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Peter Pan: Diamond Edition Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy + Storybook App Review

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 / Writers: Ted Sears, Erdman Penner, Bill Peet, Winston Hibler, Joe Rinaldi, Milt Banta, Ralph Wright, Bill Cottrell (story); J.M. Barrie (play)

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"

Buy Peter Pan from Amazon.com:
New: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy Blu-ray + DVD Instant Video
Previous DVDs: 2-Disc Platinum Edition (2007) Special Edition (2002) Limited Issue (1999)

For the purposes of this review, I struggled to come up with a feature that distinguished Peter Pan from the other Disney animated classics of Walt's time. One of the company's best-known films, this 1953 release was based on a well-known source, J.M. Barrie's turn-of-the-20th century play and novel. That in itself isn't distinct. Not long before and after this, Disney had tapped famous works of English literature for movies like Alice in Wonderland and The Jungle Book.
That wasn't even drastically different from the fairy tales that Disney put their spin on, from those gathered by the Brothers Grimm to something with clearer origins like Pinocchio.

I eventually decided on ownership, as in Disney lays a weaker ownership claim to the contents of Peter Pan than most of their films. Typically, Disney's animated adaptations emerge as the definitive versions of stories. If someone mentions "Pinocchio", you assume they're talking about Disney's charming classic before Carlo Collodi's original novel. Winnie the Pooh may be one of literature's most celebrated characters, but it's Disney's version that is ubiquitous and not even from one specific short or film. There may be two different adaptations competing at this month's Oscars, but a discussion of Snow White has to begin with Disney's pioneering animated feature.

That feels less the case for Peter Pan. For "Peter Pan", the world's loathsome leading search engine returns an IMDb listing for the 2003 live-action film ahead of the one for Disney's version. The usually superior Yahoo! and Bing do the same, though the latter places a Yahoo! Movies page for the Disney film first of all, which Google awards to the Peter Pan Bus Company. Other high-ranking results include the Peter Pan peanut butter brand, the interminable touring stage musical that has often featured Cathy Rigby in the title role, and, of course, the once Internet sensation real-life Peter Pan, Randy Costan. It's true (let's hope) that none of the aforementioned things is as likely to be found in a family's living room as a home video release of Disney's Peter Pan. But they, along with movies like Hook and Finding Neverland, create a cultural cacophony perhaps shared only by Robin Hood in the Disney feature cartoon canon.

Peter Pan welcomes his new friends to Never Land. Captain Hook and Smee are the film's chief pirate villains.

With Wendy Darling set to be moved out of her family's nursery and into her own room the next day, she joins Peter Pan and her younger brothers John and Michael on an adventure to Never Land, where they intend to never grow up. With faith, trust, and a little pixie dust courtesy of Tinker Bell, the gang flies to their destination. There, Captain Hook, his henchman Smee, and their band of rowdy pirates plan to settle an old score with Pan.

Throw in the Lost Boys and some Indians, and you have an old-fashioned Disney fantasy, fueled by comedy, music, conflict, and imagination. It's marred ever so slightly by some offensive depictions that fall short of today's standards for political correctness. But we're all the better for Disney not censoring this like a few offending frames of Fantasia or shelving it indefinitely like Song of the South.

There's nothing subtle about a villain like Captain Hook or a hero like Peter Pan, but few characters have ever made as large of an impression as these two. Peter Pan is a film driven by personality, ripe for psychological diagnosis, and just about guaranteed to hold something of interest for every viewer of every age. Its reputation as a top tier Disney animated classic is easier to question than most of its fellow revered evergreen titles embraced by generations. Still, it's artistically sound, crowd-pleasing entertainment that the passage of sixty years hasn't done much to diminish.

The silently sassy Tinker Bell may be the most popular character in Disney's "Peter Pan." Wendy, John, Michael, and the Lost Boys cheer on as Peter Pan stands up to Captain Hook.

