Category Archives: peter pan

Disney Villain Songs: Part One


Not too long ago, Mel did an amazing series where she analyzed Disney Princess “I Want” songs. Let’s start 2015 by spotlighting the villains we love to hate and hate to love.

Disney is most famous for their animated musicals and fairy tales, but the Villain Song only really came to fruition with Disney’s Renaissance and the creation of The Little Mermaid. Think about it, Snow White had an I Want song, but The Evil Queen didn’t. Cinderella had an I Want song, but The Evil Stepmother (Lady Tremaine) didn’t. Disney villains got much more fleshed out with every movie—including their names (come on, Evil Queen? Were they even trying?).

kiss the girl shrug

I don’t know either, Ariel.

Many Disney movies don’t have clean cut villains like The Evil Queen, but even she represents something deeper. The Evil Queen is symbolic of jealousy, while other films like the Jungle Book are about the danger man poses to animals and nature. The Aristocats is more so about what greed can drive someone to do. How do you give that a song? The nature of how Disney tells their stories has changed, with the Renaissance films focusing more on individual characters and growth. By that logic, the villains needed to evolve to cause a threat to the main character. The villains had to become less abstract.

Pre-Renaissance Songs

There are two slight exceptions to this pre-Renaissance rule, however. Peter Pan and 101 Dalmatians both feature Disney villains in the pre-Renaissance era that have songs sung ABOUT them.


Peter Pan has A Pirate’s Life and The Elegant Captain Hook, which are kind of one song, but whatever. Hook has his own boy band singing his praise and it totally works since all the Lost Boys, John, and Michael are ready to sign up to a life of piracy in seconds. Hook himself only gets about a chorus where he threatens everyone’s life:

A special offer today I’ll tell you what I’ll do
All those who sign without delay will get a free tattoo
Why it’s like money in the bank
Come on, join up and I’ll be frank
Unless you do, you’ll walk the plank
The choice is up to you

Definitely villain song material—and I’ve never seen one done so elegantly. This is the first Disney film where the antagonist sings and it’s typical MUAHAHA villainy.


Similar to Hook, except she doesn’t sing at all because who has time for that, Cruella De Vil has a song about her in 101 Dalmatians. The song heralds her arrival and tells the audience how we’re supposed to feel about her. I mean, “devil woman,” and “if she doesn’t scare you, no evil thing will,” speak for themselves.

Cruella is also framed in the doorway very creepily and Roger’s ominous tone continue to lead the audience. It’s not like Cruella makes a much better first impression when we finally meet her, blowing smoke everywhere, searching like a madwoman for the puppies, her holier than thou attitude.

101 blast this pen101 this wretched pen

Once she leaves, the song continues and Roger has many more insults to spew, which the audience is probably agreeing with at this point.

Now, onto the Disney Renaissance, which gave us music and dastardly foes!

frozen blank anna copy

Poor Unfortunate Souls

Ursula’s song in The Little Mermaid gives us so much to think about. First we get a little of her backstory:

…in the past I’ve been a nasty
They weren’t kidding when they called me, well, a witch


Ursula tries to paint herself as a saint now. She uses magic (“a talent [she’s] always possessed”) to help the “miserable, lonely, and depressed.” Of course she can’t hide her true nature and whispers to her cronies that she finds her clients “pathetic.” Or she finds exploiting Ariel too easy it’s just pathetic. I love double meanings.

pathetic copy

She’s manipulating Ariel with a false version of herself, claiming she helps so many people and makes their lives better. She’s promising Ariel the same thing.

The next facet of the song is men’s views of women, something we’ve covered briefly in our other Little Mermaid meta.

You’ll have your looks, your pretty face.
And don’t underestimate the importance of body language, ha!


The men up there don’t like a lot of blabber
They think a girl who gossips is a bore!
Yes on land it’s much preferred for ladies not to say a word
And after all dear, what is idle prattle for?
Come on, they’re not all that impressed with conversation
True gentlemen avoid it when they can
But they dote and swoon and fawn
On a lady who’s withdrawn
It’s she who holds her tongue who get’s a man

Today, this is vastly considered an outdated, wrong opinion to have. But it is so ingrained in our society that some people don’t even realize they still have these views. Women are encouraged to have a career, to use their voice, but women still earn less than a man, they do not hold as many positions of leadership, and many times their ideas are not taken seriously until a male colleague suggests it.

A woman’s looks are still very important, too. There are unrealistic standards women are expected to live up to. Everyone knows how the media warps and twists things, but what about women in power? There are countless articles about what Hilary Clinton, Michelle Obama, the Duchess of Cambridge are wearing, their make-up, or their hair instead of what these women are actually doing. Even when a woman uses her voice and has power, she is brought down by the media and reduced to her looks.

To have a Disney song tackle this issue and use it as a “scare tactic” essentially from Ursula to Ariel gives the song a great, complex layer. She’s basically saying, “You’re worried you won’t have your voice? Don’t worry, I’m actually doing you a favor by taking it. He won’t want it.” Poor Unfortunate Souls is a twisty-turny, manipulative song and is a fantastic start to the inception of Villain Songs!

my body is ready


What could be more vain and villainous than to name a song about yourself?

hercules like a boss

Like Poor Unfortunate Souls, this song also sheds some light onto Gaston for us. We learn he’s always been obsessed with his looks (“when I was a lad I ate four dozen eggs”), he’s always had gross macho tastes (“I use antlers in all of my decorating”), and he loves to spit (“I’m especially good at expectorating!”).

But really, this song shows us how Gaston feels entitled to Belle, how he sees her as property he should be able to own because he wants her and it doesn’t matter how she feels.

Who does she think she is?
That girl has tangled with the wrong man.
No one says ‘no’ to Gaston
Dismissed! Rejected!
Publicly humiliated! Why, it’s more than I can bear

First, you tangled with her, dude. Belle did not want to tangle with you and made that very clear. Second, man has some deep entitlement issues. Third, his pride was wounded when Belle rejected him in front of everyone, so that’s really what he’s most angry about. He never cared about Belle. He cared about the image she was: the pretty girl in town. She was an enigma to everyone. No one quite knew what to make of her. By claiming her, Gaston would have won the prize, essentially.

This song is representative of larger issues that plague us today, like when young athletes do not get properly punished for raping girls. The media laments their promising career, caring nothing about the victim. This song is the entire town coming together to make Gaston feel better, to tell him how much they all adore him and how perfect he is. Gaston hasn’t done anything wrong in this song.

