David Lowery became an indie film darling with projects like “The Green Knight” and “A Ghost Story,” but he has become equally prolific as a Disney filmmaker. After finding success with his live-action take on “Pete’s Dragon,” he collaborated with the studio again on “Peter Pan & Wendy,” which is now streaming on Disney+. But per usual, his reimagining of the Disney classic was shaped by the more adult-oriented projects that he enjoys.
In a new interview with The New York Times, Lowery opened up about the films that influenced “Peter Pan & Wendy.” He found inspiration in some unlikely sources, including Andrei Tarkovsky’s “Mirror.” He explained that Peter Pan and Tinkerbell’s introduction scenes, where they sprinkle pixie dust on the sleeping Darling children, were inspired by certain levitation shots in the surreal classic.
He was also inspired by some more modern films, including Martin Scorsese’s “Gangs of New York.” He said that Daniel Day-Lewis’ brutal villain Bill the Butcher was an inspiration for Jude Law’s take on Captain Hook — in part because of the mustache that Day-Lewis sported.
“That became the Captain Hook I saw in my mind while I was writing the script,” Lowery said.
The arthouse influences are hardly surprising, as Lowery has been open about his desire to make children’s entertainment more sophisticated. In a recent interview with IndieWire’s Eric Kohn, Lowery spoke about the importance of providing children with good movies to instill a lifelong love of cinema in them.
“When you think back on the movies that have made the biggest impression on you in your life, so much of them are from when you’re young,” he said. “For all the risks involved when you’re a creative, sensitive person and make a giant studio movie, it is worth it, because you can get something on screen that could make a valuable impression on an audience member just beginning their journey through life. That’s why I make these movies and I will seek to keep making them. It’s contributes more to the world than just giving something to me. It gives something to a future generation.”
It seems that Lowery achieved his goal, as critics have praised the film for injecting the story with a nuance rarely found in Disney movies.
“Here is a movie that achieves its magic by embracing the same changes that its title characters are determined to avoid at all costs,” IndieWire’s David Ehrlich wrote in his review. “Lowery and long-time co-writer Toby Halbrooks stop well short of radically transforming their source material, but in a sea of Disney remakes and adaptations that rely on high-tech cosmetics to disguise a profound fear of growing up, “Peter Pan & Wendy” dares to suggest that we can only cling to the past for so long before we begin to sink under its weight.”