If anything gives Disney a more than tenuous claim on Barrie's creation, it is the character of Tinker Bell. Previously presented as a ball of light, Disney made the character visible as a tiny yet sassy sprite. Over the years, Tink has in many ways been as iconic and prominent a company mascot as Mickey Mouse himself and has even managed to evolve from a silent, moody sidekick to ditzy speaking star of children's videos without losing her luster.
It's worth noting that those Tinker Bell videos, a reliable source of Disney revenue in an increasingly challenging marketplace, fall outside the arrangements Disney has with The Great Ormond Street Hospital, to whom Barrie bequeathed rights to the source text. That children's hospital has fought the expiration of copyrights to keep Pan out of the public domain, much like how, across the Atlantic Ocean, Disney has managed to delay such a fate for Mickey Mouse and other ancient creations.

On Tuesday, exactly sixty years after the day it first opened in American theaters, Peter Pan becomes Disney's seventh Diamond Edition Blu-ray + DVD combo pack and the first not closely followed by a DVD-only edition. Offered as a two-disc set in Blu-ray and DVD packaging or as a 3-disc set with digital copy in a Blu-ray case alone, this release marks the movie's fourth DVD release, a record-tying number among the Disney animated classics canon that speaks more to the film's cross-promotional opportunities (from the 2002 theatrical sequel Return to Never Land to those roughly annual Tinker Bell films) than anything else.

Peter Pan: Diamond Edition Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy combo cover art - click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio (Fullscreen)
Blu-ray: 7.1 DTS-HD MA (English);
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 DEHT (English)
Both: Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish), Dolby Mono 1.0 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish; BD-Only: English
Most Extras Subtitled; DVD and Most Extras Closed Captioned
Release Date: February 5, 2013 / Suggested Retail Price: $44.99
Three single-sided discs (BD-50, DVD-9 & DVD-5 DVD-ROM)
Blue Keepcase in Embossed, Holographic Cardboard Slipcover
Also in Blu-ray + DVD ($39.99 SRP), Blu-ray + DVD in DVD Packaging ($39.99 SRP), and Instant Video
Previously released as 2-Disc Platinum Edition DVD (March 6, 2007), Special Edition DVD (February 12, 2002), and Limited Issue DVD (November 23, 1999)


When it comes to their most popular animated films, Disney generally hasn't disappointed since their short-lived foray into Limited Issue DVDs. If they've erred at all since then, it's been in just how dramatically they've restored these old films to a vibrant, sparkling, pristine state. I doubt anyone from purists to videophiles has an unkind word for Peter Pan's stunning Blu-ray transfer. The film looks spectacular with consistently optimal sharpness, clarity, and detail. Sound is offered in 7.1 DTS-HD master audio, which opens up the elements tastefully. Though not mentioned on the case, those wanting something truer to the film's original design will be glad to find a Dolby Digital 1.0 track presented as its original theatrical mix included as well.

Diane Disney Miller provides her now customary introduction from the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco. The children of Walt Disney's trusted animators come together in the new documentary "Growing Up with Nine Old Men."


In what has recently become a standard inclusion, playback of the film can be prefaced with a new introduction by Diane Disney Miller (1:09), recorded at San Francisco's Walt Disney Family Museum, which she plugs while saying a few words on Peter Pan. There are also the choices to watch the film with DisneyView artwork by Cristy Maltese filling in the black sidebars left by the film's narrow Academy Ratio
with visually compatible designs and to watch it with plain lyric subtitles appearing over the songs. Strangely, the menu only lets you pick between these three, instead of just activating/deactivating them

The Blu-ray's central bonus feature is the brand new documentary "Growing Up with Nine Old Men" (41:08, HD). Ted Thomas, son of Frank and director of Frank and Ollie and Walt & El Grupo, talks to other offspring of Walt's famed nine animators. That distinguishes this piece from the numerous other celebrations of the team, rendering this more personal and interesting.

A new Deleted Scenes and Songs sections presents two of each in HD. The scenes -- a return home (4:38) and an alternate arrival in Never Land (5:22) -- make use of pinned-up black & white storyboards, score, and character recordings. Animating artwork and some lyrics, the songs give us Henry Calvin's demo of the familiar "Never Smile at a Crocodile" (2:13) and an unknown man's demo of Smee's "The Boatswain Song" (3:15).

The remaining items fall under the heading Classic DVD Bonus Features. Unsurprisingly, they are all presented in standard definition, unless otherwise noted.

