peter pan blu ray 


MOVIE: Classic Disney   

PICTURE: Excellent   

SOUND: Excellent  

TECH SPECS: 1.33:1/DTS-HD Master Audio   

RELEASE DATE: February 5, 2013  

By William Kallay

Forget about those dreadful remakes of the story of “Peter Pan” over the years. They’ve helped ruin and confuse children on what made Pan so delightful. Steven Spielberg’s rare misfire, “Hook” (1991) re-imagined Pan as a boring grown-up with issues. P.J. Hogan’s “Peter Pan” (2003) was an interesting re-telling, but it was bogged down by heavy handed seriousness and violence. Disney’s own “Return To Never Land” (2002) was an unnecessary visit to the mythical island in the sky. “Finding Neverland” (2004) saw Johnny Depp portray author J.M. Barrie in a moving performance. I believe that the best interpretation of J.M. Barrie’s children’s masterpiece was Walt Disney’s 1953 version of “Peter Pan.”

“Peter Pan” was well suited for Disney. The original story was changed a bit for his animated version of the classic play, but I think Disney’s version is the most fun. It captured the essence of Pan’s childhood playfulness, leadership of the Lost Boys, his constant teasing of Captain Hook, his love for Tinker Bell, and the wonderment the Darling children who dare to imagine.

Unlike most of the films made after its 1953 release, “Peter Pan” is still completely entertaining and free of adult point-of-view instilled in later versions like “Hook” or “Return To Never Land.” Walt Disney’s “Peter Pan” took the core of the story, never wanting to grow up, only to realize it was okay to grow up, and stuck with it. The story is told so well that both children and adults can enjoy the slapstick and fantasy all rolled into a tight package. The problem with the re-imaginings of the Pan story is that adults took over and sucked out the fun of being a kid. In “Hook,” Peter Pan has grown up to be a complete bore, and remains so through most of the movie. There’s barely any magic to Robin Williams’ Pan. In P.J. Hogan’s “Peter Pan,” the story is done well, but Captain Hook is entirely too dark, sinister and violent to enjoy, especially in a story so clearly made for children. In a children’s story like this, a villain should be fun to watch and even liked, not feared.

The story of “Pan” really, even though it’s simple, covers a lot of bases. The ideas of accepting having to grow up, taking responsibility and realizing kids have to dream is some pretty deep stuff. Disney’s version, however, doesn’t get too much into that, at least in detail, and plays the story for fun. One of the best aspects of the “Pan” myth is youth versus growing up, and this is represented by Peter Pan versus Captain Hook. The beauty of Disney’s film is that Captain Hook (Hans Conried) is a perfect nemesis for Peter Pan. He’s a caricature of an adult buffoon who gets easily frustrated at Pan, a kid who annoys him with his constant antics. Pan knows this is all a game, except one of the players, Hook, takes things a little too seriously. Those blasted kids! But isn’t that the magic of the kid versus adult dynamic? Don’t kids sometimes annoy grown ups, and don’t grown ups get frustrated with kids with an understanding that kids will be kids? Isn’t there an underlying admiration between the two camps? Adults may sometimes wish they were kids again, and kids, well, may wish to be grown up, and then again, maybe not! Bottom line is that the entire film takes the Pan myth and has fun with it, never once resorting to being heavy handed.

Disney’s “Peter Pan” is the best filmed version of the story. I understand that the Mary Martin television special (1956) was popular in its day and is considered to be a classic. But it’s Disney’s version which made the story come alive. No longer confined to a stage, the story really can do things it could never do before. In the silent film version, and in the Mary Martin special, the story was still stagy. In Disney’s retelling, both the characters and camera were free to fly.

I had seen professional stage versions of “Peter Pan” in Los Angeles, one featuring Sandy Duncan and another featuring Cathy Rigby. Each show was outstanding, especially when Peter Pan flies into the audience. There’s no better way of getting an audience of children (and some adults) to say “Wow!” And one of the highlights of these late-20th Century shows was that Tinker Bell was not just a spotlight flying about the stage anymore. She was a laser beam of light that could do tricks that no previous Tinker Bell could do. But she was no Disney Tinker Bell.

