Peter Pan appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The movie consistently looked great here.
Sharpness seemed strong, with a picture that looked crisp and well-defined. Virtually no softness impacted the presentation, as the movie remained detailed and tiight. I detected no jagged edges or moiré effects, and the visuals appeared spotless, with no specks, marks or debris on display.
Colors seemed quite resonant and vibrant. Peter Pan made wonderful use of a variety of hues, and they all appeared accurately and cleanly replicated on this disc. Black levels were deep and rich, and shadow detail appeared appropriately dense but not overly so. Everything here pleased and made this an appealing image.
As for the DTS-HD MA 7.1 soundfield, to a large degree it reflected the monaural origins of the material, so much of the sound remained focused on the center channel. Music spread to the sides and the surrounds as well. Stereo separation seemed weak, however, as the imagery tended to appear vague and without great distinction. As for effects and speech, they tended toward the center, but they used the other speakers in a decent manner. For instance, in the cave, Pete’s voice echoed around the back speakers.
Due to the age of the material, there was only so much that could be done for the audio quality, but I felt that speech sounded reasonably clean and accurate this time. At times dialogue seemed a bit thin and flat, but the lines came across as easily intelligible and free from edginess.
Music was fairly lackluster, however. The score and songs appeared clear and bright, but they offered average low-end response, and the way the music spread across the five speakers sapped it of some punch.
Effects demonstrated a little oomph at times, though. For example, cannon fire showed decent bass, and a bomb blast at the end of the movie presented good range. Those elements also seemed reasonably clear and accurate, with no distortion or obvious flaws. The mix lacked any other source defects and sounded nicely clean across the board. While the audio of Peter Pan remained dated, it nonetheless seemed fine given its age.
Note that the Blu-ray also includes the film’s original monaural soundtrack. While I listened to the DTS-HD mix for this review, I’d prefer the 1953 mono for future screenings of the film. I don’t think the 7.1 soundscape adds anything useful to the proceedings and I prefer the balance of the original track.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the 2007 “Platinum Edition” DVD? Audio was a wash, as I didn’t think the DTS-HD MA mix was able to do much with the 60-year-old stems. However, visuals offered a solid step up, mainly in terms of sharpness and color reproduction.
Many of the prior DVD’s extras repeat here. We start with an audio commentary hosted by Disney animation executive - and Walt’s nephew - Roy Disney and film historian Jeff Kurtti; the former leads roughly the first half of the flick, while the latter takes over for much of the second segment before Roy returns. This tracks includes remarks from Walt himself, Disney animators Ward Kimball, Ollie Johnston, Frank Thomas and the late Marc Davis as well as film historians Leonard Maltin and John Canemaker, live-action model for Tinkerbell Margaret Kerry, and live-action model and voice performer Kathryn Beaumont. While Johnston and Thomas were recorded together, everyone else appeared to have been taped separately for this edited, semi-screen specific track. Most of the comments seem to come from the same sessions that appear during the “You Can Fly” documentary discussed below, though not many of the speakers repeat information.
Overall, this is an interesting commentary. I can’t call it an excellent piece, but it does offer a fair amount of useful information. The track starts slowly; during the first few minutes we hear little more than generic praise for the flick, and I feared that the whole thing would offer little more than a fluffy puff piece.
Happily, it quickly improves, and the combination of historical perspective with notes from actual participants means that we get a nice spectrum of material. Not surprisingly, the animators’ notes are best, especially when we hear from Johnston and Thomas; they add a lot of depth to the piece. Again, Pan doesn’t provide a great track, but it’s definitely worth a listen.
Disney Song Selection works as usual. It lets us jump right away to any of the movie’s five songs, and we can watch them with or without lyrics on the screen. It’s not very useful, but it causes no pain.
Under “Classic Music and More”, we find a deleted song. As presented here, “The Pirate Song” lasts two minutes, 22 seconds. We hear a scratchy recording play along with storyboards of the scene in which Hook threatens to make the boys walk the plank. It’s a fun clip, if an inconsequential one.
Next comes a Lost Song called “Never Land”. In this two-minute and 39-second segment, we hear from composer Richard M. Sherman as he discusses this tune written in 1940. It was unfinished, so he completed it.
We also hear from singer Paige O’Hara, who performs the number in a music video. Sherman presents good notes about how he touched up the song. As for the video itself, it simply plays the tune along with snippets of Peter Pan and shots of O’Hara in a sexy gown. I can’t say the syrupy song does much for me, but it’s interesting to hear the long-dead song after all these years.
