Peter Pan (Diamond Edition, Blu-ray)
Director - Clyde Geronimi
Cast - Bobby Driscoll, Kathryn Beaumont
Country of Origin - U.S.
Discs - 3
Distributor - Disney
Reviewer - Scott MacDonald
Date - 02/06/13
The Film (4/5)
Wendy Darling (Kathryn Beaumont, Alice in Wonderland) is a young girl on the cusp of adolescence who shares a nursery with her 2 younger brothers Michael and John. At night she regales the two of them with stories of the fairy tale boy Peter Pan, and his adventures in Neverland. Wendy strongly believes that the tales of Peter Pan are more than just stories, and on the last night before she is to leave the nursery Pan arrives with his fairy friend Tinker Bell in tow. Peter Pan uses Tinker Bell's fairy dust to give the 3 Darling children the ability to fly, and escorts them to Neverland where they go on adventures with the Lost Boys, find themselves amongst mermaids, Native Indians, and squaring off against pirates led by Peter Pan's nemesis Captain Hook.
The story of Peter Pan was one that Walt Disney, himself, was a fan of going back to his youth and seeing it as a play. He had such an interest in the source material that he had hoped, that Peter Pan would be the 2nd feature film from Disney Animation following Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. This would not happen due to issues with the rights holder (A London Children's hospital that Barrie donated the proceeds to after his passing) it would be years before he could get the rights and begin to produce Peter Pan.
Although Peter Pan is the 14th feature film in the Disney Animation filmography, it could be seen as one of the most iconic and memorable of Disney's features up to that point. Even to this day Peter Pan's influence on Disney is obvious, with the Tinker Bell line of DTV films being quite a popular line of releases since their start in 2008. There was also the 2002 sequel Return to Neverland, and characters appearing in the Kingdom Hearts series of video games.
As with pretty much all Disney features adapted from preexisting source material, there are a lot of liberties taken between J.M. Barrie's book and play, and what we end up with one screen. For some people this might be a deal breaker, myself, I did not get around to reading Peter Pan until after seeing the film multiple times, and while I certainly hold Barrie's source material in high regard. The film itself feels like it's own separate entity, a wonderful and dreamy fantasy film that loosely follows Barrie's tale.
Peter Pan was the last feature film to utilize all of the Nine Old Men as animators working on a single production. It is there combined work alongside the other animators that truly help separate Peter Pan from the source material, and turn it into something although different is still quite extraordinary. There are moments in Peter Pan that are amongst the most iconic, fluid, and stunning in the entire classic Disney Animation filmography. The opening moments with Peter Pan and Tinker Bell escorting Wendy and the Darling Boys from a moody and dark London night to the wondrous island of Neverland has a quality to it that feels sort of akin to the transition between Kansas and Oz in the Wizard of Oz. And that's the thing about Peter Pan, it's not so much a deep piece of children’s animated cinema, it is however, a beautifully expressive piece of animated cinema that successfully manages to capture the limitless possibilities of youth.
Disney has presented Peter Pan in an absolutely fantastic 1080p AVC encoded 1:33:1 fullframe transfer that preserves the original aspect ratio of the original film. The level of detail in this tranfer is fantastic, the black levels are inky and deep, and the colors absolutely pop. Disney went back to the original animation for this restoration, and while I didn't detect much in the way of noise reduction some of the procedures used to restore the film might drive away some animation purist. I, myself, found that the film still looked much like it did when I watched it all those times on VHS and DVD, only with the added benefits I mentioned above.
Peter Pan has been brought to Blu-ray with 2 audio options a DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio mix in English, and an English Mono mix. For the purpose of the review I listened to both of them at various points in the film. Both tracks sound quite excellent with the sound mix for the 7.1 track coming through incredibly strong. I do have a tendency to prefer to watch films in there original soundtrack form, so I did most of my viewing with the mono track. Both tracks have dialogue coming through clean, and clear as does the music, and other background effects. I did not detect any instances of pops, cracks, or hissing on the track. Optional subtitles are included.
Disney has presented Peter Pan with a nice slate of extras the disc kicks off with an introduction by Walt's daughter Diane-Disney Miller. We then get a commentary track ported over from the DVD release by Roy Disney. We then have a 41 minute documentary called Growing Up with the Nine Old Men, a nice piece on the most famous group of Disney animators ever. We then get 15 minutes of deleted scenes from the film. These are all in HD. We then get to the DVD archival features the first set is called Backstage Disney and includes 5 featurettes that go behind the scenes of Peter Pan. We then have another classic DVD archive with a mix of HD and SD material that features 17 minutes worth of songs and music from the film. There is a neat feature on the disc called Pirate Intermission that occurs when you pause the disc, this gives youthful viewers (or any older pirate wannabes out there) tips, and activies on pirating. The disc is rounded off by a sing-along subtitle track that will play along with the feature.
One of the finest films in the Disney Animation Filmography. Peter Pan is a gloriously fun fantasy adventure film with some of the greatest animation to ever come out of Disney. The A/V restoration may prove to be controversial, but looks fantastic to my eyes, and the disc is loaded up with extras for adults and children alike. Peter Pan the Diamond Edition Blu-ray comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.