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Film

'Chip 'n Dale', Peter Pan and Bobby Driscoll: Explaining Disney's latest controversy

@Russellisation

As the company holding the keys to the bank vault of the contemporary box office, Disney likes to uphold a squeaky-clean image on the outside, appearing like the bastions of progressive thinking, even if most of their efforts are purely done for show. 

This facade has cracked in recent months, however, with the company pulling its LGBTQ scenes from the Pixar movie Turning Red in order to make the film more ‘acceptable’ for audiences across the world. More recently, fans of the Disney+ release Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers have noticed something peculiar that points to the company’s troubled history of the treatment of child actors. 

Picking up 30 years after the release of their television show, the new Disney film brags the company’s vast array of characters and intellectual property, following in the form of such films as Space Jam: A New Legacy and Ralph Breaks the Internet that both saw a plethora of unrelated superstar cameos. 

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Bumping into countless Disney stars, the most notable icon in Chip ‘n Dale is the appearance of a noticeably older Peter Pan, sporting a scruffy beard, pronounced chest hair and beer belly. Playing on the gag of ‘the boy who wouldn’t grow up’, the character explains how he was fired by the studio and turned into a bitter man in his old age. Now, Disney has received backlash from eagle-eyed film fans who rightfully have pointed out how the villain’s story aligns with the tragic tale of the real-life Peter Pan actor.

Closely matching the true story of Bobby Driscoll, the child actor who voiced Peter Pan in the original Disney film in 1953, the young star was cast away from the studio shortly following the release of the film due to his excessive acne that ‘tarnished’ his image in Disney’s eyes. Despite serving as the physical inspiration for the character of the iconic film, Driscoll was dismissed, lapsing into alcohol and drug abuse before passing away homeless at the age of 31. 

Dishevelled and downtrodden, the latest iteration of Peter Pan in Chip ‘n Dale also appears to take inspiration from Driscoll’s image, making his iconic animated character a washed-up star cast away by the studio who even has whiskey glasses on his office desk. 

Understandably, this has caused an uproar from fans online who feel like Disney has disrespected the actor’s memory, mocking his service to the company as well as his tragic early death. After all, the arc of Chip n’ Dale’s Peter Pan isn’t similar to Bobby Driscoll’s story, it is Bobby Driscoll’s story. 

As one user on Twitter pointed out, “Bobby Driscoll was the voice of Peter Pan and one of Disney poster child before they basically threw him to the street when he reached puberty. He died at the age of thirty-one from drugs and misery. And in this movie, they do THAT”.

Take a look at screenshots from the scene below, and check out the trailer for the full movie.