The video’s an odd beast, as I’m not quite sure why O’Hara and her cleavage are hanging around the Darling household. She looks pretty good, though.
Another music video comes for a version of “The Second Star to the Right” by T-Squad. If you’re wondering who in the world “T-Squad” are, join the club. Based on this video, they appear to be one of the millions of Disney Channel teenybopper acts. This singing group takes on a Benetton feel, as they incorporate a mix of races. I’d call that a cynical attempt to pander, but what do I know? I can state that their light hip-hop/pop take on “Star” is genuinely atrocious, though.
From there we head to “Classic Backstage Disney”. It opens with a documentary called You Can Fly: The Making of Peter Pan. This 15-minute, 59-second program originally appeared on a 1998 laserdisc, and it includes then-recent interviews with Beaumont, Thomas, Davis, Kerry, and Maltin. The program also provides some film clips, shots of Walt Disney on TV, production stills and artwork created for Pan.
Though brief, the piece runs the whole history of Pan, from its written origins through prior film versions and the production of the Disney version. It also gives us a look at work done for a planned earlier Disney edition of Pan which had a darker tone, and we hear parts of an unused song as well. Again, the program is too short to be tremendously worthwhile, but it still packs a lot of good details into its running time.
A piece entitled In Walt’s Words: “Why I Made Peter Pan” fills seven minutes, 46 seconds and begins with an introduction from Disney directors Ron Clements and John Musker. They tell us that Walt wrote an article that appeared in the April 1953 issue of Brief magazine. We get appropriate photos along with a “re-enactment” of parts of Walt’s text. We learn of Walt’s childhood love of Peter Pan and how the story made its way to the screen. We find a nice recap of the issues involved and learn some fine notes about Walt’s affection for the tale.
Tinker Bell: A Fairy’s Tale offers an eight-minute and 27-second piece with comments from Davis, Kerry, animation historian Jerry Beck, Walt Disney Feature Animation Executive VP - Creative Development/producer Don Hahn, Disney historian Paula Sigman, and author/historian Bill Cotter. “Tale” looks at how productions of Pan have depicted Tinker Bell over the years. It tells us a little about earlier incarnations but focuses on aspects of the Disney character much of the time. We also find some character notes about the feisty fairy as well as her life after the movie. Some of the information repeats from elsewhere, but this ends up as a cute enough little program.
In The Peter Pan That Almost Was, we get a 21-minute, one-second program. Clements and Musker pop up again to lead us through a look at an attempt to develop Pan in the late 1930s and early 1940s. We learn Walt initially wanted Pan to follow 1937’s Snow White and take a gander at the surviving elements considered for the aborted take on the flick. The program follows a variety of character and story ideas developed along the way. This offers a lot of great info and provides a fascinating show.
Less compelling is The Peter Pan Story, a featurette from the period of the film’s original theatrical release. This 12-minute and four-second piece existed solely to promote the movie, and it was given to TV stations free of charge if they’d air it. It begins with a long and tedious introduction about the history of storytelling; it takes us 1/4th of the program before we actually get to Pan!
After that, we learn a little about author J.M. Barrie, and there’s a good look at a storyreel for the film, but overall the show is slow moving and fairly uninformative. The last few minutes mainly show scenes from the movie. Overall, “Story” is more interesting than many modern promotional featurettes, but it still lacks much depth.
The remaining features are new to the Blu-ray. Growing Up with Nine Old Men lasts 41 minutes, eight seconds and includes comments from animator’s son Ted Thomas – who also narrates – as well as the children of animators Ward Kimball, John Lounsbery, Milt Kahl, Les Clark, Woolie Reitherman, and Ollie Johnston.
Don’t expect any dirt here, as we get gentle memories of life among the now-legendary Disney animators. We find a nice array of anecdotes and thoughts about various lives and experiences. This becomes a pleasant walk down memory lane but not anything that offers much insight.
Both of the “deleted scenes” are fun to see, especially the extended ending, but neither seems like anything that would’ve fit the final film well. Even though I enjoyed it, “Home” extends the finale far past the point at which the movie should end.
As for the songs, “Smile” offers a version of the well-known theme that includes lyrics; it’s unclear if this was intended to appear in the film itself, but I don’t get the impression it was ever going to be a movie segment. “Boatswain” seems like a more logical part of the film and is enjoyable to see, even though it’s not a great song.