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Disney's Platinum Edition DVDs: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs • Beauty and the Beast
The Lion King • Aladdin • Bambi • Cinderella • Lady and the Tramp • The Little Mermaid
Peter Pan • The Jungle Book • 101 Dalmatians • Sleeping Beauty • Pinocchio

Peter Pan: Platinum Edition DVD Review

Disney's Peter Pan (1953) movie poster Peter Pan

Theatrical Release: February 5, 1953 / Running Time: 77 Minutes / Rating: G

Directors: Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske

Voice Cast: Bobby Driscoll (Peter Pan), Kathryn Beaumont (Wendy Darling), Hans Conried (Captain Hook, Mr. Darling), Bill Thompson (Mr. Smee), Heather Angel (Mrs. Darling), Paul Collins (John), Tommy Luske (Michael), Candy Candido (Indian Chief), Tom Conway (Narrator)

Songs: "The Second Star to the Right", "You Can Fly!", "A Pirate's Life", "Following the Leader", "What Makes the Red Man Red?", "Your Mother and Mine", "The Elegant Captain Hook"

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Page 1: The Movie, Video and Audio, Disc 1 Bonus Features
Page 2: Disc 2 Bonus Features, Menus and Packaging, Closing Thoughts

Deleted during production, "The Pirate Song" is brought to life via a song demo set to the sequence's storyboards. Paige O'Hara performs "Never Land", a newly-discovered song written for but deleted from "Peter Pan." Legendary Disney songwriter Richard Sherman spruced up the tune for this DVD. Teen pop group T-Squad covers "The Second Star to the Right" in a fast-paced music video.

DISC 2 BONUS FEATURES

Disc Two is broken into four sections, the first of which is Music & More. Here there is a deleted song, two music videos, and a featurette. "The Pirate Song" (1:19), which is presented in demo form, is accompanied by early storyboard art. The demo helpfully includes some narration prior to the singing to put the scene into context.
A fun little song from the pirate point of view, it essentially serves the same purpose as "The Elegant Captain Hook" in the final version.

In "'Never Land': The Lost Song" (2:39), legendary songwriter Richard Sherman talks about "Never Land", a newly discovered song originally composed some sixty-seven years ago for an unfinished production of Peter Pan. Tinkering with the lyrics and arrangement, Sherman recently brought the song into final form and performs pieces of it for us. Also interviewed is Paige O'Hara (better known as the voice behind Belle from Beauty and the Beast), who has recorded the song and a music video to accompany it.

That brings us to "Music Video: 'Never Land'" (3:15), which is listed as a separate feature (good for those wanting to bypass the featurette in repeat viewings) but actually plays automatically after the featurette ends. Unlike the interviews that precede it, the music video is presented in 5.1 Surround. The song is enjoyable enough, though poorly matched with O'Hara's vocals. The video, which blends a live-action foreground with an animated background, is nicely done.

Finally, T-Squad brings us a cover of "The Second Star to the Right" (2:57), though it's only the label on the menu that makes that apparent. It's a bloody butchering, but at least the challenge of distinguishing the singers from the dancers provides a distraction. If the youth market was to be appeased, a video for Jesse McCartney's far superior (and surely more marketable) rendition would have been preferred. Like the last video, this one is presented in 5.1 Surround.

The "Peter Pan" Read-Along: Yep, just the entire movie with the words on screen. Smee is conspicuously absent from Smee's Sudoku Challenge. Take aim, but only at the bad guys, in "Tarrrget Practice."

The next section, Games & Activities begins with a rather strange feature, "English Read-Along: Peter Pan" (1:17:28). Far from the interactive storybook you might expect (there was already one on Disc One, remember?) this is actually a re-viewing of the entire movie with captions. These aren't your everyday captions, mind you -- they are customized to indicate which character (or group of characters) is speaking. That makes them a lot more fun than your standard closed-captioning for the hearing impaired, but to include the entire movie on the second disc seems a colossal waste of disc space. The same thing could have been more efficiently achieved by including an alternative captioning option on the first disc. It's worth noting again that the lyrics to "What Makes the Red Man Red?" appear on-screen here, making their exclusion from the sing-along set on Disc One all the more silly. The movie is presented in 2.0 Stereo, signifying at least some restraint in the effort to waist available megabytes.

After that, the games begin. There are three interactive activities, all grouped under a sub-section called "Camp Never Land: Train to Be a Lost Boy." The idea is that anyone who successfully completes all three games will qualify as a full-fledged Never Land Lost Boy. They can be played one at a time or all at once via "Play All."

