7 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Peter Pan

On December 27, 1904, the play Peter Pan, by James Barrie, opens at the Duke of York’s Theater in London. Here are 7 facts that will surprise even the most dedicated fans of Peter Pan...


Peter Pan Started Out as a Stage Play “Peter Pan; or, The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up” began as a play, not as a novel, and it first opened in 1904 in London at the Duke of York’s Theatre. It was based on stories told by James Barrie to the children of Llewelyn Davies, who was a cousin to author Daphne du Maurier.

Peter Pan Didn’t Wear All Green Peter Pan wasn’t dressed in all green until Disney presented him that way in the 1953 animated movie. During the stage productions, the boy who could fly wore tans, auburn, and browns, along with cobwebs. The character was named for one of the Davies boys, whose name was Peter, and for Pan, the Greek god of wild things and nature. In addition, it has been suggested that the character was based on Barrie’s own brother, who died in his teens following a skating accident.


Fairy Dust Was Added Later For Safety Reasons Originally Peter and the Lost Boys could fly unaided, but after several reports of children injuring themselves attempting to fly from their beds, JM Barrie added Fairy Dust to the play as a necessary factor for flying, so children would understand they could not fly without it.

The Character of Peter Pan Was Played by a Woman Theatrical tradition in those days was that women were used to play young boys, and this tradition continued for Peter Pan. Nina Boucicault was the first actress to play Peter when the play opened. In 1905, the play opened in New York City with Maude Adams, who was the most successful actress of her day, in the title role. J M Barrie always wished to see a boy play Peter on stage, though he never lived to see it occur. It’s also traditional to have the same actor playing Hook and Mr Darling, which is the case in our production at Polka.

A Famous Line From the Show Was Cut During the War One famous line was removed from the production of the show during World War II because many of those in the audience were soldiers who were on leave. The line “To die will be an awfully big adventure” is attributed to the original producer of “Peter Pan,” Charles Frohman. They were reportedly his last words just before he died on the RMS Lusitania when it sank after being struck by a torpedo fired by a German U-boat in 1915.

Walt Disney Once Starred as Peter Pan in a Play The decision to bring an animated version of Peter Pan to the big screen stems from Walt’s own childhood. After seeing a stage production of the show, he got the chance to play Peter in a school play. He recalled his brother Roy using a rope to hoist him up over the stage to make it look like he was flying.    

JM Barrie Gave All The Rights to Peter Pan to Great Ormond Street Hospital The hospital has received royalties every time a production of the play is put on. Barrie requested that the amount raised from Peter Pan should never be revealed, and the hospital has always honored his wishes.