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Fox's Peter Pan & the Pirates (the full title) is a cartoon that ran for two seasons, being canceled less than two years after it started. It is a considerably Darker and Edgier, and heavily expanded, take on the classic story of Peter Pan. With a surprising amount of characterization and high quality storytelling for its time, this cartoon caught a lot of people off-guard, and pleasantly surprised those who actually did watch it.
Every character in the Peter Pan mythos was fleshed out. Peter was portrayed as a more complex character, with severe character flaws such as cockiness and a casual disregard for safety and other's concerns, yet he genuinely cared about his friends (one dramatic scene in particular made this very clear). The Lost Boys were all given real personalities, and even the lives of the pirates were fleshed out and shown very often. Captain Hook was given a Freudian Excuse in one episode for turning out the way he did, but even with that, he is genuinely sympathetic at times, while being a Complete Monster (we do not exaggerate) at others. The culture of the Indians was given much more screentime as well, and we even learned more about the mermaids and the fairies. Neverland was a much more detailed place than any of us imagined, and it felt more alive.
But it was also a darker place as well. The world itself is quite violent and sometimes downright creepy. There are some very cruel villains, and a fair amount of Nightmare Fuel in this show. While the kids are often seen laughing and having fun at the beginning of an episode, it becomes difficult not to wonder how they could possibly enjoy living in a world with vengeful spirits, potentially world-destroying magic, fairies who are both good and evil (and the evil ones can cause a lot of trouble), and especially the events of the first season finale, in which the entire world itself begins to decay and turn inhospitable due to Peter's aging and disbelief in magic. Neverland may be an exciting, magical place, but it's also a very dangerous one.
Characterization played a big role in some episodes, with the unique personalities of the characters sometimes causing temporary alliances, or instead causing characters to engage in cruel behavior. One of Hook's own pirates is about the same age as the older members of the Lost Boys, and is constantly trying to prove himself to Captain Hook. He befriends two of the Lost Boys who share some of his love of inventions, and helps them escape when captured at one point. Another time, a very superstitious member of Hook's crew is separated from the rest of the pirates, and briefly befriends one of the Lost Boys. Jealousy and petty anger, on the other hand, cause mischievous characters to do horrible things at times. Tinker Bell's tolerance/jealousy relationship with Wendy has resulted in her trying to cause trouble for her at times but saving her life at others. The characterization was surprisingly complex for a kids' show, and made for some fascinating stories.
When shown during its second year, the network tended to focus on the sillier and Nightmare Fuel-free episodes in order to make the show Lighter and Softer, thus negating much of, but not all of, what made the show unique. Ultimately, the show was canceled only a few months into its second year.
A video game adaptation was created for the NES which was, in many respects, rather faithful to the show.
Peter Pan & the Pirates provides examples of:
- Adaptation Dye Job: Unlike nearly every other incarnation of Hook, this one has white hair.
- Adaptation Expansion: We see a lot more of Neverland than we ever did, and learn more about many of the characters.
- Alternate Universe: An ancient Egypt-themed one.
- Animation Bump: The TMS Entertainment animated episodes.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: The plot of "Three Wishes".
- Berserk Button: Peter's seems to be harming any of his friends. In the Backstory episode that explains how Peter and Hook first met, Hook made Peter think his friends had been killed, and that was the motivation behind Peter cutting off Hook's hand.
- Bound and Gagged: Pretty much every character at some point or another.
- Canon Foreigner: A few, such as the Girl Who Lives in the Moon, the fairy king and queen, and Captain Hook's brother, Jasper "Captain Patch" Hook.
- Character Name and the Noun Phrase
- Clingy Jealous Girl: The mermaids and Tinker Bell both get very jealous when Peter spends time with any other female, sometimes to the point where they act very nasty.
- The Dandy: Gentleman Starkey, here a foppish Frenchman with a cape.
- Darker and Edgier: This is definitely not Disney! The first season finale is one of the darkest things seen in children's animation in that time.
- Dawson Casting: Slightly averted. Many of the kids were voiced by actual kids, albeit ones a few years older than the characters. Peter's voice was done by a 16-year-old Jason Marsden. 5-year-old Michael was clearly voiced by a little kid.
- A Day in the Limelight: Many characters get one.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Captain Hook writes a fake treasure map to lure Peter into an ambush, and sends it via a cannonball shot into the middle of the Indians' camp, as that's where Peter happened to be at the time. Billy Jukes asks why they didn't just blow the whole place up if Peter's in range, and Hook snaps that the village is full of innocent women and children.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: It's a show about Peter Pan and Pirates.
- Eye Scream: Hook gouged out his brother's eye.
- Faking the Dead: Hook does this in "The Demise of Hook", then acts as his own vengeful spirit.
- Fisher Kingdom: From The Neverscroll: "Peter Pan is Neverland, and Neverland is Peter Pan."
- Five-Man Band: While the Lost Boys had more than five members, Peter rarely adventured with them all at once (most likely to save on animation costs due to how expensive TMS is). Usually he hangs out with a few at a time, mixing and matching them to form either a Five-Man Band or a Power Trio. Still, each Lost Boy had a role to play:
- The Hero -- Peter Pan
- The Lancer -- Slightly
- The Big Guy -- Nibs
- The Smart Guy -- John, the Twins, or Curly. They each had their own brand of "smart":
- The Heart -- Tootles
- Tagalong Kid -- Michael
- The Chick -- Tinker Bell, Wendy
- Five-Bad Band: Once again, there were more than five Pirates, but they still fit the pattern:
- Freudian Excuse: Captain Hook hates children, in part, because he misses his own childhood. A representation of it, in the form of a younger, more playful Hook as a child, is seen in one episode. Adult Hook chases desperately after him, but is separated yet again from his youth.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Only Tim Curry can say "Damnation" on children's television. And due to Hook's habit of speaking in Archaic Language, he gets plenty of other things past the radar. Such as his line about "molesting clouds".