Gaston did not rape Belle, but the scene where he proposes in her home certainly has elements of rape culture in them. He goes to her home. He pushes himself through the doorway when everything about Belle is radiating “I do not want you here.” And Belle has that right. She can not want to be around someone. She can not want them inside her home. A woman does not have to verbally say “no”— her body language can convey that, the tone of her voice, even. And Belle conveys that she is in a situation she does not want to be in.

beauty and the beast do not want

A sampling of the things he says in that scene: “There’s not a girl in town who wouldn’t love to be in your shoes.” And: “This is the day your dreams come true.”

Basically: “I am God’s gift to women, worship me.”

He’s literally forcing himself on her even as she’s trying to say no. She is pressed against the door and ducking away from him as he tries to kiss her. That is forcing himself on her. This scene directly leads to the angst ridden Gaston we meet during his Villain Song moment. He feels unjustly rejected.

Like Poor Unfortunate Souls, the song gives some insight into our villains and also looks at what men expect from women. In Ursula’s case, the woman was supposed to be pretty and quiet and not cause trouble. For Gaston, women should be mindless and worship him. They cannot say no.

Prince Ali (reprise)

Jafar’s villain song in Aladdin doesn’t come until the end of story when he thinks he’s won. It’s very different from the other two because it is a victory song. It has its roots in Hook singing about threatening children since here, Jafar is carrying out his master plan in song. Man, what a great evil laugh.

Jafar blows Aladdin’s masquerade and banishes him. He’s got control of the genie; Jasmine and the sultan are powerless. This song vastly differs in tone from the other two. Ursula is trying to get her plan in motion and succeeds by the end of the song. Gaston is in a “Woe Is Me” mood and in the man-dumps. Not Jafar. No way, this guy is winning. And he’s insulting people:

His personality flaws,
give me adequate cause
to send him packing on a one-way trip

aladdin and jafar slap

If personality flaws are all we need, I think there’s a lovely trip waiting for Jafar, too.

Jafar’s villain song is really short, but it changes the game for all villain songs that follow.

Be Prepared

Scar is plotting in The Lion King. He’s got big plans to murder his brother and take over as king. This song combines all the elements we’ve seen in the previous ones: bit of backstory, thinks he’s the best thing since sliced bread, and insults galore.

bitch i'm fabulous

We all joke about Scar and “what was Scar’s name before he got the scar?” But the truth is, we don’t know much about Mufasa and Scar. We know they’re brothers and Mufasa was older so he became king. We know Scar resents this. We can infer that maybe Scar didn’t get enough love as a cub. One of the final lines in the song is “Be king undisputed, respected, saluted, and seen for the wonder I am.” From this, I’m guessing our speculation is true. Scar was always seen as second to Mufasa, a fast he’s always resented.

oh, goody

Like Ursula, Scar is still figuring out how to put his plans into motion. His previous attempts at assassinating his brother have failed. Like Gaston, he puts himself above everyone, including the hyenas that are trying to help him take power. And like Jafar, he’s got plenty of insults to go around. And by the end of the song, he’s reveling in his sure to come victory.

This particular villain’s song treads the darker side of an I Want song. Scar wants power, in fact, he deserves power (“justice deliciously squared”). While Ursula wants Ariel’s voice, and Gaston wants Belle, and Jafar doesn’t want anything because he’s already winning, those songs all have a bit of other meanings buried beneath them. Whereas, Be Prepared, is really Scar’s I Want song, and This is How I’m Gonna Get it And It’s Gonna Be Amazing song.

lion kingbe prepared evil laugh copy 2

Mine, Mine, Mine

Ratcliffe’s song in Pocahontas is really interesting. I think Pocahontas is one of Disney’s most underrated films and I have no idea why because it is AMAZING. There are a lot of layers to it.

The gold of Cortes
The jewels of Pizarro
Will seem like mere trinkets
By this time tomorrow
The gold we find here
Will dwarf them by far
Oh, with all ya got in ya, boys
Dig up Virginia, boys

This is essentially the conflict between the English settlers and the Native Americans. Ratcliffe and his men expect to become rich, richer than Cortes and his successful expeditions (ie: rape and genocide and disease). The stories of wealth from the New World are what they’re chasing. Ratcliffe doesn’t care about preserving the land or the homes of the people that already live there. From the first verse of this song, we know that Ratcliffe expects nothing less than vast riches. This villain song sets up the rest of the film. If Ratcliffe doesn’t find the gold, then he’s going to assume the Natives have hoarded it all for themselves and thus we have conflict.


“Dig up Virginia, boys” is such a chilling line to me. It shows zero compassion. It reduces the Powhatan tribe to nothing, basically. They do not matter. And land is nothing more than a commodity.

Next, in a familiar trend, Ratcliffe’s song gives us a peek into his backstory, too.

My rivals back home
It’s not that I’m bitter
But think how they’ll squirm
When they see how I glitter!
The ladies at court
Will be all a-twitter

Ratcliffe wants fame and fortune, but he also wants to be better than his rivals. We don’t know much more than this, but it shows us he’s trying to prove himself. He’s competitive. He wants a story to beat Cortes’. He probably wants other people to eventually sing about finding more gold than him—but of course that’ll never happen because Virginia is the richest of them all.

Make the mounds big, boys
I’d help you to dig, boys
But I’ve got this crick in me spine

This provides another look into Ratcliffe. He expects the gold will earn him favor with the king (“My dear friend King Jimmy will probably build me a shrine” and “The king will reward me, he’ll knight me, no lord me”), but he also already treats himself as a king. He orders his sailors around, he has them do all the digging. They do the work and he gets the reward.

Keep on working, lads
Don’t be shirking, lads
Mine, boys, mind
Mine ME that gold
Beautiful gold

I love that part, where all the pretense is gone. The “I have a bad back” is transparent enough, but for a moment Ratcliffe is totally consumed by his want/greed that he can’t even remember to try and mask his villainy.


