REVIEW: Peter Pan
Of all the classic animated films, Peter Pan may be the one that has spread its influence furthest. From James Kirk’s reference to the second star on the right to Michael Jackson’s compound being called Neverland, the enduring story of the boy who didn’t want to grow up resonates with us all.
Walt Disney has shined its latest crown jewel to a brilliant luster in the Diamond Edition release of Peter Pan, a combo pack featuring Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital copy (along with a Storybook app for tablets). Said to be one of Disney’s favorite stories, he intended it to be among his earliest releases but circumstances delayed it from being completed until its 1953 release. As a result, some of the lush rotoscoping we saw in Snow White is replaced with complete hand-drawn animation, but it also means some of the figures, from Smee to the Lost Boys are exaggerated and cartoony.
Still, the film moves nicely and takes us on a grand adventure as we quickly move from London to Neverland, from pirates to Indians, all set to one of the strongest scores of the Disney treasure trove. Everyone loves the notion of never having to grow up, take on adult responsibilities, and the problems that come with them. As with all Disney adaptations, it takes great liberties at times with the source material, which means entire generations incorrectly recognize this as the canonical version. One of the charming additions to the original 1904 J.M. Barrie play that Disney used as the template, moreso than the prose versions that followed, was having George, the father, note he too once saw Peter when he was a boy.
The film is a delight to see once more even though critics will decry the stereotypical appearance of Tiger Lily and the Indians. Thankfully, we also understand that the underlying stories were a product of their time and certain allowances can be made without getting all PC.
The timeless tale works because of the story, the music and the fine voice work of Hans Conried (father/Hook), leading a cats that also includes Bobby Driscoll (Peter). Kathryn Beaumont (Wendy), Paul Collins (John) and Tommy Luske (Michael).
The transfer from film to high definition is pretty flawless and only the true connoisseurs will recognize the modest color modifications made during the restoration process in this, the seventh jewel in the Diamond collection. There remains a richness to the color that can be tricky to preserve so kudos to the team. Even better is the sound mix, preserving the score and songs, sound effects and dialogue.
Diane Disney-Miller introduces us to the usual trove of extra material, the highlight of the program. Roy Disney is represented with his audio commentary, picked up from the Platinum release. If you haven’t heard it, he nicely recounts many of the stories behind the film’s evolution.
Growing Up with Nine Old Men (41 minutes): The nine key animators to work under Walt and to train the next two or three generations of talent are given their due in this piece. There is a nice assortment of Deleted Songs and Scenes (15 minutes), rescued from the Disney Vault, two deleted scenes and two deleted songs, presented using the original storyboards, concept art, rough cel elements and key frames. The previous DVD Bonus Features are here so this is as comprehensive a collection of Peter Pan material as you are going to find. For parents sharing the disc with their children, there is the optional Disney Intermission so you can pause the film and keep the kids entranced with clips and activities.