Jake and the Never Land Pirates

by Jim Korkis, contributing writer

"Yo Ho! Let's Go!" Based on Disney's Peter Pan franchise, Jake and the Never Land Pirates (also known as Captain Jake and the Never Land Pirates in the fourth season) was a Disney Junior animated television series that ran for four seasons from 2011-2016 with reruns continuing into 2017.

The series was created by Bobs Gannaway, whose work includes another Disney Junior series Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and Disney films such as Secret of the Wings, The Pirate Fairy, and Planes: Fire & Rescue.

The characters from "Jake and the Never Land Pirates."

Disney Junior (formerly Playhouse Disney) on the Disney Channel debuted in more than 99 million homes in February 2011 as a daily block of programming. In 2012, it expanded into its own 24-hour basic cable and satellite channel in the United States.

Anchored by the new animated series Jake and the Never Land Pirates, five other new series were also part of the initial Disney Junior schedule:

The short form titles were Mickey Mousekersize (with host Mickey Mouse encouraging kids to get up and exercise with him and his pals), Special Agent Oso: Three Healthy Steps (live-action kids demonstrate three healthy steps to exercising and eating right. supporting Disney's Magic of Healthy Living initiative) and A Poem Is… (narrated by Jennifer Garner and Katie Holmes set to scenes and imagery from classic Disney films including Dumbo, Bambi, and Lady and the Tramp).

Two new full length series also debuted: Babar and the Adventures of Badou (an updated version of the classic Babar series that introduced King Babar's energetic 8-year-old grandson, Badou, and their friends) and Tinga Tinga Tales (a vibrant animated adventure series inspired by traditional African animal folktales and the art of Tanzania).

Playhouse Disney favorites Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Handy Manny, Special Agent Oso, Jungle Junction, and Imagination Movers were also seen on the initial launch of Disney Junior.

According to the publicity release, "Disney Junior's animated and live action programming will blend Disney's unparalleled storytelling and beloved characters with learning components, including early math and language skills, as well as healthy eating and lifestyles, with an emphasis on social and emotional development."

Gary Marsh, president, Entertainment, and chief creative officer, Disney Channels Worldwide said: "Disney Junior will be an entry point into the world of Disney for young kids, creating a world—online and on-air—that captures the magic of Disney and its classic heartfelt storytelling and timeless characters beloved by generations."

The learning-focused programming was aimed at children aged 2 to 7. The Emmy-nominated and Annie Award-winning Jake and the Never Land Pirates consistently ranked among the top preschool programs with kids 2 to 5 years of age, especially boys.

"Jake and the Never Land Pirates will introduce preschoolers to the excitement of Never Land, an imaginative, engaging pirate world for kids and a wonderfully memorable one for their parents," stated Nancy Kanter, senior VP Playhouse Disney Worldwide. "Comedic foils Captain Hook and his well-meaning sidekick, Smee, will continue to amuse young kids, as the enthusiastic Jake leads his team of kid pirates on adventures that model teamwork for our young viewers."

The premise of the show was that Peter Pan (Adam Wylie) decided to go exploring beyond Never Land. Apparently, many of the famous residents of Never Land including the Lost Boys, Tinker Bell and the Indians have also somehow mysteriously disappeared along with Peter. The series ended after four seasons with a total of 116 half-hour episodes on November 6, 2016.

On the island, Peter has left in charge the young kids Jake (Cameron Boyce/Colin Ford/Sean Ryan Fox/Riley Thomas Stewart/ Gabe Eggerling), who is the leader and is 8 to 9 years old; and his friends the girl Izzy "Isabella" (Madison Pettis/Megan Richie) who has a bag of pixie dust to help them fly but only in emergences and who is 6 to 7 years old; the boy Cubby (Jonathan Morgan Heit/Jadon Sand) who has a map so they always know where to go, and who is 5 to 6 years old.

They have proclaimed themselves as pirates going counter to author James Barrie's intent that when children grow up and become adults they become pirates.

In Peter Pan Returns, it is explained that Peter felt he needed his own crew of pirates to keep Never Land safe from Captain Hook and his men. He gave Jake a wooden Forever Sword that he carved from the Forever Tree, the tree that provides magic to Never Land, to help Jake be a good leader. Although it is made of wood, since it is magic, it can slice through things just like a metal sword.

Peter had the fairies give Izzy a bag of pixie dust that could be replenished at the Fountain of Forever, a pixe dust fountain hidden on Pixie Peak in Never Land. Peter gave his own special map of Never Land to Cubby so they would never get lost.

They sail aboard their sentient ship named Bucky along with their small green talking parrot, Skully (David Arquette). They just want to play, have fun and hunt for treasure. They live on Pirate Island that is in the Never Sea off the coast of Never Land.

Captain Hook (Corey Burton), Mr. Smee (Jeff Bennett) and two dim-witted pirates named Bones and Sharky (speaking voices by Jeff Bennett) are still in Never Land aboard their ship the Jolly Roger and apparently their major goal is to try to steal whatever fun and whatever treasures Jake and his crew have found.

