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Monday, July 29, 2013

Peter Pan: Three-Disc Diamond Edition Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Sean Ferguson
On February 5, 2013, The Walt Disney Studios celebrated the 60th Anniversary release of Walt Disney’s classic, Peter Pan,as it soars to all-new heights – with a new digital restoration and high definition picture and sound – for the first time on Blu-ray. The classic tale that taught us all “to believe” and first introduced us to the Darling children – Wendy, John and Michael – as they flew with Peter Pan and Tinker Bell past the second star to the right and straight on ‘till morning to the enchanted world of Never Land. Rediscover the magical adventure and relive childhood memories of this great bedtime story.  The Peter Pan Diamond Edition Blu-ray Combo Pack (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy & Storybook App) is a must-own addition to everyone’s home entertainment collection, filled with high-flying bonus features for all ages that includes – the groundbreaking feature Disney Intermission, Growing up with Nine Old Men short film, never-before-seen Deleted Scenes and a never-before-heard Deleted Song.  Peter Pan is a timeless classic from Disney’s Golden Age of animation. The film is one of three to boast all nine of Walt’s famous “Nine Old Men” as Directing Animators, and is a revered audience favorite.



Film (5 out of 5 stars) 

Peter Pan was one of Walt Disney’s personal favorites (and mine too) and this magical tale of a boy who refused to grow up has finally arrived on Blu-ray to enchant new generations.  This film took Disney quite a long time to make it as it kept getting delayed because of technical limitations and the outbreak of World War II which forced the company to drop all of their projects to focus on war-time cartoons.  Even after the war ended, Disney had to wait until his company was profitable enough to resume work on the movie.  Like always, Disney persevered luckily for us and the end result is this timeless classic that’s become known as one of the best from the studio.  Although Disney took some liberties with the original story from J. M. Barrie, I believe they were all for the better and I believe this is the definitive version of Peter Pan.  This movie was a favorite of my father and then one of my own, and I was pleased to discover that my son loves it just as much as us.  But then again, what boy wouldn't want to be able to fly, have a secret hideout, fight pirates, and have mermaids swoon over you?
When the movie starts in London, England, we learn that the Darling family (George, Marie, and their children Wendy, Michael, and John) are a loving family that are about to have some excitement in their lives.  Wendy (Kathryn Beaumont) has been telling stories about Peter Pan to her brothers for some time and they frequently act them out, much to their father’s growing annoyance.  When they boys inadvertently delay their parents’ departure to a party, George finally decrees that the stories that Wendy has been telling her brothers have to stop and he tells her that she will move to her own room and grow up the next day.  Even the family dog, Nana, is removed from the house and tied up outside by George who thinks her mothering them is part of the problem.
Later that night, Peter Pan (Bobby Driscoll) and his friend Tinkerbell (a fairy) sneak into the children’s bedroom looking for his shadow that he lost while listening to one of Wendy’s stories about him.  Tink and him accidentally wake the children who are delighted to discover their hero in their midst.  Anxious to join him on some new adventures, the children ask him to take them back to Neverland which doesn’t thrill the jealous Tink who wants to keep Peter and Wendy as far apart as possible.  She is overruled by Peter who teaches the children how to fly (with a little bit of pixie dust) and they all fly over the streets of London, past Big Ben, and head straight on to morning to the second star on the right.  Once they arrive in the magical land of Neverland, they are rudely greeted by cannon fire fired upon them by Peter’s arch enemy – Captain Hook (Hans Conried).
Down below in the pirate ship The Jolly Roger, Hook and his men do their best to hit Peter and his guests with cannonballs but it’s a futile effort (like most of his encounters with Peter), as Peter is just too fast to hit.  Peter orders Tink to take the others to their secret hideout while he distracts Hook, but Tink has other plans as she abandons the kids and races home to tell Peter’s followers, The Lost Boys, to attack Wendy when she comes into range which almost makes Wendy crash but she is saved at the last minute by Peter.  Peter is furious to learn  that Tink would do something like that and orders her to leave and to never come back.  Heartbroken, Tink flies away and pines for Peter until she is later captured on Hook’s orders.
In the meantime, Michael and John have a lot of fun playing with the lost boys until they are capture by Indians who believe the boys have kidnapped the Chief’s daughter Tiger Lily, who unbeknownst to them has been actually been kidnapped by Hook in an effort for her to save her own life by telling him where Peter’s secret hideout is.  Luckily for Tiger Lily, while introducing Wendy to the mermaids, Peter spots Hook taking Tiger Lily to Skull Rock and follows them there to save her which he does largely by throwing his voice and confusing poor Smee (Bill Thompson), Hook’s number two man.  Furious at losing to Peter again, Hook tries a new tactic and he takes advantage of Tink’s jealousy to trick her into revealing the secret hideout which she does thinking that he would get rid of Wendy.
Once he learns the location, Hook locks Tink up and to her horror she realizes that she’s just put Peter in grave danger.  Tink breaks free of her prison to race to save Peter who is about to receive an explosive present from Hook who has already captured the lost boys and the Darling children on their way out of the hideout.  Hook believes that with Peter out of the way, he can sign the children up to become part of his pirate crew and he will have complete control of Neverland with no one left to oppose him unless Tink can get there in time to save Peter.
Peter Pan is without a doubt, one of Disney’s finest efforts and it’s just as magical today as it was back in 1953 when it was released.  The animation is superb, the characters are interesting and well defined, the songs are catchy and memorable, and the voice actors were perfectly cast in their roles, especially the main players of Conried, Driscoll, and Beaumont.  This is one of only three Disney movies to benefit from having all “Nine Old Men” as supervising directors and it shows.  Every aspect of this film shows the care, characterization and attention to detail that these animation legends were famous for. This is a timeless tale that is just as wonderful today as it was long ago.  There’s a reason that even today, the Peter Pan ride is one of the most popular attractions at Disneyland, as it still can transport audiences to a magical place and time as both the film and the ride are able to renew their sense of wonder with each viewing. 