But in a very different move, this song also features John Smith, the central male character of the film and also the love interest. He partly shares Ratcliffe’s views in that he sees the land as something he can take and “claim,” in his own words. He’s misguided like Ratcliffe, but he’s not there for the gold. He’s there for “adventure,” and to find “danger.” John Smith’s character arc entwines itself with Ratcliffe and then they run parallel to each other, both Englishmen going on separate journeys. They both traveled to Virginia because of land and they both share this song. Smith distances himself from the other settlers both visually (to the audience) and emotionally (he can’t see what Ratcliffe is doing, the destruction is not real to him) by not being part of the digging party. He’s already gone off to explore the new land.

It was an interesting and bold move to craft the song this way. This is the first villain song to include a non-villain character in it. Pocahontas is one of those films that has so many deeper meanings and Ratcliffe and Smith are both complex characters that prove this.


Next week I’ll tackle the deleted song from The Emperor’s New Grooze, Snuff out the Light. We’ll also wrap up with the final Villain Songs: Hellfire, Friends on the Other Side, and Mother Knows Best. I’ll also discuss the films Hercules, Mulan, Tarzan, Lilo & Stitch, and Frozen by exploring why these films lack Villain Songs.

Happy 2015! Sending wicked vibes your way for a good one.
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What do you think of the Disney Villain Songs? Do you have a favorite?



Peter Pan and Gender Roles


In 1953, Disney brought us Peter Pan, its fourteenth animated feature. It is based on the play by JM Barrie, which was first produced in 1904. Gender roles are hard enough to overcome today, but they were also a problem during Barrie’s time. Pan is a story steeped in gender roles, so it only makes sense to discuss them.

I went into my re-watch of Peter Pan expecting to be hit over the head with this notion of women as mothers and that is where all our worth comes from. I was feeling this way since I had just watched NBC’s Peter Pan Live and there was so much talk of mothers and pockets I was trying to remember the novel I loved so much with lines like:

-“Wendy, one girl is more use than twenty boys.”

-“For Wendy?” John said, aghast. “Why, she is only a girl!”
“That,” explained Curly, “is why we are her servants.”

-Peter explains that the Lost Boys are babies that have fallen out of their carriages. Wendy then asks if there are any girls and he replies with, “Oh no; girls, you know, are much too clever to fall out of their prams.”

peter pan THIS

Do you see? Don’t you see the respect for women? Women are clever and wonderful and we get shit done. Not that being a mother means you don’t deserve respect, of course not. But women can be more than professional mess picker uppers, our only job to trail after little boys and make them look good.

So while I warred with the novel’s portrayal vs what I was seeing on my tv Thursday night, I started thinking about the animated film. It was, of course, my first introduction to the story of Pan. I couldn’t recall if Wendy’s role was emphasized so heavily as a caregiver and nothing else, who was supposed to clean up after Pan and tell stories nonstop and then her future daughters were to do the same thing. To solve this problem, I decided to pull out my copy and watch.

Because this is Animated Meta, I will limit myself to discussing gender roles at play—or subverted—by the Disney feature. However, I recommend Barrie’s novel highly and make no guarantees I won’t be slipping in more quotes throughout this meta. I mean, I made sure the first thing I did when I landed in London last year was find the Peter Pan statue in Hyde Park, okay? My love cannot be contained.

(Okay, we had breakfast, picked up our London Pass, and left our bags at the hotel. Then we went to Hyde Park. Same thing.)

Captain Hook

We’re starting with Hook cause you all expected me to start with Peter or Wendy, right?

We all have an image of the elegant Captain Hook: those luscious permed locks, the red coat, the feathered hat, the twirl-able mustache, pointed hook…

Look, Hook’s a nasty little prat, make no mistake. He shoots one of his men for having an awful singing voice and he throws another one overboard for expressing concern that there was no “splash” after Wendy walked the plank. He’s got anger management issues to the max: throwing tables around, threatening Smee with his hook, kicking Smee’s row boat back into Skull Cove.

peter pan hook threatening smee

He talks fondly of all the different torture tactics he can use on Tiger Lily to make her give away the location of Pan’s hideout. Hook, in many ways, fits the role of the hyper macho masculine pirate captain, meant to strike fear into our hearts.

What do I mean by “hyper macho masculine?” I’m talking about this idea that men need to be TOUGH, they can’t cry or be afraid, or express their feelings.

peter pan no me gusta copy

Captain Hook is certainly someone not to be trifled with, but he also has another side to him. Hook subverts his gender role completely by being freaking terrified of the crocodile that wants to eat the rest of him. This was probably overdone in Disney’s film to provide some slapstick humor for the kiddies, but it does not negate the fact that we’re given a man that cowers openly in the face of fear.

With the merest inkling of the ticking crocodile, Hook is in a frenzy. He hides under a sheet, he trembles, he screams for “SMEEEEEE!” He jumps into Smee’s arms multiple times!

But his fear does not negate the fact that he’s a cunning and murderous man. He leaves Tiger Lily to drown, he frequently tries to kill Peter, dueling with him at Skull Rock, and later successfully planting a bomb—preying on a child’s love for presents. Hook’s willingness to express distress does not make him any less terrifying to his crew, they answer to his beck and call. They all want to leave Neverland, his first mate Smee most of all, evidenced by the fact the he advocates for this move the entire film. But none of the crew leave or try to stage a mutiny.

Besides his violent streak, Hook also prides himself on being a gentleman. He isn’t really, considering he tried to stab Peter in the back, among other things. But Hook values his appearance highly, something usually reserved for women in films. He gets a shave from Smee—which goes horribly wrong.

peter pan smee

He puts on his coat and hat when Pan arrives so that he can fight in his best clothes.

peter pan hook looking his best

His outfit is colorful and frilly. He’s certainly trying to make a statement. When he attempts to woo Tinker Bell to his side, he again tries to look his best, trading the silver hook for a gold one with a shiny ring. What’s nice about Hook is that he goes againt the usual “fashionable = flamboyant” tradition with men. His care in his appearance is just one aspect of his character; it doesn’t at all take away from his violence and villainy.

peter pan gold hook

Hook is ruthless and a hateful man, consumed with wanting revenge. He hates the Indians simply because they won’t betray Pan to him. He manipulates Tinker Bell into helping him, something we’ll discuss later, and craftily promises not to lay a hand (or hook) on Peter. So he’ll just use a bomb instead! He smokes two cigars at once just cause he can. He threatens to have Wendy and all the Lost Boys walk the plank and follows through with it—until Pan spoils his fun. He is The World’s Most Famous Crook.

Costuming in Peter Pan

What are the stereotypical colors for girls and boys?

