This is another title that goes all the way back to my early childhood, as we rented it a few times over from whatever local video stores existed at the time. Speaking for myself, I always loved this movie in my childhood. I saw it as a fun, fantasy adventure, full of imagination and frankly dream-like. Much like 'Alice in Wonderland', it helped contribute to my love of imagination in film.
Now, allow me to address the elephant in the room briefly. We all know that there are certain depictions in this film that are stereotypical and simply do not hold up. Watching this as a kid, certain things just kind of were what they were, and the internet just wasn't a thing. If we wanted any information on things, we'd have to either know someone who was personally effected by things, or have to find a book to read on the subject, which we probably wouldn't think to go out of our way to do. Since that time, however, we have been well-educated, and a lot of Disney's not-so-proud moments stand out a little bit more, somewhat tainting our childhood perception of these films, perhaps for the better.
The film opens in London England in the early 1900s, where we meet the imaginative Darling children, John (Paul Collins), Michael (Tommy Luske) and their storytelling older sister, Wendy (Kathryn Beaumont). The stories Wendy tells are about Peter Pan (Bobby Driscoll), and the power behind the stories is so strong that all of the kids believe in him. Meanwhile, parents George and Mary (Hans Conried and Heather Angel, respectively) pass it all off as nonsense, and the kids imagination even sets Mr. Darling off, who seems to want these kids to be a bit more ordinary and grow up.
One night, Peter Pan himself comes to the Darling household to hear stories from Wendy to bring back to his friends, the Lost Boys. However, when Wendy tells him about their need to grow up, Peter brings Wendy and the others to Neverland, where they'll never have to grow up, and Wendy can stay and tell stories to the Lost Boys. Little do the kids know that they will soon have to deal with all aspects of Neverland, including the dastardly Captain Hook (also Hans Conried) and his goofy sidekick, Smee (Bill Thompson). What unfolds is a fun, animated adventure, unfortunately now highlighted by racial overtones that just kind of make one uncomfortable nowadays. It's sadly one of the worst examples of a movie that has aged horribly by today's standards.
That said, I can't really deny that most of the film does have a nostalgic tie to it, and the non-controversial parts of it are still entertaining nonetheless. For me, pretty much any scene that features Captain Hook and Smee, especially when blended with a clock-eating crocodile, are funny and still hold up. He's one of the first comedic villains I can really think of in one of these, and that's a bit of a rarity for Disney animation. I'm hard pressed to think of many examples, except perhaps Yzma from 'The Emperor's New Groove', or any number of bumbling sidekicks. And speaking of that, Smee really does have this odd charm to him.
It's unfortunate how the film has a fairly strong focus on all of the things that date it, namely the Native American stereotypes. It boils right down to full on songs which, watching them play out nowadays, just have me cringing as they're basically just mockery. So the film is this crazy balance of extremes, between the fun villainous portrayal of Captain Hook and the... well, you know. It picks up, and it drops off, all the way throughout. and although part of me still enjoys it, and embraces the nostalgia it provides, the other part of me see it as a once classic throw-away at the same time. At the end of the day, it's something you just plain have to use your judgment on. For me, it's the lowest end of a pass, based on the aspects of it I enjoyed.