The crocodile Tick-Tock is still around to plague Hook and his crew but is more comedic and playful, like an overeager puppy. When Peter Pan finally does show up for an appearance, Hook just wants to banish him forever from Never Land rather than killing him.

The first season of the series followed more "playful" conflicts, such as Jake and the crew getting their basketball back from Captain Hook or taking back their stolen skateboard. The later seasons gave a larger scale to the Never Land adventures with Jake and his crew finding a lost city of gold or an ancient pirate pyramid.

After they succeed, Jake and his crew count their gold doubloons that they have received throughout the episode after solving puzzles or "pirate problems" and put them in their Team Treasure Chest. This was meant to help young children with arithmetic.

Burton and Bennett who had voiced Hook and Smee in the Peter Pan: Return to Never Land movie and who are the official Disney voices of the two characters reprised their roles in the new series but were asked to modify their performances for a pre-school audience.

Burton said:

"To be honest, I just imagined what Hans (Conried, the original voice of Hook in Peter Pan) would have done if he'd been asked to portray Captain Hook on the old Jack Benny or Burns and Allen television shows. Conried—being the pro that he was—would have modulated his performance so that Hook would have then worked within the confines of that particular program.

"Hook's always been a comic villain. So for Jake and the Never Land Pirates I just played up the comedy and dialed down the villainy.

"Jeff Bennett and I have had so much fun recording Jake and the Never Land Pirates. You see, on this show, we play Hook and Smee like they're an old vaudeville comedy team which is kind of appropriate. When you consider that Hans Conried actually got his start in vaudeville. As did Bill Thompson the radio comic who originally voiced Mr. Smee for Disney's classic animated feature."

In the series, Hook has a series of interchangeable replacement hooks including the whirly hook, fly swatter hook, hammer hook, grappling hook, cannon hook, magnet hook, toothbrush hook, whistle hook, baseball bat hook, mirror hook, screwdriver hook, mustache comb hook, and many, many more.

The show featured two 11-minute adventures in each half-hour, although occasionally there was only one episode in the half-hour slot. In that time constraint, the producers managed to squeeze in not only little educational flourishes and a couple of songs, but also coax kids to physically participate ("Let's all make monkey noises!" "Let's jump over these vines!").

Each episode concludes with a live-action music video featuring The Never Land Pirate Band playing original songs written and performed by Loren Hoskins and Kevin Hendrickson as Sharky and Bones.

Portland, Oregon-based Hoskins and Hendrickson had been creating pirate rock music for kids of all ages for more than a decade. The duo had produced four children's albums and even led their own pirate band, Captain Bogg & Salty.

Their songs included the comical "Hot Lava," "Aw Coconuts," "Pirate Password," "Talk Like a Pirate," "What's Cookin' Smee," "Captain Hook (Is A Cranky Crook)," "Tick Tock Croc," "Bucky's Shanty," "Castaway on Pirate Island," "Shipwreck Shuffle," and "Never Sky," as well as the Jake and the Never Land Pirates theme song.

The whole show was produced in Ottawa, Canada at Mercury Filmworks. The show was animated using Harmony and Maya. The studio also used a proprietary animation technique that made it look like traditional hand-drawn animation. For the fourth and final season, the animation was sourced to Bardel Entertainment (a Canadian animation studio) and Toon City (a Filipino animation studio located in Manila).

Many of the key creative professionals behind Disney's number one series for preschoolers Mickey Mouse Clubhouse were responsible for Jake and the Never Land Pirates. Rob LaDuca executive-produced, Mark Seidenberg served as producer/story editor, Kelly Ward was voice director and Howy Parkins directed episodes of the series. It was officially a production of Disney Television Animation.

The show featured multiple celebrity guest voices, including Jack McBrayer (Pirate Mummy), Mark Hamill (Pirate Shiverjack), Carl Reiner (ghost pirate Captain Treasure Tooth), Rico Rodriguez (Snow-Foot), Estelle Harris (Peg-Leg) Peg, Ariel Winter (mermaid Marina), Adam West (Wise Old Parrot), Carol Kane (Sea Witch)

Tiffani Thiessen (Misty the Wonderful Witch), Jerry O'Connell (Pip the Pirate Genie), Bill Farmer (Ghostly Bob), David Tennant (Dread the Evil Genie), Malcolm McDowell (Lord Fathom), Christian Slater (The Grim Buccaneer), Tony Hale (Doctor Undergear), Sharon Osbourne (Mama Hook) and Jo Frost as Nanny Nell, Captain Hook's no-nonsense nanny among others.

The industry trade paper Variety on February 15, 2011, described the show as "Part video game, part interactive cartoon, part advertisement for Peter Pan merchandise, it's a slick product aimed at the just-out-of-diapers set."

