Once Upon a Time, Pan, Finding Neverland on Broadway, Peter Pan live NBC special…it seems that Peter is having a resurgence. Peter was first introduced to the world in 1904 with J.M. Barrie’s play, Peter Pan— also referred to as The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up. Though book sales have plateaued, Peter has lived on through numerous movie adaptations from the famous Walt Disney version in 1953 to Hook starring Robin Williams in 1991 to Finding Neverland starring Johnny Depp in 2004. However, one thing has remained throughout all these adaptations—unanswered questions.
Where did Peter come from? Why is he the leader? Why does Hook have it out for him? Where did these indians (pardon my non-political correctness, native neverlandians I suppose is more accurate) come from? With the recent resurgence of Peter in popular culture, I decided to read the novel in order to answer some of these questions. Unfortunately, very few were answered…leaving me thinking that perhaps early 1900s audiences just didn’t challenge things as much as we do today.
I propose that this is exactly why Peter has returned. Today, we are inundated with information; if you don’t know something, Google it. But not so with Pan. We aren’t able to pick Barrie’s brain for why he described Pan as an infant, despite having the development level of at least a 7 year old. We can’t ask Google why Hook has it out for Peter or how he even got to Neverland as an adult. And we don’t have a clue why there are “red skins” on this island of misfit boys (not to be confused with the Island of Misfit Toys from Rudolph— very different story).
So with these unanswered questions, producers are smart enough to recognize an opportunity. The new live-action movie, Pan (debuting November 2015— yet another trailer released way before its time) is a prequel to Disney’s Peter Pan. Finding Neverland gave us Barrie’s inspiration. Once Upon A Time, the TV series, gave us a twist to the story. These productions as well as others scrambled to capitalize on our lack of information which resulted in the reappearance of Pan at our open windows.
The lesson from all of this is that a story left untold is no story at all in today’s day-in-age. Every brand needs a fully developed, fully fleshed out, entirely wholesome approach that contains all the information, otherwise, audiences will merely go to someone else to fulfill their needs and get the information they desire. Releasing Peter Pan today would be equivalent of a company only having a logo to define their brand; it might have worked back in the day, but not in today’s information age. The reason we go to see these new Peter Pan movies is to complete the story from the sole information source. In the business world, audiences won’t come back to your website or other marketing materials for information on what you’re all about; they just go to a company that has the information readily available. For this reason, it’s vital that your company clearly and consistently portrays your brand story and how you want to be seen as a business. Otherwise, you will come across as incomplete, which often translates to untrustworthy and non-relatable.
Sidebar: Instead of doing your typical Original Broadway Cast soundtrack for Finding Neverland on Broadway; John Legend, Rita Ora, and Nick Jonas will be featured in a special album. The hope is to introduce the music to audiences that probably would never think to explore the world of Broadway. This opens up opportunities for the songs to get on top-hit lists, more plays on audio sites, and even radio plays. For more on this, check out Billboard’s article on this cross-over marketing initiative.