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PETER PAN
Platinum Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Voices:  Bobby Driscoll, Kathryn Beaumont, Hans Conried
Directors:  Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Standard 1.33:1
Studio:  Walt Disney
Features:  See Review
Length:  77 Minutes
Release Date: 
March 6, 2007

"You can fly!"

Film ***

Those of us who bought Peter Pan when it first hit DVD some years back and the Special Edition a little later are now faced with a  "Platinum Edition" disc for purchase.  I can remember a time when Disney at least waited 7 years to re-release their titles to home video, but I guess the fast paced world of DVD makes anything possible.  Is it worth re-buying if you have the original?  The best I can do is offer my thoughts on the new disc, and let you decide for yourselves.

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 nearly 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 ***1/2

I don't notice much difference between this transfer and the original DVD release...maybe a slight improvement...but no matter:  it's still a good looking disc all around, with bright and well-contained coloring and sharp images.  Nothing is marred by compression artifacts or undue grain...this transfer is still a class act. 

Audio ***

So, why couldn't we have had this 5.1 remix on the first DVD offering instead of the strange 4.0 rendition?  We may never know.  Still, the Enhanced Home Theatre Mix audio on this DVD is an improvement, with a better and more open sound, though only slight uses of the rear stage for ambient effects.  It's the cleanest and clearest I can remember hearing from this film.

Features ***

This double disc set boasts some entertaining extras, including 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's a previously unseen alternate opening, some deleted songs, a look at the new Tinker Bell movie, and 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 might consider this one for the kiddies, who will enjoy most of the extras.

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