Normally when I go back several years to do reviews of the latest Disney animated classic Blu-ray release, it’s for films that I grew up with and watched multiple times, including such great selections as “The Lion King,” “Beauty and the Beast,” Aladdin,” and “101 Dalmatians.” However, when it comes to the latest release, “Peter Pan,” it marks the first time that I’m going back to cover a Disney classic that I’m not 100% sure I’ve ever seen before. Some of it was familiar, but much of it was not, so while normally this is a chance to go back and rewatch a classic I haven’t seen in a long time, this actually became a chance to go back and fill a gaping hole in my childhood viewing, a prospect that made it even more exciting than usual.
“Peter Pan” begins in London in the house of the Darlings. Mr. Darling (Voice of Hans Conried) and Mrs. Darling (Voice of Heather Angel) are getting ready to attend a party, while their children, Wendy (Voice of Kathryn Beaumont), John (Voice of Paul Collins), and Michael (Voice of Tommy Luske), are getting ready for bed. Wendy, the eldest and quite the storyteller, is particularly anticipating this evening because she expects that Peter Pan (Voice of Bobby Driscoll), the subject of many of her stories, will return to collect his shadow. As expected, Peter does show up, and after having his shadow sewn back on, he invites the children to Never Land, a beautiful island that’s home to his friends, The Lost Boys. After a splash of fairy dust and a quick flying lesson, the kids are off on a grand adventure that will have them facing off against the vengeful Captain Hook (Voice of Hans Conried) and his band of pirates.
Many of the Disney animated films are classics because of their great storytelling, memorable characters, and beautiful animation, and while “Peter Pan” shares these in part, I think it’s more accurate to say that this film became a classic because it is just plain fun to watch. There’s no heavy-handed storytelling here like you’ll find in several of the greats, but rather an exciting adventure that you can easily get swept up in for the brief 77 minutes, and while that may lead to it not being as particularly memorable as some of the others in the Disney library, it still makes for a rather entertaining vehicle for kids and adults.
In typical Disney fashion, the film features a number of songs throughout, which, I think it’s fair to say, are not held in quite as high esteem as their more famous brethren in the other classics. Some of them are delightful, such as “You Can Fly!,” “Follow the Leader,” and “Second Star to the Right,” while “What Made the Red Man Red?” was a rather unfortunate product of its time (reminiscent of the Siamese cats in “Lady and the Tramp” or the crows in “Dumbo”). Still, that one misguided ballad aside, the score and songs do their part to make this a fun and pleasant experience.
As far as the characters go, you certainly have a memorable villain in the great Captain Hook, (and his faithful right-hand man, Mr. Smee (Voice of Bill Thompson)), always on the lookout for the ticking crocodile that took off his left hand. And, of course, who could forget the titular Peter Pan and his semi-faithful right-hand fairy, Tinker Bell? No exhilarating adventure is set without a compelling cast of remarkable characters, and these certainly fit the bill.
On the whole, “Peter Pan” may not be one of the most memorable films in the Disney animated library, but that hardly stops it from being an enjoyable classic. With a magical landscape, great characters, pirates, and sword-fighting, Sir James Barry’s beloved story seemed practically tailor-made for Disney. The film celebrates its 65th anniversary this year, and after finally seeing the film in its entirety, it’s perfectly clear why it’s endured so long, and will continue to do so well into the future.
“Peter Pan” returns to Blu-ray in a 1.33:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of marvelous quality. As with most of Disney’s releases, the picture is beautifully sharp and clear, making the 65-year-old film look new and radiant again. The 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is equally splendid, giving you all of the dialogue and music/songs in excellent quality. Overall, Disney has once again gone above and beyond to deliver another gorgeous release of one of their animated classics, ensuring that generations to come can continue to enjoy it.
Stories from Walt’s Office: Walt & Flight (4 Minutes): A brief featurette that discusses Walt Disney’s fascination with flying.
A Darling Conversation with Wendy & John: Kathryn Beaumont and Paul Collins (8 Minutes):
A fascinating featurette that has two of the voice actors reminiscing about their time working on the film.
“You Can Fly” (2 Minutes) and “Never Smile at a Crocodile” (2 Minutes) Sing-Alongs
Deleted Songs (7 Minutes): A selection of three deleted songs (“The Pirate’s Song,” “Never Smile at a Crocodile,” and “The Boatswain Song”)
Deleted Scenes (10 Minutes): A pair of deleted sequences, including a farewell to Peter Pan and an alternate arrival in Never Land.
You Can Fly: The Making of Peter Pan (16 Minutes): An excellent look at how the Disney classic came to be.
Tinker Bell: A Fairy’s Tale (8 Minutes): A featurette that examines the history of the Tinker Bell character.
The Peter Pan That Almost Was (21 Minutes): An intriguing featurette that explores ideas that never made it into the final film.
The Peter Pan Story (12 Minutes): Another featurette that explores the origin of “Peter Pan.”
Growing Up with Nine Old Men (41 Minutes): A featurette that explores Walt Disney’s key group of animators.
Audio Commentary: An excellent commentary hosted by Roy Disney, featuring participants such as film critic Leonard Maltin and animator Mark Davis.
Never Land: The Lost Song (3 Minutes): A featurette that takes a look at an unfinished song from an unproduced version of the story.
In Walt’s Words: Why I Made Peter Pan (8 Minutes): An abridged dramatic reading of an article Disney wrote about Peter Pan.
Music Video: “Never Land,” Performed by Paige O’Hara (3 Minutes)
Music Video: “The Second Star to the Right,” Performed by T-Squad (1 Minute)
“Peter Pan” may not have the distinction of being one of the more memorable films in the library of Disney animated classics, but with its exciting adventure story, fun characters, and beautiful animation, it remains a classic nonetheless. The 65th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray comes packed with excellent special features and, as usual, features the film in stunning, like-new condition. Therefore, if “Peter Pan” isn’t already in your collection, this is an easy recommendation to fill that hole in your Disney library.