Video (5 out of 5 stars) 

I own every version of this movie that has every been released and every time I’ve been pleased with every improvement to the picture quality that came about.  Although Disney always tried to offer the best transfer available, it was always not as good as I wanted it to be…that is until now.  This brand new 1080p (1.33:1) transfer is the best that I’ve ever seen this movie look.  All of the dirt and scratches have been removed and the color has been restored to its brilliant original hues. Neverland now comes to life in all its vibrant color which is just astounding to see.  Detail is also much improved and contrast is excellent throughout the movie.  The black levels are finally as dark and solid as they should be which really helps the overall aesthetic.  The film’s grain has been pretty much removed which will no doubt infuriate purists, but honestly, it has only helped the overall picture quality and hasn’t had any detrimental side effect to the rest of the picture. There’s no digital defects or blemishes to be seen and I’m pretty sure that this new transfer is the best that it’s ever going to look. 

Audio (5 out of 5 stars)   

Disney didn’t stop their perfectionist restoration efforts at only the video as they’ve also pulled out all of the stops to offer us a brand new DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix that is simply awesome.  For a film this old, I really wasn’t expecting much and just figured that it would be a front channel presentation only, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Disney wanted to do more than that.  The rear speakers offer a lively and atmospheric experience that really adds a new level of immersion.  The dialogue is clear and sharp and the sound effects sound much better than they did on the previous release.  Another massive improvement is the collection of classic songs that sound better than ever have.  While Disney has included a Dolby Digital mono mix for the purists, I’d recommend listening to the stellar 7.1 mix instead as it is incredibly good and offers a better audio experience. 

Extras (5 out of 5 stars) 

As usual, this Diamond Edition is jam-packed with extras, some new and some carried over from the previous DVD, all combined to cover just about every aspect of the film.  Every extra except for the “Classic” ones are in high definition.
  • Introduction by Diane Disney-Miller - Diane Disney-Miller introduces the film from the Walt Disney Museum again and she briefly talks about how much her father loved the story and why he wanted to animate it.
  • Audio Commentary - Roy Disney takes us through the film’s beginnings through its production and he’s helped by excerpts from interviews from others that have been added to this commentary.  Between Disney, the animators, the voice actors, and more, we get a comprehensive picture of the history of the movie.
  • Growing Up with Nine Old Men - This mini documentary explores what it was like for the children of the “Nine Old Men” to grow up with such famous fathers.  The writer and director of this doc is Ted Thomas who himself is the son of legendary animator Frank Thomas, and he’s also the director of Frank and Ollie, which was a documentary about his father’s decades long friendship with fellow animator and neighbor Ollie Johnson.  It’s interesting to hear from these children (who are now in advanced years themselves) talk about growing up around Disney animation and the directions they took themselves.
  • Deleted Songs and Scenes - We get fifteen minutes of deleted scenes and songs, that are presented through storyboards, concept art, and more to illustrate what was originally envisioned.  Included is: “The Journey Home,” “Alternate Arrival,” “Never Smile at a Crocodile” and “The Boatswain Song.”  My favorite inclusion is the “Never Smile at a Crocodile” with words which is pretty cool as I’ve always liked the instrumental version.
  • Classic DVD Bonus Features – Backstage Disney – There’s over an hour of extras that’s been carried over from the last DVD release including some behind-the-scenes featurettes and documentaries.  These are all very interesting and highly recommended for fans.  You can watch “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 Was” and “The Peter Pan Story.”
  • Classic DVD Bonus Features – Music & More - Here’s an additional seventeen minutes of music that can be played through the “Disney Song Selection”  as well as the following songs: “The Pirate Song,” “Never Land: The Lost Song,” and two music videos: “Never Land,” performed by Paige O’Hara and “The Second Star to the Right,” performed by T-Squad.  ”Neverland” is pretty good as it was written by the Sherman Brothers but I really wish Disney would stop pushing their homegrown singers.
  • Disney Intermission - I was happy to see that Disney has continued adding some cool fun anytime you pause the movie.  I first saw this on The Muppets Blu-ray and they’ve made it even better on this one.  If you pause the movie at any point, you get to play “Pirate Training,” which is a bunch of mini-games and clips.  This extra was a lot of fun for my son who really enjoyed the games.
  • Peter Pan Sing-Along - This is an optional sing-along track that you can choose to activate once you select the option from the main menu when you are ready to play the movie.
  • DisneyView Side Bars  - Since the movie is shown in the 1:33.1 aspect ratio, the verticle side bars are left black unless you choose to view this alternate artwork from Disney background painter Cristy Maltese. 
  • DVD Copy of the film
  • Digital Copy of the film
  • Ultraviolet Copy of the film

Summary (5 out of 5 stars) 

Peter Pan is one of Disney’s best movies and it’s been restored so well that you’d swear that the movie was just released last year.  The audio and video quality is stellar and the extras are also excellent and do just what they should do – they give you a look at how much work went into making the movie and the evolution of its production.  We get all of that and even more and fans will be very happy with this final result.  This is a must buy!
Order your copy today! 

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