There is an Easter Egg in this section. When you use the "Play All" option and complete all three games, not only does one flow more easily into the next, you are also awarded a secret password at the end. After you've played all three, find the hidden hook that appears towards the bottom of the Games and Activities section. Select it, press enter, and you will be given a password entry screen. Just put in your secret code, and you'll get to play an additional, more challenging game of Smee's Sodoku. Note: If you want to bypass the three games, just find the password entry screen and select random icons until it lets you in to play the bonus game.

The first and probably the best of these is "Smee's Sudoku Challenge." If you're like me, you'll be disappointed by the absence of Smee, but pleased with the chance to try your hand at some Disney-themed Sudoku. Unfortunately, the puzzles are almost entirely completed from the start, but the use of Pan graphics rather than numbers in the preliminary round is kind of fun. The audio here is also presented in 5.1 Surround. There are three modes of play: Normal Play (a mix of image-based and number-based games accompanied with instructions), Advanced Play 4x4 (one image-based game), and Advanced Play 9x9 (one number-based game). If nothing else, the activity makes for a good introduction of children to Sudoku and one has to admire Disney's ability to tap into and market a fad.

"Tarrrget Practice" is a lot like what it sounds. Peter has set up various surprise targets that resemble either pirates or lost boys and it's up to the player to distinguish between the two of them. The object is to throw your weapon in the direction of the pop-up pirates while letting your allies go free. The packaging promises an increase in speed as time goes on but as with all these activities, slow transitioning becomes a real burden and any speed-up is hardly noticeable. There are three rounds of play, followed by an abrupt ending...

"Tink's Fantasy Flight" gives you a chance to move pixie dust through the sky, if you so desire. If you haven't had your fill of set-top clouds, "Peter Pan's Virtual Flight" offers an airborne journey that's less demanding and more visually pleasing. No, Leonard Maltin is not here to warn you that "Peter Pan" was made in simpler times. He's just one of the interview subjects discussing and celebrating the film in the featurette "You Can Fly."

...That's because the next feature, "Tink's Fantasy Flight", picks up in the same stage of game play that "Tarrrget Practice" ended at. In this, Lost Boys-in-training direct Tinker Bell's flight path as she dodges airborne obstacles. Unfortunately, the navigational remote control buttons that are supposed to correspond with the indicated direction on the screen don't correspond very well. Since most people play faster than the DVD moves, pressing the proper button often results in a "Try Again" while pressing nothing at all allows you to sit back and watch Tinker Bell make the right moves on her own.

Peter Pan's Virtual Flight (2:02) appears as a section all its own, though it contains only one feature. No, it's not a virtual recreation of the Disneyland attraction (we should be so lucky). It is pretty neat, though, particularly for fans of London, Never Land, or the path that connects them. Not unlike a screensaver, the feature provides a fly-through of a CGI-rendered, 5.1 Surround London, circa 1904, followed by a fly-through of a vacated Never Land.
There are two options: "Play" (a one-time fly-through that includes an annoying voice-over by a poor man's Bobby Driscoll) and "Loop" (which continuously cycles through the fly-through with music and sound effects, but sans voice-over, making this the better option). Though lacking in detail, it's something one can leave on in the background while doing something else -- like, say, writing a DVD review.

Of course the section of highest interest and most importance is Backstage Disney, which begins with "You Can Fly: The Making of Peter Pan" (15:59). Ported over from the Special Edition DVD (and the 1998 laser disc before that), this featurette is solid and informative but far too brief. A far cry from the feature-length documentaries bestowed upon prior Platinum Editions, to be sure. There are no sections, no chapter stops, and no sub-menu. Adding insult to injury, many of the interview segments were reused in the audio commentary on Disc One. At the very least, this should have been expanded or accompanied by longer, more substantial coverage.

I know what you're thinking, but no, it's not really Walt Disney's home movies. It's just a child actor portraying young Walt in "Why I Made 'Peter Pan'." In "Tinker Bell: A Fairy's Tale", Margaret Kerry, discussing pantomiming the part of the pixie for Disney animators. Don't remember the scene in which Mr. and Mrs. Darling discover the wayward shadow? That's because it was in "The 'Peter Pan' That Almost Was", not the "Peter Pan" That Is.

"In Walt's Words: 'Why I Made Peter Pan'" (7:44), an innovative feature created for this DVD, begins with an introduction by Ron Clements and John Musker. It preparing for the Platinum Edition, it seems that Disney stumbled upon an article written by Walt himself, detailing his thoughts on the production of the film. What follows is a "dramatic recreation of an abridgement of that article". An actor faithfully recreates Walt's voice to read the article, which is presented with clips from the movie, studio footage, pictures from Walt's family album, and even a brand-new live-action recreation of a memorable scene from his childhood. Hearing the article is a real treat and the lengths to which Disney went to bring it to life are impressive. I would have liked hearing it in its entirety rather than merely an abridgement, but I must applaud the studio for thinking to include it with such a clever presentation in the first place.