Girls = pink

Boys = blue

Take a look at what the characters are wearing below.

peter pan picpeter pan flying peter pan hookpeter pan hook pink shirt

peter pan pirates

Do you see it?

Hook wears pink and red. His crew is a rainbow.

Wendy wears blue.

Micheal wears pink.

I like to think Peter and Tink wear green to signify they are part of the island. They are connected to nature in a way no one else on the island is. They will always be in Neverland. As the novel says, “Feeling that Peter was on his way back, the Neverland had again woke into life. We ought to use the pluperfect and say wakened, but woke is better and was always used by Peter.”

I’m not saying Disney just did something incredible by dressing a girl in blue and dressing a little boy and some pirates in pink.

But look below at the famous Cathy Rigby version:

peter pan stage costume

Michael wears blue.

Wendy wears pink.

A simple costuming decision that flies in the face of gender roles. Pink for girls and blue for boys is so ingrained today that baby clothes especially follow this pattern. Color labeling is still a massive problem today. However, it is easier for women to wear typical boy colors—we have no problem finding blue clothes. But boy clothes in pink are much harder to find.

Mothers, Mothers, Mothers

Here’s some Barrie trivia for you. Caution, is will break your heart.

JM Barrie had an older brother named David. David died just before he turned fourteen—Barrie was six at the time. It was an ice-skating accident. Their mother was so distraught she fell into a deep depression. Barrie tried to fill his brother’s shoes, wearing his brother’s clothes and such. But his mother could not be moved. One time he went into her room and she mistook him for David. She found comfort in the fact that David had died a boy and would never grow up to leave her. Barrie suffered from stress dwarfism and his marriage was never consummated—perhaps a way to never grow up.

peter pani can't handle these feels copy

I told you. Sad tale. Which of course led to Peter Pan, the boy who would never grow up, the boy who wanted a mother so bad, but also left his.

George Darling, John Darling, Michael Darling, and Peter Pan were all named after the Davies boys, whom Barrie became the legal guardian of. This is the focus of the film Finding Neverland. Much like Barrie’s early years, there is a sad end—not the film, I just mean in real life. George was killed in WW1 and in 1921, Michael drowned in a lake while away at boarding school with a friend. It is unknown if they were lovers and had done it as a suicide pact. Peter committed suicide in 1960.

I’m sorry I had to traumatize you all.

peter pan sorry not sorry

But mothers. Mothers are super important to the story of Peter Pan. Disney puts less of a stress on this aspect, perhaps because they wanted to avoid such stark gender roles. The film opens with, “Peter Pan chose this particular house because there were people here who believed in him.” Our focus switches instantly to belief and the strength of the imagination, which is mostly prevalent in childhood. Next we hear that Mrs. Darling believed Pan to be the spirit of youth.

Cue my heart breaking for JM Barrie, his brother David, and his mother.

“Mr. Darling was practical.”

John and Michael made Pan the hero of all their stories.

Wendy was the supreme authority on all things Pan.

When Peter arrives in search of his shadow, Wendy tells him that she’s so happy he came tonight because she has to grow up tomorrow, aka, no more stories. Peter is horrified. No more stories? He wants to take her to Neverland so she can keep telling stories, mainly to him and the Lost Boys. Do you hear the word “mother” mentioned? I don’t. Wendy is more than happy to go, but first she needs to pack and leave a note for her mother—

Oh, mother. There it is. Hold that thought.

Wendy’s not just about to run off with to a strange land with a boy. She knows her family will worry and she should probably bring a change of clothes and maybe some snacks for the trip. She’s, in a word, practical. Wendy is already very grown up. She’s poised. She’s “the supreme authority.” Mr. Darling really had nothing to worry about.

Okay, so mother. Peter asks Wendy what a mother is. She tells him that a mother loves and cares for you, but none of that interests him.

peter pan couldn't care less

Once she says it’s someone that tells stories, Peter is all over that, cause the boy loves his stories—mostly cause he’s the star of all of them.

A mother is seen primarily as a storyteller for most of the film. When they arrive in Neverland, Peter says to the Lost Boys, “I bring you a mother to tell you stories and you shoot her down!” Wendy is not seen as a maid. She is seen as creative, a source of knowledge (she knows how the stories end!), the supreme authority.

The role of a mother is later fleshed out, when Wendy sings her song:

The helping hand that guides you along

Whether you’re right, whether you’re wrong

Everyone gets emotional over this. Even the pirates stop their schemes and listen. Smee starts bawling and Hook shushes him cause he’s ruining the song! John cries, another example of Disney breaking the mold of what A Man should be.


Wendy’s a lot of things. She’s kind, even in the face of animosity. Pan tells her Tink thinks she’s a big ugly girl and Wendy replies with, “I think she’s lovely.” Tink tries to have her murdered, Wendy does not want to see her banished.

She’s nurturing and comforting, naturally fitting the Jungian archetype of The Mother. She voices concern repeatedly for her brothers and Peter. “Oh, NAME, do be careful,” she says A LOT. She even shows concern for Hook in the Skull Rock duel and says, “Oh how dreadful,” when it appears he’s died. She then voices her disapproval like a mother when Pan has Hook hanging off the cliff and is mocking him.

Parts of her character do conform to the typical female role, though. When Peter comes for his shadow, she does say, “I saved your shadow for you… hope it’s not rumpled.” If it wasn’t, it sounded like she would iron it for him. At the Indian dance party she doesn’t want to take a hit of what everyone’s smoking, this very Victorian model of women being “pure” and men getting to engage in all manners of debauchery. (I’m labeling this Victorian since Barrie’s tale is circa 1900 and Queen Victoria died in 1901. It just made it.)

She also follows the damsel in distress mold a lot of people associate Disney females with. She gets saved by Pan. A lot. Or she wants his help all the time.

peter pan saves wendy

  1. Tink has the Lost Boys shoot stuff at her. She loses her focus and can’t fly anymore. Peter saves her.
  2. Peter saves her when she walks the plank.
  3. The mermaids are attacking her: “PETERRRRRRRR!”
  4. “Peter! WAIT FOR ME!” When he flies off with Tiger Lily.
  5. Stands behind John’s umbrella when they first meet the Lost Boys in fear.

However, when they’re all captured on Hook’s ship, Wendy is the bravest of them all. She refuses to become a pirate when everyone is tripping over themselves to join the crew.