For a series based in Never Land, initially Peter Pan and Tinker Bell never made any appearances although Peter was mentioned several times by Jake, his crew and even Captain Hook. Often an episode would revolve around a note from Peter to send Jake and his friends off some new adventure like finding the skeleton key to Skull Rock, the Never Bloom flower, the Emerald Coconut and more.

Physically, Peter first makes an appearance in the special episode Peter Pan Returns to recruit his crew to help him find his shadow. He makes brief appearances in Peter's Musical Pipes and Jake's Awesome Surprise. He makes a full appearance in the special Jake Saves Bucky, where he helps Jake win back Bucky that they lost to Captain Hook in a race.

Peter returns in the special Battle for the Book, where a storybook containing the memories of Wendy, Michael, and John of their time in Never Land is stolen by Hook to destroy it because it documents his humiliation at the hands of Peter.

The Darling children slowly begin to lose their memories of Peter and Never Land, prompting Peter to recruit Jake and his crew to recover the book. Peter gives Tinker Bell the task of looking after Jake and his crew as they travel to London to help Wendy, Michael, and John reclaim their book.

Actress Maia Mitchell (Disney Channel's Teen Beach Movie and ABC Family's The Fosters) voiced the role of Wendy and performed new original song Once Upon A Time.

Peter Pan states, "Well, Wendy, your storybook is magical. Just like Never Land. It's gotta have all its pages from the first to the very last. Without them, none of us will ever remember the stories of our adventures."

At the end of these specials, Peter always leaves Never Land to continue exploring.

Both Peter and Tinker Bell appear in the episode Peter Pan's 100 Treasures where Jake and the others compete in a scavenger hunt. Peter and his mischievous shadow reappear in Pirate Fool's Day.

Figurines for "Jake and the Never Land Pirates."

Peter and Tinker Bell also appear in the series finale Captain Hook's Last Stand. Jake, his crew and the Darling children enjoy seeing the various treasures Peter has gathered from his travels including the dangerous Doom Stone that can turn anyone to stone. When Hook turns Peter to stone, it takes a kiss from Wendy to help break the spell.

In Jake's Never Land Rescue, Peter introduced Tinker Bell in her first appearance in the series to Jake and his crew who unknowingly are being tested to take over the guardianship of Never Land. Captain Hook kidnaps the fairy to dust the Jolly Roger so he can plunder the lands beyond the Never Sea. Hook imprisons Tink in a lantern and tosses her overboard but she is rescued by Peter.

In Captain Jake's Pirate Power Crew, Tinker Bell delivers the Pirate Power Bandanas and a note from Peter.

While the other fairies were mentioned several times through the course of the four seasons, Tinker Bell is noticeably the only fairy to make a physical appearance.

Tinker Bell waving the screen with pixie dust at the end of the episodes Jake's Never Land Rescue and Battle for the Book was meant to be a reference to her appearance in the Disney television Anthology series. The only non-fairy characters known to understand Tinker Bell completely are Peter Pan and Captain Hook, though Jake and his crew understand her to a degree.

Actress Mae Whitman who provided Tinker Bell voice in the straight-to-video Tinker Bell movies also supplied various vocal effects for Tink in Jake's Never Land Rescue but would not reprise the role for Tink's other appearances in the series.

The series related internet site had a Jake and the Never Land Pirates supersite, featuring adventure-themed games including Jake's Treasure Hunt, where users help Jake and crew find hidden treasure and escape from Captain Hook, and Izzy's Flying Adventure, where players use Pixie dust to help Izzy and the gang fly off to stop Captain Hook, who has stolen their treasure. A dedicated section for parents and caregivers highlighted character-inspired recipes, crafts, and party-planning tips and ideas, along with how-to videos.

A read-along storybook and CD for "Jake and the Never Land Pirates."

Over the years the series ran, the website introduced new things, including games like Jake and the Never Land Pirates: The Super Pirate, where players could take on the role of Jake as he attempted to retrieve the Mega-Mecha Sword that Captain Hook had stolen. Jake's Never Land Rescue was a collection of four mini-game missions encouraging kids to help Jake on his quest to save Never Land.

The series is prominently featured in Feld Entertainment's 103-city nationwide tour, Disney Junior Live On Tour! Pirate and Princess Adventure, and it was showcased as part of Disney Junior's "Pirate and Princess: Power of Doing Good" pro-social touring event sponsored by ASPCA, Youth Service America (YSA), National Wildlife Federation, and First Book.

Other extensions of the hit series include multiple book titles, apps, a robust product line from Disney Consumer Products, and multiple soundtracks and DVDs from Disney Studios. Disney Consumer Products has licensed LEGO DUPLO sets, action figures and playsets, board games, bikes, apparel and bedding, available at major retailers nationwide.

Jake and his crew are an integral part of the popular Disney Junior Live on Stage! attraction at Disney California Adventure park at the Disneyland Resort and Disney's Hollywood Studios at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida where the Jake costumed character also meets with fans daily.

It was a popular television series that tried to be respectful to its original inspiration while adding to the mythology of Never Land.