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Walt Disney Home Video presents
Peter Pan (Two-Disc Platinum Edition) (1953)

"Second star to the right and straight on till morning."
- Peter Pan (Bobby Driscoll)

Review By: Dan Heaton  
Published: March 07, 2007

Stars: Bobby Driscoll, Kathryn Beaumont, Hans Conreid, Bill Thompson, Heather Angel, Paul Collins, Tommy Luske
Other Stars: Candy Candido, Tom Conway, Roland Dupree, Don Barclay
Director: Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske

MPAA Rating: G for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 01h:17m:28s
Release Date: March 06, 2007
UPC: 786936718072
Genre: animation


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- A-AA- A

DVD Review

Growing up in the 1980s, I watched a countless number of Walt Disney films. My parents also loaded the three kids into the car during many summers for the family trip to Disney World. I'm still a big fan of the theme parks, but have rarely viewed the classic movies as an adult. Would they retain their childhood magic? Or would the fairy tales turn off this sometimes cynical reviewer? I did catch my share of Peter Pan and its music back then, and notable tunes like The Second Star to the Right and You Can Fly! remain imbedded in my brain. This film is one of Disney's most optimistic pictures, and incorporates a high amount of slapstick humor. However, it also conveys a prevailing theme about youth and energy that remains relevant today.

Adapted from the J.M. Barrie play, our story begins at the home of the Darlings and their three children—adolescent Wendy (Kathryn Beaumont), middle child John (Paul Collins), and energetic little Michael (Tommy Luske). They consistently burden their father and charm their mother with stories of Peter Pan (Bobby Driscoll) and the Lost Boys, who live in Never Land. While the parents are out, Peter arrives with the fairy Tinker Bell to reclaim his lost shadow, which Wendy has captured. Excited by the chance for her to act as mother to the Lost Boys, Peter teaches the kids to fly and takes them to Never Land. Their arrival brings the wide-eyed children into contact with mermaids, Indians, and dastardly pirates led by the villainous Captain Hook (Hans Conreid). In Never Land, the Darling kids enjoy fun adventures with Peter, Tink, and the Lost Boys that feel straight out of a storybook.

It is no surprise that the Disney animation still feels top-notch more than 50 years after the film's original release. The overhead shots of foggy London are especially strong and create a clear sense of place within a minimal timeframe. Never Land is also attractive and contains numerous memorable locations. The Skull Rock cliffs are a particular highlight, and Peter's verbal and physical duel with Hook there is one of the best moments. While the scenery remains stunning, the character animation differs widely depending on the specific figure. Captain Hook and Mr. Smee (Bill Thompson) are unique creations, but the Lost Boys do not make a significant impression. Peter is playful, but he's actually less interesting than many of the secondary performers. The animation is solid, but it fails to generate the emotional response of the top characters. One of the best works is Tinker Bell—modeled after the voluptuous Margaret Kerry—who generates considerable impact without a single word. Another silent figure that draws the biggest smiles is the Crocodile, who waits joyfully for Captain Hook to slip into its clutches.

A pivotal element of each animated Disney film is the soundtrack, particularly the unique tunes that have moved beyond their use in the picture. The animation team wonderfully use sound effects to highlight the movements of each character and enhances the overall effect. A perfect example is the Crocodile, whose appearance is easily recognized by the ticking clock resting inside its body. The creature even shifts around in time with the sounds and becomes even more memorable. This story is not as song-heavy as many Disney movies, but their inclusion does heighten the enjoyment. Kathryn Beaumont's elegant rendition of Your Mother and Mine brings added weight and depicts Wendy's growth. However, there are a few missteps, particularly Following the Leader, which traps itself painfully in your mind and will not leave. Political correctness might not be completely present in What Made the Red Man Red?, but the song does energize a fun sequence.

Peter Pan was a major hit for Walt Disney following the disappointing response to the less-digestible Alice in Wonderland. It showcased excellent animation and an energetic tone, which has charmed audiences since its opening. Viewing it as an adult, I did enjoy the story, but it did not resonate as strongly as the darker Disney films. The villains are charming goofballs, and I wasn't even sure that I wanted the duller Peter Pan to succeed. While I may not plan to give the film repeated viewings, it is difficult to deny its positive attributes. What child can't identify with getting the chance to fly and explore a magical land? My critical side might label this entry as "lesser Disney," but the engaging tale still deserves a strong recommendation.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Peter Pan's colorful animation deserves the highest-quality picture, and this sharp full-frame transfer offers plenty of memorable shots. While it might not wow viewers accustomed to the recent Pixar releases, the image remains strong throughout the energetic presentation. Considering the original 1953 release date, this remastered transfer gets top marks for every aspect.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishyes
DS 2.0French, Spanishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: This release definitely requires top-notch audio to truly succeed, and the 5.1-channel Dolby Digital track does provide excellent quality. Both the tunes and the sound effects move smoothly around the room and generate an immersing viewing. This release also includes a remastered version of the original theatrical mono transfer. It also provides a quality experience, and should please purists who would prefer audio closer to the original showing.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 31 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 5 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Jungle Book, Meet the Robinsons, Return to Neverland, Tinker Bell
2 Documentaries
3 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Roy Disney (host) with experts, animators, and actors including Leonard Maltin, Marc Davis, Kathryn Beaumont, Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, and Margaret Kerry
Packaging: generic plastic two-disc keepc
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Games and Activities
  2. Peter Pan's Playful Prank Storybook
  3. Music & More (song and music videos)
  4. Art Galleries
  5. Peter Pan's Virtual Flight
Extras Review: "Platinum" editions of Disney's other animated films—particularly Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs—have set the bar extremely high for each new release. Thankfully, Peter Pan does not disappoint and should even offer surprising information to Disney fanatics. The specific extras are described in the following sections:

Disc One

Commentary
Disney fans should purchase this DVD just to hear this intriguing commentary. Host Roy O. Disney joins an impressive panel of separately recorded participants to offer a broad perspective of the picture. Film critic Leonard Maltin also gives a historical perspective and describes the film's timely qualities. The track's highlight is a pivotal quote from Walt Disney, who candidly discusses his inability to connect with the Peter Pan character. We also hear warm recollections from Kathryn Beaumont, Margaret Kerry, and several legendary animators.

Peter's Playful Prank Storybook
This brief storybook is recommended solely for kids. It includes a very simple story involving a prank to free Tinker Bell and the Lost Boys. The presentation includes recycled film clips, clumsy new images, and a few audio files.

Disc Two

Music and More
This section contains some really cheesy music videos that only need one viewing, but it also provides several short, unique looks at unused songs.

Deleted Song: The Pirate Song (2:22)
This segment includes good drawings and information on the planned tune reflecting life as a pirate. While it might appear to be similar to the theme from the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction, this song pales in comparison. However, it does include the silly lines "you never have to wash behind your ears" and "you can stay up at night after 10." It does sound great to be a pirate.

Never Land: The Lost Song (5:53)
This interesting featurette describes how Richard Sherman used lyrics from an unfinished song and crafted a finished tune. Paige O'Hara, the voice of Belle, provides the voice, and we see the result in a dull music video. I enjoyed hearing about the song's re-working, but its lyrics were pretty repetitive.

The Second Star to the Right by T-Squad (2:57)<
This music video is definitely geared towards the pre-teens who love watching the Disney Channel. The young group tries very hard to act cool and even incorporates some awful hip-hop elements, which leads to a laughable clip.

Games and Activities
Young children should enjoy this section, particularly the games involving the film's characters. However, they are clumsy and won't do much for adults.

English Read-Along: Peter Pan
This helpful feature gives kids the chance to read and sing along with the movie. A nice frame and small icons make this extra better than typical subtitles.

Smee's Sudoku Challenge
Peter Pan loves sudoku. Who knew? This task incorporates the popular game into the world of Never Land. It should be extremely easy, but might be a nice introduction for children.

Tarrget Practice
This junky activity gives you the chance to shoot at pirates, but don't hit your friends. This feature didn't seem to work very well on my player, which could be a glitch on my end.

Tink's Fantasy Flight
You're able to fly behind Tinker Bell in this attractive feature, which should charm kids. Once again, my controller didn't work very well, but this could relate to operator error.

Backstage Disney
Once you've viewed the commentary, head directly to this excellent section to learn the history of Peter Pan. While there's always room for more information, it's hard to disagree with these inclusions.

You Can Fly: The Making of Peter Pan (15:59)
Many of the key participants return for this informative feature, which offers an impressive historical overview. We also view never-before-seen storyboards, hear about an unused scene, and learn about the voice casting. My only complaint would be its length, which easily could have been stretched to 30 minutes.

In Walt's Words: "Why I Made Peter Pan" (7:40)
This dramatic recreation of a 1953 magazine article by Walt Disney includes his personal reasons for making the film. Accompanied by photos, videos, and storyboards, this presentation is intriguing. I wonder how much is fact and just the myth, but it's great either way.

Tinker Bell: A Fairy's Tale (8:57)
Beginning with a quick overview of Tinker Bell, this feature covers the origins of the memorable character. Animator Marc Davis discusses this process, and Margaret Kerry recalls modeling for the role.

The Peter Pan That Almost Was (21:03)
This lengthy and compelling piece explores story elements that never made it into the final product. The creators discussed the possibility of starting the story in Never Land with a lengthy sequence, which probably would not have been a good idea. They also considered showing Peter Pan's origins, which would have stretched the story too much.

Art Galleries
This large section includes nine galleries covering such diverse areas as visual development, character design, production photos, and live-action reference. The pictures are available in thumbnail and full-screen formats.

The Peter Pan Story (12:03)
This 1952 featurette starts by describing J.M. Barrie and his creation of Peter Pan. Walt Disney then appears to discuss the choice to make a film about the character. Some elements are available in other places on this DVD, but this vintage overview remains worthwhile to show the original marketing.

Peter Pan's Virtual Flight
This short but worthy feature offers a two-minute, computer-generated journey over London and Never Land's notable sights. It's also available as a continuous loop, which thankfully eliminates the grating Peter Pan voice-over.

Extras Grade: A

 

Final Comments

Disney scores again with the excellent "Platinum Edition" of Peter Pan, one of the studio's lighter animated films. The commentary and backstage information offer intriguing material about the production, and the transfers are very worthwhile. This might not be the best Disney creation, but it should provide a fun experience for both children and adults.

 


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