Peter Pan appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Although it's not perfect, this picture offers yet another terrific image for a Disney animated film.
Sharpness generally seemed good, with a picture that usually looked crisp and well-defined. At times, some light softness interfered with the detail, and wide shots could seem less distinctive than I’d like. Overall, though, the movie showed nice clarity. I detected no jagged edges or moiré effects, and the print used appeared spotless. I saw no concerns in this clean presentation.
Colors seemed quite brilliant and vibrant. Peter Pan made wonderful use of a variety of hues, and they all appeared accurately and cleanly replicated on this DVD. Black levels were deep and rich, and shadow detail appeared appropriately dense but not overly so. In a nutshell, Peter Pan presented a pretty terrific picture, especially given the age of the source material.
For this third DVD release of Peter Pan, the movie received its third audio mix. Here we found an “Enhanced Home Theater” Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. In regard to the soundfield, to a large degree it reflected the monaural origins of the material. Much of the sound remained focused on the center channel. Music spread decently well to the sides, and the score also occasionally blended with 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 almost never left the center; the other four speakers were reserved almost exclusively for the music. Only a couple of sequences demonstrated speech or effects in the sides and/or rears.
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 virtually no low-end response. 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 oomph. 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.
How did the picture and audio of the “Platinum Edition” compare to those of the 2002 “Special Edition”? I wasn’t able to directly compare the two, but based on my notes from the prior review, they seemed pretty similar though not identical. This DVD’s picture appeared a little cleaner and smoother, but I thought it demonstrated slightly weaker sharpness. As for the audio, the Platinum Edition presented a little more expansiveness in its soundfield but was marginally less robust. Overall, I don’t think the differences were substantial in either realm.
This “Platinum Edition” of Peter Pan provides most of the extras from the 2002 “Special Edition” along with some new components. I’ll mark the repeated elements with an asterisk. If you fail to see a star, then the supplement is new to this set.
On DVD One, 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.
Next we find a Tinker Bell Sneak Peek. This two-minute and 24-second piece provides a look at the upcoming computer-animated flick. Perhaps this will excite someone, but it looks like a cheesy flick for the Bratz crowd to me.
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.
A repeat from the 2002 Special Edition, we get a *storybook for “Peter’s Playful Prank”. This essentially recaps the movie’s climax. As usual, the latter can be viewed with or without narrated accompaniment. Obviously meant for the little ones, they should enjoy it.
A few ads appear at the start of the disc. We get promos for The Jungle Book Platinum Edition, Meet the Robinsons, Return to Neverland, and Tinker Bell. These also show up in the Sneak Peeks area along with clips for The Aristocats Special Edition, The Little Mermaid III, Ratatouille, Disney Movie Rewards, Mickey’s Great Clubhouse Hunt, Blu-Ray Disc and Disney Vacation Club.
Over on DVD Two, the extras start under the banner of Music & More. First 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 38-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 Games & Activities. There we encounter as Read-Along version of Peter Pan. Essentially this presents the entire movie with subtitles that light up to highlight each word being spoken. I suppose this may be nice for kids, but why put it on DVD Two? Why not just make this a subtitle option for the film on DVD One? Adults won’t want to watch this version, as it suffers from inferior picture and sound quality.
“Games & Activites” also include Camp Never Land: Train to Be a Lost Boy. Three elements comprise this section. “Smee’s Sudoku Challenge” takes the popular numbers game and gives it a very kid-friendly twist. That means it shouldn’t tax the brainpower of anyone over the age of eight. “Tarrrget Practice” is a simple button-mashing contest that requires little skill, while “Tink’s Fantasy Flight” asks you to display mediocre reflexes so you can follow Tink’s path.
If you get through all three challenges, you’ll receive a password. What good is it? Click right from “Tink’s Fantasy Flight” to light up a hook icon. Click enter, correctly submit the password and you’ll get a “reward”: another Sudoku! This one’s a little tougher, but it’s not much of a prize.
From there we head to Backstage Disney. It opens with a documentary called *You Can Fly: The Making of Peter Pan. This 16-minute program originally appeared on the 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 fresh piece entitled In Walt’s Words: “Why I Made Peter Pan” fills seven minutes, 40 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 26-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 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.
The Art Galleries break down into nine subdomains. We get “Visual Development” (50 stills), “David Hall Concept Art” (35), “Mary Blair Concept Art” (38), “Character Design” (126 across five areas), “Storyboard Art” (59), “Layouts and Backgrounds” (49), “Production Photos” (18), “Live-Action Reference” (58) and “Publicity” (27). While the 2002 Special Edition included a good still gallery, this one is noticeably more substantial and useful.
Less compelling is The Peter Pan Story, a featurette from the period of the film’s original theatrical release. This 12-minute and three-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.
DVD Two ends with Peter Pan’s Virtual Flight. This two-minute reel takes us on a first-person trip above London and through Neverland. It’s mildly interesting at best. A “loop” option allows you to run this over and over without pause, though I’m not sure why you’d choose to do so.
Does the Platinum Collection Pan drop anything from the 2002 Special Edition? Not really. We lose a “Sing-Along Song” for “Following the Leader” as well as a pointless “Pirate Treasure Hunt Game”. Neither disappoints due to its absence, especially since the “Disney Song Selections” recreates the “Sing-Along Song” option.
After more than 50 years, Peter Pan remains one of Disney’s top animated films. The movie suffers from some dated elements, but overall it holds up well and remains a charming and delightful piece of work. The DVD offers excellent visuals, positive audio, and a nice array of supplements. This is another fine release from Disney.
Since this is the third DVD version of Pan, the question becomes which one to get. I think the Platinum Edition stands as the strongest, though it doesn’t blow away the 2002 SE. Both offer similar picture and audio, though the PE adds a few good extras. I wouldn’t call it a massive upgrade, and those without an interest in supplements won’t get much benefit from it. The PE is still a nice set, though, and the best one to own.
To rate this film visit the Special Edition review of PETER PAN