July 31, 1989 12:00 PM

Bobby Driscoll, Kathryn Beaumont

These days Pete should be less worried about growing up than about appearing on videotape. The fragile magic of his story will, no doubt, survive the shock of being brought into brightly lit, telephone-interrupted, stop-the-tape-for-a-snack homes, but it will never be quite the same either. So while it’s still unavailable on tape, enjoy Disney’s 77-minute animated film from 1953 in the vaguely mysterious, transporting realm of a theater—where the collective imagination gives an added uplift to PP’s aeronautical skills.

Peter Pan is as sprightly as they come, with exceptionally bright colors—even by Disney standards—and enthusiastic, complex animation. The voice of Peter, the character who abides in Never Never Land and stands up for all children suspicious of adult life, is given a wise-guy tone by Bobby Driscoll. (Driscoll starred in Song of the South as well.) Kathryn Beaumont, who supplies the slightly stuffy voice of Wendy, was also Alice in Disney’s Alice in Wonderland; her Wendy leads her two little Londoner brothers in pursuit of Peter and his promises of adventure.

Tommy Luske is the cuter-than-cute youngest sibling, Michael, who at one point burbles, “Are you hurted, Wendy?” And Hans Conried gives voice to both the children’s earthbound father and their enemy, Captain Hook.

Minor reservations: Tinker Bell, changed to human form (author James Barrie created her as pure energy), flounces around in a skimpy outfit that makes her look like an early sketch for Madonna. The triangle involving Peter, Tink and Wendy may take some explaining if anyone asks why Tink is setting Wendy up to be blown to smithereens.

Back to the positives: There’s plenty of sweet, hopeful music; pop composers Sammy Calm and Sammy Fain wrote the score’s best-known tune, “You Can Fly, You Can Fly, You Can Fly.” The character of the Hook-hunting crocodile, a kind of reverse Moby Dick, is ingeniously created. And the ability of Wendy, Michael and officious elder brother John to let go and enjoy themselves, which they do in royal fashion, should inspire us all.

Peter Pan will, of course, continue to be even more of an example of positive thinking than Leo Buscaglia—no matter what medium Pete’s in. But here’s the way to best appreciate him: frisky, flying free and far, carrying everyone’s daydreams back and forth across an expanse almost as great as time. (G)

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