But she’s also insanely jealous. I was never a fan of Wendy, but watching this now, I did warm to her. Wendy is kind. She’s not snarky or sarcastic. She believes the best in people. She worries about people. She grounds Peter—ie, he nearly leaves Tiger Lily to drown, forgetting about her in the midst of celebrating his humiliating Hook. Wendy reminds him.

But she’s also flawed. Jealousy brings us to our next topic.

The Love Square: Peter, Wendy, Tink, Tiger Lily

There are three prominent women in this film (Mrs. Darling makes it four, but even she thinks highly of Peter) and they are all madly obsessed with Peter Pan.

Tink and Wendy are the jealous type. Meanwhile, Tiger Lily is a princess and has too much going on to worry about that.

peter pan tiger lily

This conflict plays itself out throughout the entire film. Hook uses it to his advantage. Disney actually plays up this stereotype more than anything else: The Jealous Woman.

“A jealous female can be tricked into anything,” he says. Basically, women are ruled by their emotions and go ga ga over guys. Even the mermaids in this film are all swoony over Peter and try to drown Wendy the moment they meet her.

“Who’s she?” They cry.

Hook’s manipulation of Tink sounds so much like arguments used by girlfriends trying to cheer up their friends after a man either cheated on them or dumped them. Hook tells her that Pan took the best years of her life and then cast her aside! How familiar does that sound? He tells her it’s all Wendy’s fault, that if they get rid of Wendy everything will be as it was before. Basically, Wendy is the “other woman” in this situation. And how often does the Other Woman get blamed instead of the man?

But it begins long before this. From the moment Peter wants to take Wendy to Neverland, Tink is furious. You think she’d be used to this since the film makes a point to say that all of this has happened before and it will happen again, but this time it happened in London. We can infer that Peter has been taking kids on adventures in Neverland for a very long time. Regardless, Tink is jealous and is livid when Wendy wants to give Peter a kiss. She turns bright red—a nice homage to Barrie’s work where he says pixies are so small they can only feel one emotion at once. So Tink feels her jealousy 110%. She also acts on it, pulling Wendy’s hair.

peter pan jealous tink

When they’re flying to Neverland and Wendy is admiring her reflection in the water, Tink messes it up.

For Wendy’s part, she’s never jealous of Tinker Bell. Instead, her jealous side does not flare up until she sees Tiger Lily dancing for Peter. Not to mention their eskimo kiss. She’s so jealous she leaves the party early and that’s when she decides they have to go home.

peter pan jealous wendy

Peter knows she’s mad and doesn’t understand, saying, “Everyone thinks I’m wonderful.”

Wendy, envious, quips, “Yes, especially Tiger Lily.”

Tink’s jealousy is the worst out of the three women. And she is the one that gets taken advantage of. Hook’s line about a jealous woman speaks to gender roles more than the mother storyline of Peter Pan and that surprised me more than anything as I did this rewatch. As did every woman fawning over Peter and being incapable of doing anything else.

The Darlings

There’s not much to say about The Darlings except they fulfill typical gender roles.

Mr. Darling is hyper masculine. He’s stern, not fun, and the breadwinner. He’s stressed about his job and money, providing for the family. He goes on a ramble to his wife about what’ll happen if they don’t go to the party, or the party’s a disaster and their family will end up on the streets.

He calls Wendy’s stories “silly” and “poppycock.” He’s the one that starts with the grown-up idea and says Wendy has to move out of the nursery. When Mrs. Darling is concerned for Wendy and that her stories may be true, he mocks her. He’s exasperated with childrearing—telling his kids to be quiet and annoyed with their games.

The nursery is overseen by Nana, the nurse dog. I found it interesting they called her Nana, a feminine term. She’s a dog that takes care of the children. She did not have to be female. But she was by nature of what she does. A woman’s job to raise the family.

Mrs. Darling, for her part, is the typical feminine, mother figure. She scolds the children, but does not yell like her husband. She tucks them in and whispers comforting words—the nightlight comment. She defends her husband to their kids, trying to be the peacemaker. She gets her husband ready for the party, ties his tie, cleans his shirtfront.

And in usual fashion, Mr. Darling bent to the will of his wife. By the end of the evening, as they get home from the party, Mr. Darling regrets his yelling and ordering around and general pigheadedness. He’s a big softie on the inside, “You know I never mean those things.” But because of the social status, because of what men have been conditioned to be, Mr. Darling has to be soft on the inside, not on the out. He has to yell. He has to be loud. He has to be strict.

In the end, when he sees Pan captaining the Jolly Roger, he is reminded of his childhood and says touchingly, “You know, I have the strangest feeling that I’ve seen that ship before, a long time ago, when I was very young.”

i need a moment

Peter Pan

Pan is a boy. And you know what they all say, boys will be boys.

(I hate this saying. So much.)

peter pan no flaws detected

The very first note I made during my re-watch was when Pan says “I’m not crying.”

He’s not crying in this version. He is in the book.

Barrie wrote a boy that cried. Barrie also wrote a boy that recognized he was not supposed to cry.

Disney gave us a boy that did not cry, period. And did not want to be mistaken for crying, either.

He’s also unaware of the effect his actions have, making a ruckus and a mess of the nursery trying to find and reattach his shadow. Later, moments after meeting Wendy, the girl he’s been stalking listening to for some time, he says, “Girls talk too much.” Honestly, I was holding my breath waiting for someone to call Wendy bossy. Nobody did, to my immense pleasure. He does take that comment to the next level, though, when he forcibly shushes her, putting his hand over her mouth just before the Skull Rock sequence. Pan has no filter and doesn’t value anyone’s opinion but his own.

Peter plays the role of the leader. He is the leader of the Lost Boys, he leads the Darlings to Neverland. As leader, he tells them to go to safety and he’ll stay to deal with Hook.

Something that irked me was the way he refers to people. The Lost Boys have BOYS in their title, but Peter refers them as men frequently. When Wendy expresses interest in seeing the mermaids, all the boys are like, we want to hunt! MASCULINE, HUH. LETS KILL STUFF.

Pan says, “All right, MEN, go out and CAPTURE a few Indians.”

Meanwhile, when they go to see the mermaids, he says, “Hello, GIRLS.” When Wendy defers him to later to back her up after the mermaids attack, he says, “They were just having a little fun, weren’t ya, GIRLS?”

really? not impressed

There’s a discrepancy, here, clearly.

