I was five years old when Walt Disney released the animated classic Peter Pan—a fact brought home to me constantly with the wave of commercials for its “60th anniversary” release. I was the target market. I was the perfect age to respond to make-believe and fall in love with a tale about staying a child forever.
I didn’t discover Neverland through the J. M. Barrie classic like those before me. Like most of my generation, Walt Disney introduced me to Peter Pan.
About the same time the movie was released, Simon & Schuster came out with a Little Golden Book called Peter Pan and Wendy. This edition made no mention of J. M. Barrie anywhere except on the copyright page. A woman named Annie North Bedford got the credit for condensing the Disney movie into a 26-page book that sold for 25 cents. Eyvind Earle, a Disney illustrator, created the watercolors based on scenes from the movie.
Although this version of Peter Pan lacked the literary value or Mr. Barrie’s original, it still had a powerful effect on this five-year-old. I would look out my bedroom window at night and search for the “second star to the right.” I was sure I could fly, just like the characters in my book.
When Barrie’s stage adaptation—called Peter Pan: The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up—was produced, he included a special note in his dedication: “After the first production, I had to add something to the play at the request of parents about no one being able to fly until fairy dust had been blown on him; so many children having gone home and tried it from their beds and needed surgical attention.”
I guess I, too, overlooked the role Tinker Bell’s pixie dust played in making flight possible. One night, I got right up on the headboard of my bed and took my leap of faith. I flew, all right—right into the footboard. I lost my front two baby teeth. Their imprint remained on that footboard until we got rid of that bed years later.
So, this book did not smack me upside the head. It simply caused me to smack myself. However, it was one of the first books to transport me to a completely new world. I still believe in magic, and I have done my best to remain a child forever.