Suspended Animation #370
Fox’s Peter Pan and the Pirates aired for sixty-five episodes on Fox Kids syndicated offering from September 8, 1990 to December 2, 1991 and continued to be rerun into 1998.
On July 10,1990 Fox Broadcasting made a presentation to approximately two hundred and twenty five television critics from across the country about their upcoming Fall season line-up and they were particularly proud of this animated series.
Disney took immediate legal action to stop the series with the claim that it infringed on the classic Disney animated feature. It lost its legal bid because Fox was able to show that the show was significantly different from Disney in terms of characterization, tone and character design.
Peter (voiced by James Marsden) wore a ragged brown outift with a short cape and kept his knife in his right boot, not his waist band. Tinker Bell (Debi Derryberry) was a red head who wore a cap and spoke actual words. Captain Hook (voiced by Tim Curry) wore a white powdered wig, was clean shaven and his hook was on his right hand not the left hand as in the Disney version.
Wendy (Christina Lange) wearing a pink dress has short black hair and her brother John wears a brown derby rather than a black stovepipe hat. The Lost Boy Twins are non-identical and biracial. That was just the beginning of the many differences that helped Fox win the legal case.
There was no “origin” epsidoes or explanation of how the Darling children got to Neverland nor was their any concluding episode about the fate of the Lost Boys and Neverland.
In addition, the James Barrie novel had fallen into public domain and Fox argued that the new animated program was directly “inspired” by the novel and not the animated feature.
However, Fox struggled to produce the episodes. When the series debuted in September only a handful of episodes were ready, resulting in multiple immediate reruns. Margaret Loesch because of her extensive experience at Marvel Productions, Hanna-Barbera and more was brought in to be president of Fox Children’s Network and get things on track.
She took most of the Peter Pan animation work away from the Los Angeles based Project X Studios and sent it to ten other animation studios in Korea, Taiwan, China, Japan, Canada, the Phillippines and the Soviet Untion. Two of the prominent studios were Dai Won Animation and TMS Entertainment. Project X was left to concentrate on adding music, special effects and other details.
Loesch claimed that every epsiode featured at least 18,000 to 19,000 individual drawings. She stated, “It’s a very expensive production. The figure twenty million dollars has been bandied around, but believe me, when we finish we will have spent more than twenty million. We’ve had production problems and that’s no secret but I’m happy with the end product.”
Buzz Potamkin was Executive Producer for the series and Supervising (sometimes credited as “Creative Producer”) Producer was Takashi Msunaga. Supervising Story Editor was Peter Lawrence. Character design was by Sandra Bhardwas, Darrel Bowen and Andrew Ice. Key Background Design was by famed comic book artist Alex Nino.
In the pre-release publicity kit, Hook was described as “a serious villain, not a buffoon or figure of fun. The man lives for only one reason, to destroy Peter Pan. His obsession allows no compromise and no concern for anything or anyone who might get in the way. A fear of the crocodile who wants to devour what remained of him, and a violent temper are Hook’s only weaknesses.
“He is, by his own admission, a stickler for good form. Educated at a fine English school, Hook seems at first glance a man of refinement and taste – but the façade belies the heart of evil revenge that forms his center.”
Hook was voiced by actor Tim Curry who won a Daytime Emmy Award for his portrayal of the character. “I tend to play people who are larger than life,” he laughed. Hook has an almost obssesive affection for his late mother’s portrait and her memory. He also has a dead older brother Jasper known as Captain Patch (Hook took out his eye during a dispute) who seems to have outdone Hook in malicious villainy.
Hook’s crew, that included a bumbling Mr. Smee who now talks in an Irish accent, is described as “touchy, quarrelsome and vain, each is his own man and there is only a hairsbreadth distance between being shipmates and enemies.”
The series spent as much time on the pirates as it did on Peter and his adventures giving them detailed back stories that influenced their actions. Billy Jukes was now the same age as the Lost Boys and was noted for his many inventions.
Peter according to the Fox version “has the attention span of a three year old. His true allegiance is to himself and he is skeptical of attachments. For Peter all time is playtime and only ‘now’ is important. He cannot resist a game, even if it means putting his life in peril. Peter never plans ahead or considers the consequences of his actions.”
Tinker Bell “would love to get rid of Wendy, but does not actively pursue it. To keep Peter’s affection, Tink would cheerfully do almost anything. She feels that her association with him gives her a special status. She is as fierce as she is small but she isn’t all fight. Tink can also be charming and delightful to be around, although her encyclopedic knowledge of Neverland’s dangers sometimes makes her a foreteller of gloom and doom.”
Wendy is “a bit overly talkative and wildly imaginative. She is an orderly child and is the most sensitive of the group to the surrounding wonders of Neverland. Wendy is a full and capable participant in adventures, never staying home to the laundry or darn socks. If she doesn’t go along on an adventure, it’s because she has other areas of interest to explore. Deep down she wishes Peter would pay more attention to her.”
Of course, Neverland is also populated by Native Americans who are handled more respectfully than in the Disney feature with Cree Summer voicing Tiger Lily as well as mermaids who are vain. The crocodile had no comedic elements and lives in a cave shaped like a crocodile’s head. Its ticking clock is magical and controls the time of day in Neverland.
Fox Video released four episodes on VHS. Merchandise included some action figures, plush dolls, a few books and more. Most notable was the notorious Nintendo game.
Peter Pan and the Pirates: The Revenge of Captain Hook is a video game for the NES developed by studio Equilibrium. It has the distinction of being the first game THQ ever published and is universally reviled as poorly designed and poor game play.
The game recycles three of its eight levels with only a change in color palette to hide the fact. Peter must use his dagger to kill pirates in order to get to the final level confrontation with Captain Hook. Peter must collect pixie dust to fly and treasure chests to restore his health.
The National Coaltion on Television Violence, an Illinois based grroup head by Dr. Thomas Radecki announced that the series was one of the most violent of the syndicated animated television shows and had almost three times more violence than a typical prime time show.
Ironically, because of its attempts to stop the series from being produced, with its purchase of Fox, Disney now owns the rights to this animated series – which has not been seen since its original release.