Pan’s other traits fall into the boys will be boys idea. He’s a show off, (“Watch this Wendy!”), he’s arrogant, he thinks he’s indestructible. He has his weird bird call he does. He can’t wait 12 more seconds to open a present. He forgets he’s mad at Tink the moment he sees her again.

“Off we skip like the most heartless things in the world, which is what children are, but so attractive; and we have an entirely selfish time, and then when we have need of special attention we nobly return for it, confident that we shall be rewarded instead of smacked.”

“…and thus it will go on, so long as children are gay and innocent and heartless.”

(Novel excerpts)

Peter is innocent and heartless. He wants a mother to tell him stories, unaware of what a mother truly is. He wants everyone to adore him. He wants to play games with Hook.

However, Disney does have Pan grow by the end of the film.

“Wendy… the boys…? Well I have to save you first. Hold on Tink, hold on. Don’t go out. Don’t you understand? You mean more to me than anything in this whole world.” He’s not playing like when he saved Tiger Lily. He’s actually scared and concerned. After they defeat Hook, Peter is open to Wendy and her brothers going home. Before where he was angry and resentful she wanted to leave—but ultimately shrugged it off and said she would be back—now he recognizes her seriousness and respects her wishes.

Wrapping Up

Wendy: Sir, you are both ungallant and deficient!
Peter: How am I deficient?
Wendy: You’re just a boy.

Novel love!

I think this 1953 version does a pretty solid job of subverting gender roles. Hook is a coward, but he’s also so unhinged you’ve no idea what he’s gonna do next. He has no qualms about making kids walk the plank or planting a bomb in your bedroom. Wendy gets to wear blue and her brother wears pink, she is kind, but also flawed with her jealousy. John cries!

high five

It also falls prey to some: girls are slaves to their feelings for a man, Peter does not cry, Mr. Darling and Mrs. Darling are reflective of gender roles they are expected to play.

Peter Pan Live bothered me with this emphasis Peter had with his mothers and pockets and making Wendy and her descendants clean up after him. The novel I remembered gave women way more credit and had much deeper undertones. The animated film instead played The Jealous Woman card.

Ultimately, though, Wendy said goodbye, Tinker Bell found satisfaction in her role as Peter’s friend (or she was just more than happy to dose the ship in pixie dust so she could get rid of Wendy) and confidence in herself (she was very looks obsessed in the beginning), and Tiger Lily never really cared.

What I think I’m most proud of is Hook, though. When I was little I just laughed at him, but now I’m so glad there’s a male villain out there that struts around in red and pink and flips the hell out every time he hears the ticking of a clock, cowering like nobody’s business but kills is crew whenever feels like it and is a manipulative little swine.

Also, one of his crew has a tattoo of a heart that says Love and another that says Lulu among ships and sea monsters. That’s pretty freaking awesome. If only he also had an I Love My Mom one.


Truth: this picture isn’t from my first day in London. They’re from my last. The Pan statue was the first and last thing I saw. And I don’t like any of my pictures with it from the first day, so here you go.

Leave a comment and let us know what you think! Did Disney do a good job subverting gender roles? Are you a Peter Pan fan?


People of Color in Animation


Today we’re going to talk about people of color (POC) in animation. POC, for our purposes, refers to anyone who is not white.

Here is a compilation of POC characters in animation:

  • Pocahontas [Native American] [Disney]
  • Esmeralda [race not identified] [Disney]
  • Tiana [African American—but not officially identified] [Disney]
  • Little Creek [Native American] [Dreamworks]
  • Chel [a native of Central or South America] [Dreamworks]
  • Lucius/Frozone [presumably African American] [Pixar/Disney]
  • Lilo [Hawaiian] [Disney]
  • Aladdin [Arab] [Disney]
  • Mulan [Asian] [Disney]
  • Kuzco [Incan Empire/Native South American—modern day Peru] [Disney]
  • Tiger Lily [Native American] [Disney]
  • Mowgli [Indian] [Disney]
  • The Prince of Egypt [Dreamworks]

(Note: I’ve included Native Americans and Hispanics in the list because Native Americans are currently a miniscule population due to atrocities committed during the forming of this nation and Hispanics currently face great hardships like immigration laws. I’m also including Lilo because “Hawaiian/Pacific Islander” has its own box on job applications/standardized tests/etc. Also, if I didn’t, there’d be, like, no one on this list.)

(Other note: I’ve not seen Dreamworks’ The Prince of Egypt, so I don’t feel confident talking about it.)

This discussion has been building for a very long time. Disney has faced criticism for their all white casts and the usual defense has been, well, these stories take place in Europe back in the day, so everyone was white.

Yeah, no.

I’m here to burst your bubble because: you can see people of color represented in Medieval European art and considering the Iberian peninsula was conquered by Muslims in the 700s, I’d say Europeans were no stranger to people of color. Marco Polo traveled to Asia in the 1200s. And if you still doubt, my Tudor era professor confirmed that England, namely London, was already a mixed metropolis in the 1500 and 1600s.

To curb this backlash, Disney released The Princess and the Frog. I enjoy this film and the return to 2D, and I love the humor. However, this offering was meant to halt the criticism, but it only spurned more. Our first black princess and she’s a FROG for 70% of the film?

reaction do you feel the judgement

I don’t know if any other animation house has faced as much backlash as Disney. Presumably they are the target because they are the most successful and influential. However, it appears Disney may have the best track record compared to some of the other houses—though there is room for drastic improvement. Tallied from the above list, Disney has 10 characters of color. That’s a minuscule number compared to their collection of 50+ films, but when Disney does utilize diversity, they do so richly and create compelling stories (mostly, we’ll see exceptions below).

In addition to mounting movement in the animation world, this meta was also brought on by the senseless shootings of unarmed black adults and children at the hands of police officers.

From 2006 to 2012 a white police officer killed a black person at least twice a week in this country. [x]

I am saddened and angered by what’s been happening around us. This meta was always coming, so lets get to it.

The most shocking thing I noted was every story featuring a person a color is extremely dated.

