"Hook will never win as long as there's faith, trust and pixie-dust." - A grown-up(!) Wendy Darling.
With the departure of Michael Eisner, there are are two remaining problems I have with Disney - "Direct To DVD" sequels to their animated
their double dipping on films without any significant upgrades other than adding a cutesy subtitle.
So, you could imagine my enthusiasm for Disney's latest re-release Return To Never
Land: Pixie-Powered Edition.
In case you missed it the first time around, Return To Never Land takes
place during World War II and follows Wendy Darling and her offspring (son Daniel,
daughter Jane), as they deal with their husband and father who is off fighting
the war and an announcement that every child will be evacuated for their safety.
It's enough to make anyone snap, and Jane
does as she lashes out at Wendy and Daniel, telling them that Peter Pan is
nothing but a
fantasy. Imagine her surprise when Captain Hook shows up later that evening and,
mistaking her for Wendy, kidnaps her and scurries her away to Never Land in hopes of
using her to lure Peter Pan.
Frankly, while I was underwhelmed by the story, the animation was much better
than most Disney sequels. However, the reason we're here is because this is a
new and improved "Pixie-Powered Edition". Does it improve upon the initial
release? Let's take a look:
Originally a 2002 theatrical release, Return To Never Land looked
pretty darn good on its initial release, thanks to a direct-to-digital transfer.
So why the double dip? Did they needed to make
some improvements to the picture quality? Well..
The original, non-"Pixie-Powered" screencaps are on the top, while the latest
"Pixie-Powered" screencaps are at the bottom. When I first thought about doing
this comparison, I was planning on be my usual sarcastic self and saying that
2002 version was fine and didn't need any "pixie power". I had only intended on
taking four screencaps - two from each edition. At first, I thought it was my
eyesight or my monitor, or even the program I was using to take screencaps, but
after 5-8 more comparisons, I came to the conclusion that the "Pixie-Powered"
version is heavy on the "Pixie" - a condition that must result in a slightly
blurrier picture than the "Digital-To-Digital Transfer" of the 2002 release. In
fact, if you look close at the bottom of both screencaps on the right, you can
also see that the newer version is also missing a tiny bit of the bottom of the
frame (though it claims to be the same ratio as the original release).
Audio: At least Never Land features the same clear soundtrack that the
original version sported. It's so clear that you'll even notice how different
Blayne Weaver's Peter sounds compared to Bobby Driscoll's. This release also
'ports over the Spanish and French language tracks.
Features: Besides the lacking picture quality, here's where the other major
difference between the two releases are to be found. This newer release does
away with the Rescue the Lost Boys Adventure Game, Disney StoryTime:
Never Land's New Hero, two DVD-ROM features and the music video for
Jonatha Brooke's excellent song "I'll Try". While I didn't miss the
first three things, there's really no reason for Jonatha's video to not be
included. In lieu of these things, they've included a bunch of things to tie-in
with the controversial Tinker Bell direct-to-DVD feature due sometime in
the fall of 2008.
First, there's Disney Fairy Moments, which are three computer animated
segments, each running 4 and a half minutes and featuring a different Fairy. The
first, Rosetta & the Flower, features the vocal talent of Kristin Chenoweth
("Pushing Daisies") as Rosetta. Iridessa & the Lightbugs shows us how
lightning bugs get their light, and the final short, Tink & the Bell, shows
Tink's encounter with a sleigh bell. There's also Tinker Bell's Challenge
Game: Quest For the Light, which isn't worth the space it takes on the disc.
Conclusion: Thanks to the lacking picture quality, the "bonus" features that
are bound to show up on the future Tinker Bell flick (assuming it gets released)
and the absence of Jonatha Brooke's music video, if you must have
Return To Never Land, I would suggest that you seek the initial release.
This "Pixie-Powered" version isn't worth it. The extras are disappointing, the
picture is nowhere near as good as on the original release and you'll find
yourself rolling your eyes at the blatant pimping of a film that may or may not
even get released. Rent It.