When Sir James M. Barrie first penned Peter Pan back in the early 20th century you have to wonder if he had any idea how popular the magical story would become. Redone countless times in TV shows, movies, novels, and on stage, Peter Pan is one of those tales, like Cinderella, that captivates the mind and endears itself to the heart. We all have seen the character of Peter Pan in some form or another but the most memorable for me has to be Disney's rendition.
Created by Walt Disney Productions the 1953 animated masterpiece took the world by storm. It is regarded as one of the most prestigious of the classics found in the Disney library and clocked in as the 14th animated feature to be produced by the company. Due to the fact that the film is roughly 54 years old and Disney loves re-releasing things it's no surprise that we're looking at yet another video release for Peter Pan. This time around the boy who would not grow up gets treated well with a 2-disc Platinum Edition that may make many of you consider upgrading from the previous Special Edition DVD.
By now all of you are probably familiar with the tale. One starry night in London Wendy and her brothers Michael and John get a visit from none other than Peter Pan. He has come back looking for his shadow and much to Tinker Bell's dismay offers to bring the kids back to Never Land with him. There they join up with the Lost Boys and have a good time tormenting pirates (Captain Hook in particular), hunting Indians (this was the days before political correctness folks), and going on one adventure after another. The tale may be the epitome of childish self-indulgence but there are so many things that keep Peter Pan enjoyable time and time again.
One such enjoyable tidbit is the manner with which Peter torments Hook throughout the picture. For starters he lopped off the pirate's left hand and fed it to an obscenely large crocodile. Ever since then the croc has had a hunger for the rest of Hook and has dogged his every step. In general Peter is quite the prankster but when he's up against Hook it goes beyond simply pushing buttons. They make quite the pair of enemies and I have always felt that their relationship was a symbol for Peter's fight against adulthood.
Tinker Bell is another reason to love Peter Pan. She pouts incessantly when she doesn't get her way and is downright homicidally vengeful against Wendy as soon as she realizes that the girl wants to kiss Peter. Nowadays she has become the Disney digital spokesperson and graces just about every DVD but this original movie shows her feisty side. In the world of Peter Pan pixies are ruled by their emotions and Tink certainly is a prime example of that.
It may not be the most grandiose title found in the Disney library but in my opinion Peter Pan is definitely one of the best. Sure there isn't a lot of depth to the plot but there doesn't really need to be much rhyme and reason. If you can accept the enigma of Peter Pan then you can enjoy the movie. Children never really want to grow up and it's nice to say that after 54 years Peter Pan has remained as loveable as ever. Few films are as timeless and this one ranks among the best that Disney has to offer.
Peter Pan was put together before Walt made the decision to produce animated features in widescreen. Therefore the film is presented the way it was originally and receives a full frame aspect ratio. As is the case with prior Platinum Edition releases Disney went back in to tinker with the image which I'm sure will polarize fans. Because of the effort put into Peter Pan the film looks pretty darned good (in my opinion). Colors feel muted, yet natural throughout with nice contrast and there is virtually no dirt whatsoever. You'll be hard pressed to find any signs of video compression as well.
So many scenes have an appearance like they were just freshly painted. Some of the ones that jumped out at me the most were the flying bit through London, the Mermaid scene, and the rescue of Princess Tiger Lily. Stacked up to the Special Edition version the quality is arguably better with this new release. I never thought it possible that an animated feature from over 50 years ago could look like this.
Just like the video quality, the audio has been brought up to speed. A very subdued and limited 2.0 Dolby Stereo track is available but the main attraction is the newly mastered 5.1 Dolby Digital. A common complaint with the Special Edition of Peter Pan was that the audio was not as prominent as it could have been. Disney heard the pleas of fans and paid extra attention to the rear channels for this outing.
