Just a few thoughts on Disney’s ‘Peter Pan and Wendy’ trailer.

For those who have crossed paths with me, my fascination with J. M. Barrie and his various works, specifically those concerning Peter Pan is quite well known. So, it’s no surprise after Disney+ dropped the official trailer for Peter Pan and Wendy, the reimagining of Disney’s 1953 animated classic, several people tagged or sent me the trailer.

So yes, I’ve seen the trailer, and of course, I will be watching it when the film is released. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that Barrie-enthusiast isn’t a little hesitant. So far, out of the various iterations of J.M. Barrie’s beloved story, the 2003 Peter Pan is the only one that came close to telling the story accurately. 

Disney’s original animated classic did take quite a bit of creative license with the source material. Judging from the trailer, in reimagining the film, the writers David Lowery and Toby Halbrooks have also drawn inspiration from the actual novel, including changing the title, changes to the Lost Boys that now include girls, as well as some casting choices that have people questioning the need for such changes.

Now I do not deny Barrie’s portrayal of Neverland’s Indigenous population was problematic and very much something of its time. However, Disney’s previous portrayal in the 1953 film was blatantly racist with its use of stereotypes. So I was curious to see how the reimagining would tackle the character of Tiger Lily and her tribe. It is great they’ve followed suit with P. J. Hogan’s 2003 film and cast an Indigenous actress as Tiger Lily. Alyssa Wapanatâhk looks absolutely perfect in the role, and I can’t wait to see what she brings to the character.


2015’s Pan saw an attempt at a prequel to the beloved story but became a massive flop. The writers may have had the best intention in wiping the source material’s problematic past by portraying Tiger Lily and her tribe as multiracial. Casting Rooney Mara, of European ancestry, was not the way to go.

With Disney’s casting of Alyssa Wapanatâhk, the studio is attempting to right its past wrongs rather than simply erasing the character and her background altogether. You would like to think, in these modern times, there would have been some consulting with the Indigenous communities, who have been affected by these outdated and racist portrayals in the past. Only time will tell if they can successfully provide the representation needed here.

While this casting choice has been getting a lot of praise, the opposite is being said for casting Yara Shahidi as Tinker Bell. Some commenters say Tinker Bell has always been a white girl with blonde hair and blue eyes, and diverting from the original material isn’t right. I’m going to add my two cents worth. J. M. Barrie described Tinker Bell as “exquisitely gowned in a skeleton leaf cut low and square, through which her figure could be seen to the best advantage. She was slightly inclined to embonpoint.”

In much the same way that Coca-Cola made Santa Claus’ clothes red, It was Disney who made Tinker Bell blonde and blue-eyed. The world just went with it. So if they choose to reimagine this aspect, I say all the power to them. 

In much the same way as Halle Bailey, being cast as The Little Mermaid in the upcoming Disney remake has inspired a new generation of children. Specifically children of colour, by having a beloved character they could relate to. It now looks like Tinker Bell will do the same. And I think this is beautiful! 

In the meantime, from what I’ve seen of the trailer, Yara Shahidi looks fantastic as Tinker Bell. As long as she brings the attitude and sass we’ve grown to love with the character of Tink, her skin could be bright pink, and I wouldn’t care.

Now time to address the actual elephant in the room, which I believe is the real issue with the casting of Yara Shahidi. While it is fantastic that Disney is giving a new take on characters previously portrayed as traditionally white. I think what is needed is more fresh, original stories with non-white characters in central roles. While Disney has made some attempts to do this, more is required, and as a studio, we can agree they can do better.

Even though I’m somewhat of a Pan-purist, I can see from the trailer that several choices are being made in making the beloved story and its characters accessible and relatable. Another example is making some of the Lost Boys females. J. M Barrie initially said girls were too smart to fall out of their prams. But I think this and the other little changes made are for the greater good. It is a reimagining, after all. Why should children miss out on the same magic I felt as a child simply because they’re not white or male?

I say share the magic!