An Exclusive Glimpse into Never Land with Disney's PETER PAN JR. Creators Zellnik and Svejcar

An Exclusive Glimpse into Never Land with Disney's PETER PAN JR. Creators Zellnik and Svejcar

Get the inside scoop on what it was like to create Disney's PETER PAN JR. for the stage:
In many ways, Never Land is a place you know already. J.M. Barrie’s creation has so fully infused our culture that it feels like a story that was discovered rather than written. It’s the subject of hundreds of movie, stage and novelistic adaptations, as well as works that start from Barrie’s story and then go off in their own merry directions (we’re pretty sure Barrie would approve). It feels hard to believe there was ever a time when Never Land didn’t exist, when Peter Pan, Captain Hook and Tinker Bell were just words in Barrie’s head.

So when Eric and I met with Disney to work on this new stage musical based on the classic animated film, we asked ourselves: how can we do justice to such a well-told tale? And if that wasn’t enough, they also gave us a crazy challenge: create a version of Peter Pan that can be done with no special effects. Not only do many characters fly – three of them learn to fly in front of our eyes! Not only is there a two-inch tall fairy, but she has to sing! And there are mermaids! And a flying pirate ship! Madness! So basically, we were thrilled.

Peter Pan is one of those select works of children’s literature that didn’t begin with an author sitting in a room; rather, it was born out of Barrie’s games with real kids whose spirits and ideas infused the work. This sense of play is everywhere in the story and gives it a make-it-up-as-you-go energy, which in turn gave us the freedom to rely on nothing more than the director’s (and actors’ and designers’ and audience’s) imagination.

We’ve come up with a way to do the musical by flying on tiptoes, holding up cardboard clouds, etc., but half the fun of any production should be playing and finding answers that feel right and true and surprising to you – whether it’s our way, or with wires and “real” flight, or some way we never thought of.  Peter Pan is in one sense a simple story about a girl named Wendy who is told she has to grow up and her friendship with a boy who tells her she never has to. And yet the story has lasted so long partly because of its beautifully complex themes. You want to go on crazy new adventures with Lost Boys, pirates, indians and mermaids... but also find your way back home. You want to stay young forever... and grow up.

Stories that speak deeply to us – the stories we love – help us understand something profound about ourselves. Somehow in play, we engage our minds and hearts and imaginations to discover what we really desire. Or as Tink commands more succinctly in the show: “Fly to who you are.”

We had a ridiculously fun time working on this and hope you do as well. We send our best wishes for your unique journey to Never Land!

—David Zellnik and Eric Svejcar