Music and sound effects constantly filter through the rear channels during viewing. Some moments in particular really sparkle such as Tinker Bell's tinkling and the clash of blades between Hook and Peter. I was most impressed with the rescue of Tiger Lily scene where Peter impersonates Hook. The sound is supposed to resonate throughout the cave and it came through very well across the rear channel. The Platinum Edition isn't entirely perfect though. There are a few very miniscule bits where static can be heard during song and the bass gets practically no attention. This is still an amazing improvement over prior releases and Peter Pan has never sounded so good.
Once again keeping up the trend of the Platinum line Disney has included two discs worth of bonus materials to keep fans happy.
On the first disc you'll find some sneak peaks, a quick song selection, and a short storybook tale about Peter's pranks. These are lightweight features for sure but the first disc also has an Audio Commentary that is definitely worth checking out. Granted some of you may have heard this material before but if you haven't you'll be pleasantly surprised. Hosted by Roy Disney the Commentary includes a multitude of people whose comments have been edited together not to go along with what's on screen but to provide information about the film in general. Leonard Maltin, John Canemaker, and even Walt Disney himself have audio clips that appear here.
The second disc houses the bulk of the special features. On the musical side of things there is a lost pirate song complete with original lyrics and sketches. Voice actors kind of reenact the scene with some singing tossed into the mix. There is also another song called "Never Land" from before Disney began working on the film. Composer Richard M. Sherman got his hands on it and worked with Paige O'Hara to complete the vision. The end result is a nice sounding song that definitely fits into the Pan mythos. There is also a dreadful music video for "The Second Star to the Right" by T-Squad.
Next up is a section of random offering of games for the kiddies that provide no entertainment or challenge for adults. If you want to find the good stuff you have to look at the "Backstage Disney" menu. "You Can Fly: The Making of Peter Pan" was a great look back at the pre-production of Peter Pan. Filled with commentary from people who had a hand in making the movie and original concept sketches this featurette was quite interesting from a historical perspective. Many may not realize but Peter Pan actually went through many revisions and was originally supposed to be a darker looking tale.
After that is "In Walt's Words: Why I Made Peter Pan". Folks working for the Disney archives have discovered an article written by Walt in April of 1953 for a magazine called Brief. Somebody reads the article as if it were Walt himself talking about it and some footage has been added in between. In the article Walt talks about his love of Peter Pan and what attracted him to the character. It's interesting to note that originally Peter Pan was supposed to be the second Disney feature; not the 14th.
The next feature on the disc is all about Tinker Bell and how her character came to be the way it was. It's mostly fluff but there are a few interesting conceptual designs tossed in that fans may have not seen before. The next feature is about the Peter Pan that almost was. Ron Clements and John Musker talk at length about the steps that Peter Pan took from its very conception. From alternate openings to side stories and characters changes quite a lot is discussed here. They are aided by a wealth of images and original sketches from the Disney Archives that are very nice to see. Most all of these pictures and drawings can be seen in an included Art Gallery on this disc as well.
The last inclusion is a 1952 black and white featurette all about the story of Peter Pan. It's more of the same information with some clippings from the movie and miscellaneous images from production. I suppose I could count the Peter Pan Virtual Flight but it's just another light weight game for the kiddies. Overall the bonus material for Peter Pan is very impressive and worth of a Platinum Release. Some of the features were available on the Special Edition though and bits of the content repeat themselves from extra to extra. Still, there's a lot of worthwhile stuff to take a gander at and there's a ton of information to be found here.
Peter Pan truly is a classic among classics. This timeless tale about everlasting childhood has captivated the world and Disney's version is one of the most memorable. Any Disney fan has to have this movie in their collection and this Platinum Edition is the best release to date. The video and audio quality is superb and despite the fact that some of the bonus content has been carried over from the Special Edition the supplemental features are great as well. Whether or not you double dip (it's a common thing with Disney) is entirely up to your appreciation of the film. Whatever the case, Peter Pan: Platinum Edition comes with a VERY high recommendation.
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