I’m still surprised how much better classic animation can look on Blu-ray compared to earlier DVD editions. It helps when they’ve gone through a good restoration and remastering process, which is just what Peter Pan has gotten. The result is a great looking, almost pristine release for one of Disney’s best films.
I’m sure you know the story – Wendy Darling is on the edge of adolescence and her father wants her to give up her fanciful stories about Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up. However Wendy knows better, as she’s got Peter’s shadow. That evening, when her parents are out, Pan turns up looking for his shadow, and agrees to take Wendy and her brothers, John and Michael, to his home in Neverland.
They head for the second star to the right and straight on till morning, which sets off an adventure with mermaids, Indians and, of course, the infamous Captain Hook, whose never-ending mission to kill Peter puts everyone in danger.
The film is one of Disney’s most charming and magical adventures, with great characters and lots of wit within its rather episodic structure. The only real issue is that what was acceptable in 1953 isn’t the same as it is now. As a result, it’s difficult not to see most of the section with the Indians (the more polite Native Americans hadn’t been invented back then), and most particularly the song ‘What Makes The Red Man Red’, as pretty racist. There’s also a smidgeon of misogyny in the fact that both Tinkerbell and the mermaids become homicidally jealous when they see Wendy near Peter. You may think I’m being ridiculous, but watch the movie again – these women’s first thought is instant jealousy and murder!
While the more right-on amongst you might wish to sit your children down and explain the different attitudes to women and Native Americans in the 1950s, to be honest most children won’t think twice when they watch the film and it certainly won’t make them go and join the KKK the moment they finish watching Peter Pan. They will simply follow in the footsteps of generations of youngsters who’ve fallen in love with the film. It’s also one of those Disney movies that doesn’t lose its charm when you grow up. Some, such as 100 Dalmatians, just don’t seem the same when you’re an adult, but Peter Pan is still wonderful.
Purists will also be more than happy with the Blu-ray picture. I’ve always thought that the original DVD release of Peter Pan was one of the roughest looking of the classic Disneys. That’s been remedied with this version, where the image has been fastidiously restored and remastered for Blu-ray. The result is bright colours, crisp edges, little grain and a picture that probably looks better than it did on its first release 59 years ago (why they didn’t wait until next year for a 60th Anniversary release is anyone’s guess). It’s one of Walt’s most beautifully animated movies and that becomes clearer than it ever has before on this HD release.
Mind you, Disney was developing the movie for nearly 15 years, so it’s perhaps not surprising that in that time they managed to ensure it looked gorgeous. The film’s long development is explored in the special features, which include a ‘making of…’ featurette and a look at the ‘Peter Pan That Never Was’, both of which take a look at the various different ideas Disney had for the movie over the years, such as letting Nana the dog go to Neverland with the kids.
There are also sing-alongs as commentary with Roy Disney (Walt’s nephew), a couple of music videos and some other very interesting bits and pieces, ensuring this is a great package that will tell you a lot about the film, as well as presenting it in the best quality possible.
Overall Verdict: One of Disney’s best (if least PC) gets a wonderful HD makeover, with a superb picture quality that really brings out the charm of this wonderful adventure.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac