It’s been all over Twitter this weekend, trending just below the latest from the pasty-faced Apartheid perv and “DOWN go the Celtics!”
Why was Peter Pan turned into the villain of “Chip’n’Dale’s Rescue Rangers?” He’s depicted as an embittered one-time child actor who “got old,” when of course, Peter Pan is “the boy who wouldn’t grow up.” Peter — voiced by comic villain par excellence Will Arnett — is having his revenge on the system (aka Disney) by kidnapping and enslaving (or worse) cartoon characters in a movie the fans aren’t shy about referring to as both a “Rangers” “reboot” and/or a “sequel to ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit?'”
Were screenwriters Dan Gregor and Doug Mand putting one by The Mouse by making a deep-dive dig at Disney’s treatment of the voice of the original Peter Pan, Bobby Driscoll? As those deep into Disneyana know, Unsentimental Uncle Walt disposed of Driscoll, who drifted into drugs and died at 31, one of the more sad and infamous “former child star” stories in Hollywood history.
Gregor and Mand had to know, right? As online fans, who by and large endorsed the film, debate minutia like the decision to show which biologically-incompatible cartoon characters are shown to have produced offspring (“They had SEX!”), and obsess over the scores upon scores of non-Disney characters to make appearances (without being given a single funny thing to do, as I noted in my review), they’re also asking that question.
Maybe they didn’t. When I covered all things Disney — which meant reading and reviewing every new Disney biography or “tell all” to come out of that World — for the Orlando newspaper, I recall running across the Driscoll story. Uncle Walt was only sentimental about his “Nine Old Men,” the animators who crossed a picket line and helped him keep the studio running during labor strife at the House that Mickey Built in the 1940s.
Everybody else was disposable, used and tossed aside. Some of these people sued as Walt’s heirs and their company exploited their work further as TV and then the video revolution gave new value to that back catalog.
So Driscoll’s story is sad but typical, and maybe it’s a bit tasteless to do that to poor Peter in a movie, but it is what it is. Driscoll never came to my mind while watching “Rescue Rangers,” maybe Mand and Gregor forgot about him, too. And as “Peter Pan Syndrome” and the like have entered common currency, it’s possible the writers didn’t know or recall this story. Expecting today’s generation of Disney execs to know anything about the operation pre Pixar is laughable.
Like me and anybody who didn’t grow up with the 1990s TV series, that would have slipped right by them.
My guess is that the bigger jab is at fans — now in their 30s or older — still clinging to entertainment from their childhood, maintaining a stake in something that was never meant to be all that sophisticated. The “Darkwing Duck/Animaniacs” generation should be able to take a joke, and judging from the fan reaction to the film, they can.
I still say the bigger crime is casting all these characters and doing little or nothing funny with them, putting comic John Mulaney in a co-starring role and hanging him out to dry.