"Tinker Bell: A Fairy's Tale" (8:27) is a much-deserved featurette dedicated to the iconic pixie. The piece provides a nice overview, lending new insight and paying particular attention to her evolution from stage to screen to corporate mascot. As with the making-of documentary, though, this is far too short to fully satisfy and notably leaves out some of Tinker Bell's recent non-Disney roles.

"The Peter Pan That Almost Was" (21:03) provides fascinating information about abandoned songs, scenes, and story elements that were at one time considered for Disney's Peter Pan. The studio considered a number of ways to modify the stage play so that it would suit the big screen and many different paths by which they could explore Never Land. Interestingly, a number of the abandoned concepts have since been employed by other Pan films, such as Hook.

Walt Disney feeds the birds (tuppence a bag) in "The Peter Pan Story." Different designs considered for Peter Pan are seen in the protagonist's Character Design gallery. Peter Pan clutches a soothing blue light (Tinker Bell, presumably) in this piece of Mary Blair concept art.

Also ported over from the Special Edition is "The Peter Pan Story" (12:04), a short black-and-white promotional piece from 1952.
It starts with the history of storytelling and then moves into brief coverage of the film's production. Time-of-release material is always much appreciated and this is no exception.

Finally, there is an extensive Art Gallery, expanded far beyond the sixty or so contained in the Special Edition. There are thirteen sub-sections: Visual Development (55), David Hall Concept Art (35), Mary Blair Concept Art (38), Character Design: Peter Pan (18), Character Design: Tinker Bell (23), Character Design: Captain Hook (23), Character Design: Wendy (12), Character Design: Miscellaneous (48), Storyboard Art (59), Layouts and Backgrounds (49), Production Photos (18), Live-Action Reference (58), and Publicity (27). That makes for a whopping total of 463 stills! Unfortunately, there's no "Play All" or narration offered for any of them.

Clearly, this may be the lightest of all the Platinum Editions in terms of content. The amount of time required to digest everything included is significantly less than what the avid Platinum collector is accustomed to. It's not as if there simply isn't much else to add on, though, and that's what makes this release so frustrating -- especially when some of what did make the cut is already available on a previous release.

So what's lacking? Well, "The Walt Disney Christmas Show", for starters, a classic holiday TV special from 1951 that was directly tied in with the then-upcoming release of Peter Pan. Currently unavailable on DVD, this seemed like a perfectly logical inclusion. Its absence is an inexplicable surprise. Paramount's 1924 Peter Pan -- the black-and-white silent film that inspired Walt's adaptation -- should have made the cut too. After all, it showed up on the French release, is in the public domain, and is directly relevant. And what about trailers? There's not so much as a single TV spot from a re-release included here, let alone the original theatrical trailer. If they exist, footage from the live-action reference film produced for the animators or additional deleted material (like "Never Smile at a Crocodile", perhaps) would have been swell. In addition to those and a feature-length documentary, Disney could have gone for featurettes on any of the cast (like studio regular Bobby Driscoll, for instance), characters, the Disneyland attraction, the DVD's digital restoration, or J.M. Barrie himself. There's so much that could be produced and/or mined for this release that a three-disc set wouldn't have been out of line. Unfortunately, only two are allotted and the latter isn't used to its full potential.

The good news is that those who already own the Special Edition won't lose much if they upgrade and sell off their old copy. Only the "Pirate Treasure Hunt Game" and a sneak peek at Return to Never Land, the now-five years old sequel to Peter Pan, are omitted. Everything else is carried over to this release.

Disc 1's animated Main Menu utilizes shadows, a recurring element in the film. Disc 2's Main Menu takes us to the skies above London, a recurring setting for this platter's bonuses.

MENUS and PACKAGING

The press release promised a "magical environment" for this DVD and it has delivered. All the primary menus -- and some of the sub-menus -- are presented in 5.1 Surround Sound. This isn't your for-marketing's-sake only surround sound, either; it's fully realized and completely enveloping. It's accompanied by menus that are neither simple nor elaborate. They strike just the right balance of lively animation and a classy design in order to be representative of the movie. Various selections from the film score play (sometimes with dialogue or sound effects where appropriate) along with them.

Both discs use the standardized menu options and both feature an Index screen that lists the contents of the entire set and allows direct access to that disc's features. Curiously, Disc Two's Index is accompanied by music while Disc One's is silent.
The DVD is also equipped with Disney's FastPlay so that the movie and a selection of sneak peeks and bonus features play automatically when the first disc is inserted, bypassing the cool menus altogether.

