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PETER PAN
Diamond Edition Blu-ray

Review by Michael Jacobson

Voices:  Bobby Driscoll, Kathryn Beaumont, Hans Conried
Directors:  Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske
Audio:  DTS HD 7.1
Video:  Standard 1.33:1
Studio:  Walt Disney
Features:  See Review
Length:  77 Minutes
Release Date: 
February 5, 2013

"You can fly!"

Film ***

Peter Pan is a wonderful fantasy story about the concept of perpetual childhood and a place where kids never have to grow up, lose their innocence, and become just another suspect adult.  It appeals to kids, naturally, but I imagine some part of that notion appeals to grow-ups as well.  It’s nice to at least imagine from time to time what that would have been like.

As such, the classic story by J. M. Barrie seemed like a perfect one for Walt Disney to bring to life in an animated film…after all, there was something about Walt, at least in his films, that certainly suggested he was a man who had never lost his sense of childlike wonder.  I, for one, was mostly just glad to see Peter finally get the chance to be portrayed by a male.

As the film opens, things are not well in the Darling household.  The father has decreed that the eldest child, Wendy, has reached the age where she needs her own room, apart from her younger brothers Michael and John in the nursery.  In other words, it’s time for her to grow up.  But thankfully, she won’t have to do that before having one last night of unbridled childhood fantasy, thanks to the arrival of the impish Peter Pan and his pixie companion, Tinker Bell.  In the film’s most memorable sequence, Pan teaches the Darling children “You Can Fly”, and they soar off into the London night and on to Never Land.

Here, we find that as is often the case with Disney animation, the villain is considerably more interesting than the hero…in this case, it’s Peter’s nemesis, Captain Hook.  Hook provides the picture with most of its life.  Easily Disney’s most outrageous villain this side of Cruella, he’s over-the-top, more comical than threatening, and provides the film with its funniest bits of slapstick and humor.  He also, unfortunately, makes us realize just how drab and uninteresting Peter is in this movie. 

Looking at this picture more than a half century after its release, it’s easy to spot an aspect or two that Disney might have done differently today.  Most notably is the rather insensitive portrayal of American Indians, who are drawn as crude caricatures and given rather silly speech patterns, all of which apexes in the rather embarrassing song, “What Makes the Red Man Red”.  And speaking of songs, I always wished the film had actually used the amusing “Never Smile at a Crocodile” that was penned for it…we only hear bits of music from the tune from time to time.  I also wished the filmmakers had done a little more with the characters of the Lost Boys.  Here, they’re just scruffy, flatly drawn, and are used primarily as comic relief.  After all, these are the kids that never grow up…which is what the story is all about.

Ultimately, though, the Darling children realize that growing up is a part of life, and that their childhood is something to be treasured, but not held on to forever.  They return to their home in London via Peter’s magical flying pirate ship, with Wendy now ready to face growing up as an adventure to be experienced rather than feared. 

For me, the best part of the film is when Mr. Darling, the epitome of adult sensibility gazes up at the image of the pirate ship crossing the moon, smiles, and muses, “I’ve seen that ship before…many years ago, when I was very young.”  Not even he has completely lost touch with that wondrous time in his life…and how appropriate for Disney; the notion that a simple visual image can take you back years and make you feel like a kid all over again.

That in a nutshell is the magic of Walt Disney...watching one of his timeless animated classics is more than just a way to pass some time with your kids; it's a gateway back into your own youth, where you can remember what it was once like to feel as though you'd never grow up.

Video ****

When Disney goes Diamond Edition for an animated classic, you know you're in for something special.  This Blu-ray is absolutely gorgeous, with crisp, clean images and vibrant, bright colors throughout.  This has got to be as good as the move looked when it was first released! 

Audio ***

The uncompressed audio is quite clean, but by nature, doesn't offer a lot of dynamic range, and only minimal usage of the rear stage.  The music sounds quite nice, and spoken words come through the mix with clarity.

Features ***1/2

This Diamond Edition set boasts some entertaining extras, including an introduction by Diane Disney Miller, a deleted scene, alternate ending, and some deleted songs.  There is a new featurette about the "nine old men" that animated some of Disney's greatest classics...a real treat!

Also, there three interactive games based on "Camp Never Land", and a cool "Virtual Flight" that takes you over the London skyline.  If you've been on the ride at Walt Disney World, you'll feel a little nostalgic with this.  There are also two bonus discs:  a DVD version of the movie, and a digital copy disc.

Finally, you can enjoy Tinker Bell in "A Fairy's Tale", plus a new music video for "Second Star to the Right" performed by T-Squad.  Best of all is hearing Walt Disney in his own words discussing why he made Peter Pan!

Summary:

Peter Pan is a toast to childhood and innocence, and contains a wonderful message about loving and treasuring that magical time in our lives, before we had to grow up and become pirates…er, adults.  Despite a few flaws, Disney has captured much of that magic and spirit with this animated classic, and as such, this remains a movie you’ll always want to share with the Wendys, Michaels, and Johns in your lives.  If you already have one of the previously issued versions, you should definitely consider this new definitive Diamond Edition release.

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