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PETER PAN

Chapter And Verse
"J. M. Barrie wrote Peter Pan during a period that's endlessly fascinating to me,” said director P. J. Hogan. "When I started looking at artwork from that time, I got very interested in the Romantic period, particularly the work of John William Waterhouse and Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones. The colors are very bright, people appear to be illuminated from within. And I thought, ‘These are the paintings J. M. Barrie would have been looking at, paintings he would have seen on exhibition.'

"When I describe the film as looking very romantic,” he continued, "it's not in the strictest sense of the word. It's more that everything is bigger than life, the colors are brighter and warmer, everything is very rich.”

To give Peter Pan the visual mood he desired, Hogan assembled a team of award-winning behind-the-scenes artists. Long before that, however, he laid the groundwork by building a book of images that suggested aspects of his vision. 

"P. J. has a very precise visual sense of how a story needs to be told,” explained producer Patrick McCormick. "His book of references covered every detail of the story – London streets, Neverland, cloud sequences. We created everything in this movie. There isn't any moment or sequence where we said, ‘Okay, we have that location, or it's easy for us to build a set like that.' Everything is fabricated to resonate with the rest of the movie.” 

In the early days of pre-pre-production, the filmmakers had considered shooting Peter Pan on location, which would have meant filming in a jungle, aboard a ship, at sea and on the streets of London. But because so much of the story takes place at night and so many cast members were children whose schedules were governed by strict child labor laws, location plans were abandoned. Instead, production was based at Warner Roadshow Studios in Gold Coast, Australia (Queensland) and the film's sets were constructed on a number of massive soundstages. The only exception was the London streets set, which was built outdoors on the lot in Australia and occasioned the schedule's single instance of nightshooting by the main unit. 

At times, Peter Pan occupied all eight of the facility's stages. In addition to answering concerns about the children's schedules, shooting on the stages allowed production to create and execute the elaborate locations under controlled circumstances, unhampered by local exterior conditions such as cyclone season. It also allowed the filmmakers to set the story in a larger-than-life world of heightened reality. 

Hogan's early research gave his team the much-appreciated chance to hit the ground running. "P. J. must have spent a year pulling together what we call the bible,” said production designer Roger Ford. "Most of it was culled from paintings or illustrations in books which expressed his feeling for how he wanted to see the film. The time it takes to find out a director's vision when a document like this doesn't exist is considerable. I've never come across a director who had gone this far before the team was put together. 

"Peter Pan is a designer's dream,” Ford continued, "because it's many films in one: Edwardian London, pirate ship, tropical jungle, an ancient castle with dragons and water – any of these settings could be a film on its own. The whole thinking behind the look was to start with reality, then push and exaggerate it to get to the level of magic – to push the most extreme things you'd find in nature. You'd never get the combination of things in a real forest that we have in ours. And you never know if it really happened or was a dream.” 

Director of photography Donald McAlpine, who shot the visually daring Moulin Rouge, elaborated on how the bible enhanced this process. "P. J. presents you with an image that may be a glorious golden glen but through that you realize what he really needs is a dark blue back-lit scene,” he<

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