DirectorClyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske
Release Date(s)1953 (February 5, 2013)
Studio(s)Buena Vista Home Entertainment
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: A+
Peter Pan was released by Walt Disney in 1953 to great success and became the standard for adapting the story for the big screen for every film that came after it. Almost none of the latter adaptations of the story aren’t influenced at least a little by the film, which is a real testament to how much it has endured.
I’ve been a fan of the film since I was a kid, obviously, but that love has carried over into my adulthood pretty easily. It’s a film that’s hard to hate. It’s absolutely whimsical in nature, and it doesn’t require an enormous amount of dramatic tension to get you interested in it, but those are just the minor points. In a story like this, it’s all about the characters and the animation itself. It doesn’t have a centralized dramatic structure to build on, such as latter Disney films like The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast, but to me that’s part of the appeal. It’s purely a childhood movie, and whether you’re 8 or 28, you can relive your childhood through the film itself.
At the same time though, it’s also one of the more darker films in the Disney animated canon, akin to something like The Rescuers or even The Black Cauldron. Captain Hook nearly being eaten by a crocodile, Peter nearly being blown sky high by a bomb, or even Tinker Bell attempting to have Wendy murdered because of her petty jealousy over the attention Peter is giving her. It’s not about the relationships much though. It’s more about the spectacle and the whimsy more than anything, which is probably the reason why it has stuck around for as long as it has. The voice performances are also quite good in Peter Pan, most notably the brilliant performance by Hans Conreid as both Wendy and the boys’ father and the infamous Captain Hook. Bill Thompson is also great as Smee, but it’s Captain Hook that really steals the show here. He’s also one of the big draws to the movie that keeps me coming back for more.
The film is also very child-like in nature and doesn’t require you to put it under heavy scrutiny, so it’s nice to see that the portions involving the Native Americans are left intact, despite the way they’re being presented is out of date and not very politically correct. They’re an integral part of the story, and with the ability to change things digitally, it’s wonderful that they left them intact. It’s just repulsive to me when certain film studios, when releasing older films from their back catalogue, sometimes try to ignore or erase things in them for the sake of being politically correct in modern times. How people saw other people or things in the past is just as important as how they see them now, so trying to change that and forget it is just morally wrong to me. So hat’s off to Disney and their restoration team for leaving these things intact. I wish I could say the same for the censored shots in Fantasia, but I digress.
As with nearly all of Disney’s restorations on Blu-ray and DVD, the video presentation here is superb. Despite the fact that they take the time to not just restore but erase the film grain from the images as well as alter some of the colors, it looks marvelous nonetheless. I did notice a little more noise in the picture than on other Blu-ray releases I’ve seen in the past, but it didn’t detract from the overall presentation. They seemed inherent in the image, so I can let those pass. Everything’s been cleaned up and sharpened up quite well too. Contrast is perfect, blacks are nice and deep and all of the original lines on the characters and objects are well-preserved. Colors are very robust and the animation is smooth and quite beautiful because of it. I can’t really say that I have much to complain about in this area. It’s a terrific-looking picture. I’m not quite as high on the audio, however. We’re given four options: a new English 7.1 DTS-HD track, the Original Theatrical English Mono Mix and both French & Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital tracks. The new soundtrack is a very good track in and of itself. It has a high amount of clarity, uses the rear speakers well, keeps the dialogue well-balanced and offers up some nice low-end moments. It definitely serves its purpose, but I’m disappointed in Disney for choosing not to restore the original theatrical soundtrack in lossless quality. It sounds pretty good, don’t get me wrong, but it seems like a missed opportunity to put so much effort into the visual and not the aural. And as a bit of an aural purist, I was a bit disappointed in this regard. The 7.1 track gets the job done, but I would have preferred a better mono mix. The DVD features the same audio options, except instead of a 7.1 track, there’s an English 5.1 Disney Enhanced Home Theater track. And for both discs there are also subtitles in English SDH, English, French and Spanish for those who might need them.
Each disc opens, as per usual with Disney Blu-rays and DVDs, with a multitude of previews that are skippable by pressing the Top Menu or Pop-Up Menu buttons (or by selecting Main Menu on the DVD). You can also select Sneak Peeks on the menu to see them if you wish. On the Blu-ray, the extras are mostly thorough. Newly included is an introduction to the film by Diane Disney Miller, the Disneyview option (a welcome return), a Sing Along with the movie option, the Growing Up with Nine Old Men featurette, 2 deleted scenes (The Journey Home, Alternate Arrival), 2 deleted songs (“Never Smile at a Crocodile” and “The Boatswain Song”) and a Digital Copy info segment. Carried over from the previous DVD release under Classic DVD Bonus Features is the Disney song selection option (“The Second Star to the Right”, “You Can Fly”, “A Pirate’s Life”, “Following the Leader” and “Your Mother and Mine”) and an audio commentary by Roy Disney. Under Classic Music and More, there’s a deleted song (“The Pirate Song”), the lost song (“Never Land”) and two music videos: “Neverland”, performed by Paige O’Hara and “The Second Star to the Right”, performed by T-Squad. Under Classic Backstage Disney, you’ll find the following featurettes: You Can Fly: the Making of Peter Pan, In Walt’s Words: “Why I Made Peter Pan”, Tinker Bell: A Fairy’s Tale, The Peter Pan That Almost Wasn’t and The Peter Pan Story. The DVD utilizes the Fast Play option for the previews and carries over the film’s introduction by Diane Disney Miller, the Tinker Bell: A Fairy’s Tale featurette and the Digital Copy segment. And last, but not least, is a separate Digital Copy disc with a Storybook App for your iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch.
Missing extras from previous DVD releases include the Peter Pan Still Gallery, the “Following the Leader” Sing-Along, Peter’s Playful Prank DVD Storybook & the Pirate Treasure Hunt game from the Gold Collection DVD and Camp Never Land and Peter Pan Virtual Flight games from the Two-Disc Platinum Edition DVD. So there’s not a whole lot missing and this Blu-ray release pretty much carries over all of the important bonus material, except for the Still Gallery, of course.
In closing, I hope that films like Peter Pan endure. I hope that kids can remember to put down their phones, computers and video games, go outside and just play Cowboys and Indians, or play fight with fake plastic swords. Those days for kids seem to be disappearing faster and faster the more that technology advances. As a consequence, kids don’t get to use their imaginations enough and they grow up before it’s time to do so. That’s why something like Peter Pan is relevant to me. It reminds us all to be young and have fun once in a while, and with this Blu-ray, you’re bound to have plenty of fun.
- Tim Salmons