Two single-sided DVDs are housed inside a standard black keepcase, which is itself inside a raised, holographic cardboard slipcover. The cover art is in keeping with the Platinum Edition pattern: big heads float above small scenes. In spite of how that sounds, it looks good. The disc art is printed directly onto the discs, but unlike The Little Mermaid's, the design fills the entire disc with color.

Inside the case is a six-paneled, fold-out guide to the DVD, listing its contents and a description of some of its bonuses. There's also a twelve page booklet filled with advertisements, coupons, and a magic code for the Disney Movie Rewards program. The disc opens with previews for The Jungle Book: 40th Anniversary Edition, Meet the Robinsons, Tinker Bell (a different preview from the one found in the Bonus Features section), the upcoming reissue of Return to Never Land, "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse": Mickey's Great Clubhouse Hunt, and Disney on Blu-Ray disc. From the main menu, one can access additional previews for The Aristocats: Special Edition, The Little Mermaid III, Ratatouille, Disney Movie Rewards, and Disney Vacation Club.

Whether your idea of fantasy is swordplay with a notorious pirate captain... ...or soaring over London at night, Disney's "Peter Pan" explores the boundless imagination.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Disney’s version of Peter Pan may not be the best adaptation of the classic story, but it’s one of the better ones. While it would benefit from a deeper exploration of characters and themes, it really has a grasp on the spirit of Barrie’s story. The Platinum Edition disappoints when compared to previous installments in the collection, but it is still a marked improvement on the movie’s previous Special Edition release. The delightful new transfer alone makes the upgrade to this new set worth it. The fact that all the essential bonus features from the Special Edition have been carried over and are joined by several new, very good ones, makes the upgrade all the more recommendable.

For those who don’t yet own Peter Pan, buying this new Platinum Edition should be a no-brainer. While Disney should have gone the extra mile for this release – especially given all that could have been so easily included and all the disc space that has been wasted instead -- its contents are still quite good on the whole. The movie is unlikely to be revisited for quite some time, so for the time being, this is unfortunately as definitive as it gets. There’s no question that Peter Pan deserves a spot in any collection, so don’t hesitate to add it to yours.

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Related Reviews:
Peter Pan: Special Edition (1953) • Return to Never Land (2002) • Sing Along Songs: Peter Pan - You Can Fly! (1988)
Tinker Bell (2007) • Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure (2008)
Finding Neverland (2004) • Cinderella: Platinum Edition (1950) • Lady and the Tramp: Platinum Edition (1955)
Alice in Wonderland: Masterpiece Edition (1951) • Bambi: Platinum Edition (1942) • The Little Mermaid: Platinum Edition (1989)
Aladdin: Platinum Edition (1992) • Beauty and the Beast: Platinum Edition (1991) • The Lion King: Platinum Edition (1994)
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: Platinum Edition (1937) • Dumbo: Big Top Edition (1941) • Sleeping Beauty: Platinum Edition (1959)
The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949) • Treasure Island (1950) • Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
Sing Along Songs: Disneyland Fun - It's a Small World • Disneyland Resort: Happiest Homecoming on Earth • Magic Kingdom
Robin Hood: Most Wanted Edition (1973) • Mickey's House of Villains (2002) • The Phoenix & The Carpet (1997) • TaleSpin: Volume 1 (1990)
Mary Poppins: 45th Anniversary Edition (1964) • Muppet Treasure Island: Kermit's 50th Anniversary Edition (1996) • Cars (2006)
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: 25th Anniversary Edition (1977) • Cinderella III: A Twist in Time (2007)

Related Interviews:
Click to read UD's exclusive interview with Margaret Kerry, the model for Disney's Tinker Bell!
Margaret Kerry, the model for Tinker Bell

Click to read UD's exclusive interview with Kathryn Beaumont, the voice of Disney's Alice and Wendy!
Kathryn Beaumont, the voice and model for Wendy and Alice in Wonderland's Alice

Related Pages:
Report from Peter Pan's Opening Night at the El Capitan Theatre (February 2007)
Peter Pan in Top Disney Animated Classics Countdown (#7)
Top 100 Disney Songs Countdown (featuring "The Second Star to the Right" and "You Can Fly!")
Top 30 Disney Villains Countdown (featuring Captain Hook)
Top 50 Disney Heroes & Heroines Countdown (featuring Peter Pan and Wendy)

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Page 1: The Movie, Changes, Video and Audio, Disc 1 Bonus Features
Page 2: Disc 2 Bonus Features, Menus and Packaging, Closing Thoughts

Reviewed March 6, 2007.