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Disney In Depth: Blu-ray Review: ‘Peter Pan’ Diamond Edition
Brett Nachman   |  

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Peter Pan Blu-ray cover

Peter Pan
3-Disc Blu-ray/DVD/Digital l 2-Disc Blu-ray/DVD
Directed by Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske
Starring Bobby Driscoll, Kathryn Beaumont, Hans Conried
Paul Collins, Tommy Luske
Walt Disney Home Entertainment
Release Date: February 5, 2013

The boy who never grew up flies onto Blu-ray. Here’s my review of the Peter Pan Diamond Edition on Blu-ray.

Six decades ago Walt Disney released this classic feature, which has stood the test of time – Tick Tock the crocodile would agree with that statement – and represents one of the most enduring Disney animated films. Consider that presently Tinker Bell leads a whole series of direct-to-video films and that Jake and The Neverland Pirates is one of Disney Junior channel’s greatest hits.

But let’s get back to the basics. I had not seen Peter Pan in its entirety in at least a decade and I almost forgot how touching and engaging this movie felt. “The Second Star to the Right” opens the film and sounds as magical as ever. That chorus sounds so glorious, even if it is feels as dated as some of the character designs. Though Peter Pan’s opening, set in the early 20th century, remains limited to that time period in setting, dialogue and other features, the humor carries through well. I laughed over nurse maid Nana the Newfoundland’s antics in making a mess in the children’s nursery. Disney’s genius in emoting feelings and humor out of characters like canines truly spans back to its earliest days with Goofy and Pluto, and has continued ever since.

The film seems to lose consistent pacing once the pirates invade the film, but I found the wit to pervade with Captain Hook and crew. The drama remains halted until the London gang arrive and I find it surprising how violent-natured the Lost Boys and Tinker Bell seem in present day. “You’re charged with high treason, Tink,” Peter Pan warns her. Good laugh.

“Follow The Leader” and other fifties-era toe-tappers contain much more allure than the dated stereotypes of Native Americans. Let’s hope Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Tonto in The Lone Ranger proves that Disney can represent this population in a non-trite manner. The song “What Makes The Red Man Red” certainly does not help Pan‘s case. At least the “Injuns” is not the film’s focus, but rather Peter Pan’s adventures.

These scenes’ simplicity in manner and tempo speak to the era – certainly not the fast-paced youthful generation of Generation Y – but Pan held my attention. Though a few of Hook’s and Smee’s silly antics draw on for a few minutes too long and possess the style of a buddies-themed sitcom, I was amused. What fails to play out nicely are transitions. Each portion of Pan feels like a segment, akin to a television show, but unfortunately they do not work cohesively. One moment it’s serious with the pirates capturing the children, the next the gang is dancing to a sea song. Uniformity is not Peter Pan’s strong suit, but then again some fashion-focused folks could argue the character’s “suit” is not strong either.

BONUS FEATURES

Peter Pan holds an array of bonus content, sure to interest younger and older viewers alike with its diverse features.

Diane Disney Miller, Walt’s daughter, provides a sweet introduction to the Blu-ray.

The audio commentary, originally featured in the 2002 DVD home release, is narrated by the late Roy Disney, alongside a bunch of famous Disney animators and personalities. Unlike many other recent Disney Blu-ray releases – Finding Nemo, for one – this audio commentary does not feature additional visual content with the commentary.

Deleted scenes include “The Journey Home” and “Alternate Arrival,” featuring storyboard sequences and concept art of how Pan could have ended and begun, respectively. Worth a watch once, at the very least. “Deleted Songs” include the catchy “Never Smile at a Crocodile,” complete with entertaining visuals and the radio tune-like “The Boatswain Song.”

“Growing up with Nine Old Men” serves as a fulfilling, if not somewhat lengthy documentary that explores the lives of many of Walt’s famous animators and their families. Ted Thomas (son of animator Frank Thomas) travels around the United States to interview several of the men’s children, already seniors, who share experiences of living with renowned artists. The transitions feel rushed and I wish more time would have been dedicated to the animators’ work, but I appreciate Thomas’ dedication in speaking with these families. A thoughtful and must-see 40-mintue documentary, for sure.

“Disney Song Selection” allows viewers to listen to each of the main songs from the film, with the captions listed to accommodate simple sing-alongs.

“Classic Music & More” contains a handful of scrapped tunes, all carried over from previous DVD versions of Pan. “The Pirate Song” feels forgettable, whereas “Never Land” is brought to life once again, as sung by the enchanting Paige O’Hara (the voice of Belle in Beauty and the Beast). A “Never Land” music video and the less-than-entertaining rendition of “The Second Star to the Right” by T-Squad are also featured.

“Classic DVD Bonus Features” carry over five featurettes from previous DVD versions, totaling just over an hour in length.

“You Can Fly: The Making of Peter Pan” spans the history of this story, first starting out as a stage show and later adapted to silent film and the Disney version. It moves at a nice, brisk pace with fascinating tidbits and well-crafted concept art.

“In Walt’s Words: Why I Made Peter Pan” showcases a non Walt Disney-voiced actor sharing what compelled him (Disney) to translate Pan from stage to screen.

“Tinker Bell: A Fairy’s Tale” tells the Tinker Bell tale in a storybook format, as if we did not know enough about the feisty pixie.

“The Peter Pan That Almost Was” presents classic Disney directors Ron Clements and John Musker as hosts to this perspective into the difficulties of developing story treatments. A plethora of artwork accompany enthusiastic narration by a voiceover artist.

“The Peter Pan Story” is dated feature on storytelling techniques with clips as passé as they are insignificant. At least this gives some insight into what featurettes of the 1950s appeared like. Dull, that’s what.

PRESENTATION

Though not a spectacular presentation, Pan looks and sounds rather robust. I love the featured screen, which basically serves as a 3-D tour of Never Land, soaring over popular destinations located in the film.

The picture quality appears quite solid. Not magnificent, but what else can you expect from a 60-year-old feature? Nevertheless there are no apparent marks in this restored version of the film, which displays soft shades and imagery. Moving onto the audio, Pan sounds crisp, even if not as immersive as the aural quality of modern movies. The orchestral score casts a charm throughout, adding a jovial tone during moments like the early flying scenes and appropriately ominous when Hook emerges on screen.

DisneyView complements the featured film quite effectively, essentially serving as colorfully-framed bars on the sides of the screen. The designs and patterns match the setting. I noticed this executed quite well during the “You Can Fly” song in which it alternated between a night-set sky design, and also one with bricks, to reflect Nana’s location on the ground. Well done.

Film: A-
Bonus Features: B+
Presentation: B+

Overall Grade: B+

You could say I was “hooked” for much of the movie, though the undeniably-bigoted elements and poor pacing lend a sour taste. Take it as the time period and move on, I suppose. Peter Pan may be no Lady and the Tramp – in many ways a more satisfying Disney animated entry from that decade – but it still remains as spellbinding and sweet as years yonder. Who would ever want to grow up? This Blu-ray release will convince you to never want to turn off the screen – unless listening to “You Can Fly” makes you wish to mute the movie.

This is Brett Nachman, signing off. Follow me on Twitter of alerts of upcoming editions of Disney In Depth, Thursdays on Geeks of Doom. Have a good week.

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