  • Pocahontas = Age of Exploration (specifically 1607)
  • Esmeralda = Hugo’s novel was published in the 1800s, though the book is set in the 1400s
  • Tiana = 1912
  • Aladdin = unspecified, but based on the very old One Thousand and One Nights (though the genie loves his pop culture references)
  • Mulan = I really don’t know because the Huns were burning shit since the dawn of time, but Mulan first appeared in poems between the 300s and 600s
  • Kuzco = 16th century
  • Little Creek = Around the time railroads were being built, so 1800s
  • Chel = Age of Exploration (Spanish conquistadors—1519)
  • Lucius/Frozone = CONTEMPORARY (FINALLY)
  • Mowgli = date unknown
  • Tiger Lily = exists in a world where time does not pass, but The Darlings’ interaction with Pan happens in the 1900s

The majority of stories being told here are set in very vivid time periods, as if the only story worth telling of people of color are their trials and tribulations in history, which are clearly over now because we live in a post-racial, globalized world. We know this is untrue. There may not be Jim Crow laws or homelands being overrun by industrialization, but there is still plenty of injustice.

Many Disney films give off old timey feels, but none are really held back by their time period. Beauty and the Beast has no identifying marker of what year it is, nor does the very recent Frozen, or Lady and Tramp, or Cinderella (in my opinion). But when you throw in the Age of Exploration, that dates your film. That sets the story firmly in one universe.

Next, lets look at who the protagonists of these films are:

  • Pocahontas, check
  • Tiana, check
  • Lilo, check
  • Mulan, check
  • Aladdin, check
  • Kuzco, check
  • Mowgli, grey area, but check
  • Tiger Lily, no
  • Esmeralda, no
  • Little Creek, no
  • Chel, no
  • Lucius/Frozone, no

Pocahontas owns her story and while Tiana is a frog for most of it, she does not cease being black (literally, she’s green, fine, but her character does not change). Kuzco is the male Tiana (or a prototype of Naveen, since those two are more similar) where he’s stuck as a llama for the majority of the movie.

emperor's new groove llama face copy

Lilo and her sister Nani are too wonderful for words (best sisters ever–sorry Anna and Elsa) and make me sob, sob, sob.

lilo and stitch sad copy

Aladdin is populated with other people of the same race. And Mulan just needs no introduction.

mulan tea

The fact is, only seven cases can be made for an animated movie led by a person of color. Maybe even four if you don’t want to include The Princess and the Frog, Emperor’s New Groove, or The Jungle Book.

Esmeralda plays an integral role in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, for sure, but it’s not her story. Ultimately it is about Quasi learning how to love himself and be confident. Little Creek, likewise, is super important in Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, but it’s not his story, either. The film is about Spirit making his way home and becoming a leader. If you catch my drift here, Chel’s role in The Road to El Dorado is one of a love interest and ally to the two main characters. Lucius/Frozone is a wonderful friend and sidekick, but he’s absent for the entire middle portion of The Incredibles.

They are players, but not major players.

Pocahontas, Lilo, Tiana, Aladdin, Kuzco and Mulan: Taking Names and Kicking Butt

pocahontas indignant lookliloprincess and the frog tianaaladdin copyemperor's new groove dancingmulan


Disney gave us six POC leads. Each of them are strong, flawed heroes. We have a very diverse list of races/cultures/ethnicities here: Native American, African American, Hawaiian, and Arabic. In addition, we also have supporting characters to reflect this, too.

It’s clear when Disney sets a story within a particular framework, they usually go all the way to actualize the worlds.

In Pocahontas we see the Powhatan tribe farming the land and praying to spirits for guidance. Healing practices, transportation, customs and homes are all shown to us. Their way of life contrasts with the settlers so starkly. Pocahontas teaches John Smith many things, most importantly that land is not something to own. But she also teaches him about her culture, such as how their tribe says hello and goodbye.

Lilo and Stitch takes us to Hawaii, where we have Lilo, Nani, and David and wonderful world building. The perception is that contemporary stories are easier since there is no fantasy world or past to explain, but that’s not true. Contemporary stories require just as much work to get right and Disney was not afraid of the challenge.

lilo and stitch 2

In addition to our sisters and a couple aliens, we have the social worker, Cobra Bubbles. He is darker skinned than the others and clearly holds a higher position of power (I point this out because of the power structure in Frog). Surfing and hula are all integral to creating Lilo, Nani, and David’s pastimes. David and Nani work at a resort and tourism has the biggest influence on the GDP of Hawaii. I’m sure this movie taught everyone the meaning of Ohana and several other Hawaiian words. Nani also sings a song in Hawaiian when she’s forced to say goodbye to Lilo.

lilo and stich hands

The flowers they send into the wind are also the same flowers shown on leis throughout the film.

Next we move onto The Princess and the Frog, which may have the weakest world building of them all. This is not a surprise if Tiana’s skin was colored just to appease outcries. Mardi Gras really grounds the city as New Orleans and jazz and gumbo tie us back to the African American culture. But that’s really all that can be said, sadly.

princess and the frog exhausted

As for supporting characters, Dr. Facilier is clearly not white and Mama Odie, Tiana’s mom (and dearly departed dad), and Prince Naveen are all dark skinned.

princess and the frog reaction  basic bitch

This is offset by the white characters like Charlotte, her father, and Naveen’s evil minion, Lawrence. We are presented with a diverse New Orleans, brimming with French influence and lively jazz. Frog presents us with the uncomfortable image of an all white power structure: Charlotte’s dad being rich, the two men Tiana wants to buy the restaurant from being white, and Tiana’s mother working as a seamstress. As mentioned above, this is not the case in Lilo and Stitch, a film made before Frog. However, Frog is set about hundred years before Lilo, so that could be one argument in favor of the movie.

Then, we have Aladdin. We open on a desert, which right away sets the story. The marketplace, the sand, the palace, they all present a clear picture. The strength in Aladdin’s world building really comes from visuals: clothes, places, animals. There’s nothing that the characters do that really identify them, besides, to say it again, their clothes. The custom of a princess needing to marry does not differentiate it from other princess films. The art of the movie is really what saves it.

Mulan trumps all in terms of world building.

mulan reflection

The fact that Mulan is Chinese is very important to her story. Mulan, like Pocahontas, is a historical figure so it is not shocking her race matters to the story. Chinese culture is presented to us everywhere: praying to the ancestors, the matchmaker, the clothes, the writing. Gender roles, especially, and honor thy father all influence Mulan’s arc and the story Disney is telling. Mulan and Gender Roles is its own meta, but Disney consciously created a Chinese character and set her in her world, effectively showing us a new culture and race.