Animator Marc Davis so perfectly designed and brought to life Tinker Bell, that she’s been a staple in Disney’s character parade since the get-go. He brought so much personality to her that despite her inability to speak like a person, an audience could clearly understand her emotions and her thoughts. This is no doubt in combination with live action model Margaret Kerry’s brilliant acting as Tinker Bell that combined for a classic character. Tink, as Peter calls her, is cute and filled with spunk. She speaks, or rather, chimes, what’s on her mind. Davis’ drawing of her is splendid, with Tink’s cherubic facial features, large expressive blue eyes and blond hair bun. I’m not sure if Davis patterned her hair on the styles of the early-1950s, or on his wife, Alice, but Tinker Bell is adorable in either capacity. Almost all of the characters in the Pan story are enjoyable, right down to most minor characters. Some stand out more than others, but it’s one of those stories, done as a play, that almost any actor would be happy playing a minor role. One of my personal favorites has always been Captain Hook. The Disney animators were correct in exaggerating Hook’s appearance as a stylish rogue of the high seas who is prone to slapstick. He’s comic fodder for not only Peter Pan, but for his sidekick, Mr. Smee (Bill Thompson). I don’t know of any kid who hasn’t laughed hard when Smee thinks he’s shaved off Hook’s head, or when Hook lands in the Crocodile’s mouth.

Disney’s “Pan” is beautifully cast. Wendy (Kathryn Beaumont) was an inspired choice, having voiced Alice in “Alice In Wonderland” (1951). Her soft and sweet voice has always been one of my favorites in animation. Bobby Driscoll’s voicing of Peter Pan is playful as the character. His teenage tenor provides the character with a sense of childhood mischief and adventure. I cannot think of another actor who voiced Pan so well.

The music in “Peter Pan” is memorable, notably “You Can Fly, You Can Fly, You Can Fly” and the sweet “Your Mother and Mine.” It’s kind of strange to think of it now, but those songs were contemporary for their time, yet have held up remarkably well over the years. Written by pop song writers Sammy Cahn & Sammy Fain, “You Can Fly…” has the perfect rhythm that brings pace to the scene when Peter leads the Darling children out the window for a flight to Never Land. Other songs and the music score were written by Oliver Wallace, the Disney studio’s resident composer. He was quite talented and his music for “Peter Pan” is as delightful as most of his other projects at the studio.

The Blu-ray picture quality is excellent. As with many of their classic animated features, Disney has commissioned a thorough digital scrubbing of any film grain. There are some viewers who prefer the ultra clean look to match today's movies, and others like myself, miss the grain and texture. This is especially noticeable in the opening titles. There is no jitter and grain present. It's as if "Peter Pan" the movie has gotten a facelift and nothing moves or seems natural. That being said, the image does look super sharp and detailed. For some odd reason, this digital "restoration" doesn't bother me as much as "Cinderella" did many years ago. I just wish they'd consider bringing back the original look. Warner Bros. does it on their old classics and the results are sublime.

The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is excellent. Both the multichannel remix and the original mono soundtrack sound great. I may sound hypocritical, but the multichannel mix was done well. It tastefully spreads the music and occasional sound effects tracks across the front soundstage and it's never distracting. The audio is very clear and still seems to maintain the original quality recording. I can still hear audio hiss from the original mix. The mono mix sounds very good, but is hampered by a low audio bit rate. Disney could have released the Blu-ray in DTS-HD Master Audio mono, but probably chose to go with a more "modern" take on the original sound mix.  

The story of “Peter Pan” is so wonderful for children. Timeless and filled with dreams of adventure, kids have enjoyed Peter Pan’s escapades. Disney’s vision of Pan is the most enjoyable and memorable, and what better time to rediscover it than now?       

Special thanks to Click Communications

Photo: © Disney. All rights reserved.

This article originally appeared on this site March 6, 2007. Some additional details have been added to update the article.
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