Peter Pan’s Flight Over London Tramples on the Memory of a British War Hero
Most of London is actually a dark shadow, punctuated by blacklight windows and maniacal speed-demon automobiles, with a few boats thrown in for good measure.
The giveaways, of course, are Big Ben and the Tower Bridge. But there’s a third famous London landmark that makes an appearance. Or at least, we think that was the intent before the Magic Kingdom version brought dishonor onto a disabled veteran.
Nelson’s Column is a towering 170-foot monument to Admiral Horatio Nelson, who lost his life in the Battle of Trafalgar more than 200 years ago. Nelson’s Column is still a popular tourist spot today in Trafalgar Square — which, by the way, sits approximately halfway between Bloomsbury and Big Ben.
We can go all the way back to the opening of Disneyland. This scan from the much-beloved E-Ticket magazine clearly shows Nelson’s Column as part of Peter Pan’s flight over London — elevating it to equal status with Big Ben and the Tower Bridge.
In fact, if you ride the Disneyland version today, you can still see the grand old admiral himself, glowering from atop his column.
If you ride the Magic Kingdom version, you’ll see something that kinda resembles him, but has been botched in every significant way.
Let’s forget the geography for the moment. We’ve long since given up on that. But is this Nelson’s Column or not?
Almost all logic would say yes. It’s a fabled landmark, he appeared in the Disneyland version, and hey, it’s a guy standing on a column.
But there is one thing you may not know about the brave Horatio Nelson. This is how he looks in real life:
The dude only has one arm! One eye too, apparently, though that’s less evident on the statue. But the statue in Peter Pan’s flight over London clearly shows an outstretched flag in the right hand.
Why cover up the man’s disability? That doesn’t seem very respectful at all. In fact, it’s kind of mocking. Like leaning over the edge of your pirate ship as you float past and asking Admiral Nelson to give you a high five.
I suppose it’s possible that the Magic Kingdom version is a statue of some other guy on a column, but I could find no similarly famous statue in London to match it. Maybe it’s out there and I was just looking in the wrong spot. After all, it’s not like I could rely on the geography.
But speaking of statues…
It Omits or Botches Actual Peter Pan Landmarks
Who doesn’t love a good easter egg, right? When it comes to Peter Pan, the actual city of London is full of them.
There’s the famous Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens — erected in secret one summer evening by Sir J.M. Barrie so that it would appear like magic to the children.
There’s the Great Ormond Street Hospital, a children’s hospital which famously inherited Barrie’s copyright for Peter Pan when the dear author passed away.
There’s even Sir Barrie’s house, right in the heart of the action.
All of these are sadly not even on the map, due to Bloomsbury getting blasted out of existence by the Peter Pan’s Flight geography.
Don’t they care about the children??
That leaves Big Ben itself. If you’re going to include it, it would be nice to see some attention to detail. Disneyland’s version actually shows the shadow of Peter and Wendy standing on the clock hands — just like in the movie — while the Magic Kingdom version saves its super-weird shadow details for elsewhere in the ride.
Just look at that clock face. The movie (and the real tower) have highly stylized roman numerals, correctly radiating out from the center of the clock. Not only does Magic Kingdom’s version go with more straightforward numerals, but the bottom half of the clock face switches the orientation so that the numbers are never upside down.
They can’t even get the time right. In the movie, Peter alights on the clock hand at 8:04, and his momentum pushes the minute hand down to 8:15, causing the clock to chime. During Peter Pan’s flight over London in the Magic Kingdom, it’s already 9:06.
Good news though! If you look closely at one of the windows of Big Ben in the Disneyland version, you can spot one of the better Hidden Mickeys.
Just shoot me now.
Disney Gets it Perfect… Literally Right Next Door!
Maybe all of this wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the fact that right next door to Peter Pan’s Flight — in fact literally sharing the same show building — is an attraction that correctly and perfectly shows Peter Pan’s flight over London in all its glory.
Mickey’s Philharmagic features a painstakingly recreated, three-dimensional, CGI rendering of the Big Ben scene from the movie — and tosses in an irascible duck for good measure.
Yes, you heard that right. The big 80-minute-wait, all-time-classic, Magic Kingdom original Peter Pan’s Flight just got beat by a throwaway sequence in a 3-D movie starring a flying hat.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why you should never trust a stage magician.