- Although "molesting" isn't necessarily always in the sense of what one may be thinking, but rather molesting as in bothering or pestering.
- Tinker Bell's teasing of Peter, per the book, was kept in.
- Grand Finale: The final episode, "The Lost Memories of Pirate Pan", didn't conclude Peter's adventures with Wendy and the others, it did provide closure for the viewer and provided a glimpse at the future of Wendy, John, Michael and Wendy's daughter, Jane.
- Hey, It's That Voice!: See Tim Curry below.
- Hook Hand: You have one guess.
- Ignored Epiphany: In the Yet Another Christmas Carol episode Hook seems deeply shaken by the idea of not only being killed by Peter, but being completely forgotten too. This seems like the moment when he would repent... but instead Hook resolves to be much, much worse, so that Peter will never forget him. Also, one would think that Hook's Freudian Excuse would make him more sympathetic to Peter and the Lost Boys, but you'd be wrong.
- Involuntary Shapeshifting: In one episode Wendy is turned into a mermaid.
- Joker Jury: In one episode, Peter Pan is put on trial by Captain Hook, with his pirates as the jury and Wendy as a defense lawyer. Surprisingly, she wins the case.
- Though not without having to filch the keys to his cage.
- Keep Circulating the Tapes: Unlike most of Saban's other shows which were bought out by Disney (Saban did get back Power Rangers and a few other shows back), this show was sold to TMS Entertainment as Disney did not want two Peter Pans. TMS has yet to give the DVD and etc. rights to other companies (such as Shout Factory, Media Blasters or Bandai Visual).
- Mondegreen: In-universe; Slightly and Peter trick Hook into thinking his mother wanted him to be a pilot, not a pirate.
- Moral Dissonance: Peter and Tinker Bell have this quite a few times.
- Nerf Arm: Most of the time, the Lost Boys are armed with wooden swords.
- Never Learned to Read: It was mentioned a few times that Peter was illiterate. It ended up causing him some trouble in one episode when he wasn't able to read a warning on a treasure map.
- Off-Model: Due to being animated by several animation studios in Asia (Plus one in Canada and another in Ukraine), the show has this:
- At one point in one episode, Tall Twin is identical to Short Twin, having light skin and red hair instead of his usual black hair and darker complexion.
- In "River of Night", when Tiger Lily and Hard-To-Hit are in the canoe looking for Peter after he goes missing and Tiger Lily points out Peter's cape lain in the water to Hard-To-Hit, she isn't wearing pants.
- Oireland: Smee is a walking Irish stereotype. Toes the line of Unfortunate Implications, considering he's described as a drunk in the source material.
- Panthera Awesome: The pirates' cannon "Long Tom" is shaped like a tiger.
- Pirate: The show, keeping with the Peter Pan story, features pirates in a prominent role.
- Plummet Perspective: Subverted. In one episode Hook incapacitates Peter, attaches weights to him, and threatens to throw Peter into a legendary bottomless pit. He throws a torch into the pit to demonstrate, only to see that the pit is maybe 20-30 feet deep.
- Reptiles Are Abhorrent: The crocodile, of course.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Often, whenever the pirates think they've lost Hook or Hook himself thinks otherwise, they decide to set sail for "The Spanish main" and leave behind Neverland. They never do, but...
- Shout-Out: The Fairy King is named Oberon, as in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, while his queen is named Gloriana, as in The Faerie Queene.
- Sixty Five Episode Cartoon: With the last two episodes being a two-part Grand Finale.
- Slippy-Slidey Ice World: The Ice King's caves.
- The Starscream: Robert Mullins.
- Swiss Army Tears: In the end of the two-parter "Ages of Pan", Neverland is disappearing because Peter Pan has grown up to be an old man, doesn't believe in Neverland and has forgotten about Tinker Bell. Then Tinker Bell's one tear falls on old Peter and turns him young again -- and Neverland is saved.
- Take Our Word for It: In the episode "Hook's Mother's Picture", the eponymous portrait is seen by several characters, who all react with horror and disgust, but it is never shown to the audience.
- The Renaissance Age of Animation
- Tim Curry: as Captain Hook.
- Time Travel: In "The Lost Memories of Pirate Pan". Apparently Peter can do this without consciously trying to.
- Token Good Teammate: Billy Jukes.
- Trapped in TV Land: The episode "Peter in Wonderland", in which everyone is trapped inside a copy of Alice in Wonderland.
- Victory Is Boring: The Christmas Carol episode shows Peter briefly having this after killing Hook, even considering leaving Neverland for good. Then it's subverted as Peter promptly forgets about Hook's existence shortly afterward.
- Wicked Cultured: Captain Hook is very much this. Not only is he very intelligent and cunning, but he has great knowledge of Shakespeare, high society, and many other things, not to mention a massive and very fitting vocabulary.
- The World Is Always Doomed: A lot of things seem to be "the end of Neverland" if they happen.
- Yet Another Christmas Carol: Inverted, despite a good section of the script being lifted verbatim from the original story. When the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come shows Hook that, after his death, he dies alone and forgotten even by Peter Pan, he gets the pirate crew together for a Christmas raid on the Lost Boys' hideout, swearing that he'll be ten times worse from now on so that Peter will never forget what a terrible pirate he was.
- Your Mind Makes It Real: The first season finale, when Peter takes Hook's accusation that he never grows up because he can't as a dare, and his grown-up act soon becomes a rapidly-aging reality. This causes the gradual decay of Neverland, in one of the most riveting forms of Nightmare Fuel ever in a kids' cartoon.