly……believes she can touch the sky. And with the power of faith, trust and pixie dust, she is finally able to fly off of the mast and away from Hook. Even the pirates cheer for her, which is weird because 1) She’s the enemy and 2) she just prompted the boys to chuck their treasure overboard. Still, she unlocks Peter from his cuffs and the anchor and they fly around together for a bit…It kinda bothers me that they’re sorta playing up a romantic angle between the two of them considering the last person he did that with was Jane’s mother….

But the cheering doesn’t last long as Hook grabs Jane and pins her to the mast with his hook. Peter cuts the rope he’s hanging from, drops the anchor on him and sends him crashing through the whole ship and on top of, you guessed it, the octopus. The octopus then chases Hook back up into the ship, damaging it even further, causing the ship to sink and dragging Hook under while the Lost Boys escape.

However, for some reason, the damn thing can’t keep ahold of Hook despite the fact that it has eight long incredibly flexible legs and suction cups, and he launches out of the water again and into the life boat that the others are on. The octopus pops back up and now wants to eat all of them for no given reason and chases them away while making the popping noises.

The Lost Boys cheer their one and only Lost Girl for saving them, but Tink brings up that, since Jane can fly now, that means she can go home. While everyone’s sad to see Jane leave, she says that she’ll miss them all and tell her brother all sorts of stories about Peter Pan and the Lost Boys. Peter and the others say they’ll escort Jane back home and they head back to London.

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Jane wakes up in front of her window (don’t worry, it’s not a dream sequence) and rushes to her mother to apologize for what she said earlier and to tell her that now she knows Peter Pan is real. Danny walks out having just had a bad dream, and Jane is quick to play around and comfort her brother with new stories of her adventures with Peter Pan.

Wendy smiles at the sight, but suspiciously looks out the window for something. Peter’s trying to catch a glimpse of her by the window and eventually the two reunite. While Peter points out that she’s changed and grown up physically, Wendy says that she hasn’t really changed on the inside. Wendy also reunites with Tinkerbell, who gives her a shot of pixie dust, allowing her to float up a few feet, showing that she really hasn’t changed. Their reunion is short lived, however, since Peter needs to go back home. He bids Wendy goodbye as the kids also come up to the window and see Peter and Tink fly away.

And just because we have to have the most unrealistic and predictable ending possible, at that very moment, Jane’s father comes home from the war….the war that is still going so strong that they feel the need to send the children away to the countryside and told Wendy that very thing earlier in the night. He’s not injured or anything that I can see, so I have no clue how he got early leave. Also, does this mean that Jane and Danny aren’t being sent away anymore?

We see Peter and Tink smiling at the reunion before they finally head home. The End….of this hour and two minute long movie that is only 70 minutes due to the credits.

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I can’t speak as to how this movie may possibly offend the original, but the main gripes I’ve seen in reviews on IMDB are about how the characters act. Tinkerbell is supposedly more aggressive here than she is supposed to be, Peter Pan and the others are seen as being portrayed as jerks (mostly in regards to their rowdiness and destroying Jane’s book and laughing about it. Can’t say I disagree) and the fact that Peter Pan is not supposed to be some hero character, according to one reviewer – he’s just supposed to be a playful kid who screws around and gets into trouble.

I will say that the movie is more about Jane than Peter, which I think it’s supposed to be anyway, and Peter really is used mostly as a plot device to show that playing around, being childish, believing in magic and having fun aren’t particularly bad things. Granted, her transition was rather jarring and took place over the course of a song, but still we got the gist. As I stated, you don’t want to see her lose her childhood, but on the other hand you can greatly understand why she feels like she must.

Also, the fact that this is called ‘Return to Neverland’ may seem misleading as none of the original human characters are actually returning to Neverland. Wendy is in this movie, but she only gets one short scene with Peter and doesn’t really fly much or visit Neverland. However, I found their reunion to be short and sweet.

Bottomline: This movie is perfectly fine. Short, seemingly pointless, but perfectly fine. I actually laughed once or twice at the Lost Boys. While Peter, the Lost Boys and Tinkerbell do get grating sometimes, they all redeem themselves over and over. Jane is sympathetic, and you root for her to finally start having fun and having a childhood again.

The art and animation are much better than your average Disquel fare. Still not as good as their namesakes’ theatrical releases, but still really nice, except some shots with the ship. The music is actually really good, even if there is a real lack of original songs and there’s only one song that is sung by the characters. It also might be somewhat weird that ‘Do You Believe In Magic?’ in the main ending credits song.

The movie’s main issue is in its predictability. While they kinda slap you in the face with World War II, the rest of the events are rather paint by numbers. You can really predict exactly what will happen through small prompts. Because of that, there’s nothing to really make this movie particularly special. However, it’s still an enjoyable movie and far from one of the worse Disney sequels I’ve been subjected to. Maybe I would feel different if I were more of a childhood fan of the first film, but as it stands, I enjoyed watching this movie, and I’d recommend a watch to people looking for a light Disney movie.

Recommended Audience: There’s some dark themes what with World War II and all, but it’s not like you see anyone die and really this is lightest tale I’ve seen connected with World War II. It’s no Grave of the Fireflies that’s for sure. 5+

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