Finally, there’s Kuzco. While Aladdin sets us up visually and The Princess and the Frog is relatively weak, but still a decent effort, Kuzco isn’t anything special. Yes, he’s a native South American, but the only cultural addition to the film are llamas. Of course, there’s jungles and nature and the contrast between poorer homes on the hilltops vs Kuzco’s palace. Besides the llamas, though, this film could be set anywhere and it wouldn’t matter. Props to Disney for reimagining Mr. Andersen’s Danish fairy tale in this way, but the world isn’t strong enough.

I haven’t spoken much on The Jungle Book. Mowgli is Indian, but besides his name and the names of all the animals around him, that’s not very obvious. He certainly does not have an Indian accent, nor does he even possess any understanding of the concept of “Indian.” The girl in the village wearing the tilak (or bindi) at the end of the film is the only real connection we have to this culture.

Esmeralda, Little Creek, Chel, Lucius: Lets Be Honest, Taking Names and Kicking Butt, Too

hunchback seeing him spirit little creekel dorado chel idiots face incredibles frozone

Esmeralda is the leading female of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. She is one of my all-time favorite characters. She’s idealistic, loyal, brave, kind. As a gypsy, she’s hunted by Frollo and made to feel unworthy.

I don’t know if you would listen to a gypsy’s prayer… Yes, I know I’m just an outcast, I shouldn’t speak to you…
–God Help the Outcasts

She represents discrimination and persecution. She’s hunted for being a gypsy, for being a woman, and for being a person of color. But she’s prepared to become a martyr, to die for what she believes in.

She’s Quasi’s first example of a decent human being and becomes his first human friend (gargoyles, anyone?). She helps bring him out of his shell and quell his fears about being feared. She would know, too, since she’s used to mothers frequently telling their children not to go near her (see: the beginning of the film).

Esmeralda is another example of a Disney woman saving her man, but her and Phoebus may also be the first interracial couple (and they make me swoon)!

The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a very brave film. It doesn’t shy away from personal issues like religion and hate and sexual undertones. But it also tackles race and bias and unfair persecution. Esmeralda is an amazing character, she’s strong in the best sense of the word and brings amazing representation to the Disney animated universe.

I’ve been talking about Disney a lot, so lets turn to Dreamworks.

Little Creek is my baby. He’s a Lakota Native American and we first meet him when Spirit is captured by US soldiers. Little Creek was caught trying to free the cavalry’s horses and as the film shows us, Little Creek and his tribe care very much about horses. They don’t want to see them saddled, branded, or whipped. When he and Spirit escape, Spirit is brought back to Little Creek’s tribe and nourished back to health after The Colonel tried to starve him that way he would become milder and easier to tame (spoiler alert: not happening).

Little Creek becomes the most important human Spirit meets. He is the embodiment of kindness and they become good friends. He is the opposite of the regiment’s men, the ones who want to destroy the land and nature and build roads and railways. He wants to train Spirit, but he also is in awe of his power and respects him.

spirit 5

who wouldn’t be in awe of Spirit? look at that pretty horsie

Little Creek’s version of training is of course very different from the soldiers, but when Spirit still resists, he lets go. He does not try to wield power over Spirit. And when Spirit sees that, that is when he lets Little Creek ride him.

spirit 3spirit who could not be broken

In the Road to El Dorado, we meet Chel. She is not a Disney princess, but like most of them she has dreams of going on adventure and discovering something new. In fact, the first time we see her she’s running away from home with some gold she stole.

el dorado chel copy

She’s native to El Dorado, the city of gold, somewhere in Central or South America. Where The Emperor’s New Groove failed, El Dorado excels. El Dorado is a fully real, actualized city. There is an opposing ruling force and tension within the community (the chief vs the high priest), distinct artwork and games that are played. Visually, also, the movie stuns, creating a rich world to contrast with Spain.

Chel’s role is fairly straightforward. If this was Disney, she’d have an “I Want” song and a love song with Tulio. She doesn’t have either of those here, though they are important aspects of her character. As the story goes on, we see her helping Miguel and Tulio pass off their con about being gods. She is vital to their success, filling them in on customs and traditions and getting them out of sticky situations.

el dorado chel idiots face

Chel’s face every time the idiot boys don’t listen to her

And when the chance to leave El Dorado and travel with them to Spain is presented, of course she’s ready to go for it.

el dorado end

Lucius/Frozone is a wonderful bestie in The Incredibles. His scene at the end of the film–

incredibles wheres my super suit

–is one of everyone’s favorites. His wife is never seen, but even she’s legendary (I am the greatest good you are ever gonna get). There’s nothing about him to emphasize his race, but it doesn’t matter because that’s how life is. Your friends are your friends. We know all kinds of different people.

Also, the list of black superheroes is slim. Frozone does have a small role, but he is a splash of diversity in an otherwise all white film.

Do I think this is suitable? Of course not. More can and should be done to bring diverse characters into the mainstream animation houses. As we’ve seen with Mulan and Aladdin and Lilo and Stitch, amazing movies happen!

But, I wanted to highlight the fact that Disney, who largely faces the most criticism for their all white stories, have brought us people of color in their films. They’ve given us the biggest majority of POCs as protagonists, too.

I left out the film Brother Bear by Disney because there’s not much to add–it follows the standard interpretation of Native Americans we’ve seen in Pocahontas and Spirit, plus POC being an animal for most of the film.

brother bear new in town copy

I also left out Ice Age by 20th Century because 1, I forgot about the nomadic tribe, and 2, because they are a tiny facet of the film. But by the nature of the film, it dates itself back millions of years, which ties into a point made above. Also not mentioned are The Croods, which follows the same logic for Ice Age. The Book of Life, I have yet to see, but it seems Hispanic culture plays a bigger role there than Emperor. Big Hero 6 features an Asian protagonist, but I’ve not yet seen it yet, either.

People of color have stories to tell! Historical OR contemporary, their lives matter. Their lives in reality and their lives in art and animation.

If you take anything away from this post I hope it is either:

  • Disney has given us the most diversity of any animation house
  • But: we should still be critical of Disney and encourage more diversity among all animators
  • The majority of stories about POCs focus on historical aspects, which is great, but there needs to be more of a balance between past and present

Leave your thoughts and opinions below! How do you feel about diversity in animation?