This unearthed deleted scene is one of the Blu-ray's few never-before-seen bonus features. Paige O'Hara, the voice of Belle sings the lost song "Never Land" in this 2007 music video.

"Disney Song Selection" plays five songs from the film (HD) with italicized white subtitles displaying the lyrics. Interesting that "What Makes the Red Man Red" isn't among them.

Next, we get the audio commentary recorded for the 2002 Special Edition DVD hosted by the late Roy Disney and featuring Leonard Maltin, historian John Canemaker, Wendy's voice Kathryn Beaumont, animators Marc Davis, Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, and Tinker Bell's model Margaret Kerry, among others. Covering all bases from the voice cast to the animators to the characterization, the track is only screen-specific sometimes, but the varied participation keeps it interesting. The Blu-ray doesn't add any visual enhancements to this.

Under Classic Music & More, we find the deleted song "The Pirate Song" (2:22), performed by Hook and Smee to the Lost Boys in demo form while storyboards are shown. It's comparable to the Pirates of the Caribbean theme.

"Never Land: The Lost Song" (2:39) explains how Richard Sherman completed an unfinished number penned for the film. "Never Land" gets a music video (3:16) in which it is performed by Paige O'Hara, the voice of Beauty and the Beast's Belle, in a fancy blue dress, accompanied by a small orchestra, on sets inspired by and excerpting the film.

Less storied is ethnically diverse teen band T-Squad's brief, electronically-enhanced pop cover of "The Second Star to the Right" (1:03), whose music video closes out the section.

Leonard Maltin loved "Peter Pan" in 1997. Early designs for Tinker Bell are seen in "A Fairy's Tale."

Classic Backstage Disney is the most substantial section. It opens with "You Can Fly: The Making of Peter Pan" (15:59), a 1997 featurette that looks back on the film as a long in development advancement over live performances and silent movies. The slick, light piece touches on casting, characters' design and assigned animators, reference models, and the film's reception with interviews of Leonard Maltin, surviving animators Frank Thomas and Marc Davis, voice actress Kathryn Beaumont, and Tinker Bell model Margaret Kerry.

Introduced by Ron Clements and John Musker, "In Walt's Words: Why I Made Peter Pan" (7:46) has an actor read a 1953 Walt Disney magazine article explaining his experiences with Barrie's play and how animation allowed for a close adaptation. As you can guess, it's a folksy treat.

"Tinker Bell: A Fairy's Tale" (8:27) celebrates the once-mute pixie who now has her own direct-to-video movie line and could be played by Elizabeth Banks in an upcoming live-action Disney comedy. The piece reflects on the assorted stage and screen representations of the character through Disney's version. Margaret Kerry discusses her experiences as reference model, while others sound off on the characterization.

Accomplished duo Ron Clements and John Musker host "The 'Peter Pan' That Almost Was", a 2007 featurette sharing various abandoned concepts from Disney's early story treatments. Before voicing Peter Pan, Bobby Driscoll played young Jim Hawkins in Disney's live-action "Treasure Island", excerpted in "The 'Peter Pan' Story."

Clements and Musker also host "The Peter Pan That Almost Was" (21:01), presenting parts of early story treatments that differ from the final film. Line readings are set to storyboard artwork.

An apparent precursor to Walt's "Disneyland" anthology series, "The Peter Pan Story" (12:04) is a short that gives us a history of storytelling from ancient cave drawings to Disney's movies of the 1940s and early '50s (even Song of the South). It comes to discuss J.M. Barrie and the Walt Disney versions of his characters, before closing with an extended preview of the film.

Rounding out the platter are Disney's standard unremarkable digital copy promo (1:04) and legal disclaimers labeled "Info."

Disney Intermission activities included keeping your eye on the shell holding a coin (Three-shell Monte)... ...and identifying the characters that appear in the clouds.

The final extra is a feature activated by default inaccessibly by menu. Disney Intermission seeks to keep your screen alive and occupied when the movie is paused. It does this by playing clips and taking you through hands-free Pirate Training games, including identifying characters who appear in the clouds, a hunt for Pan's shadow and a variation on three-card Monte. The content offers merriment comparable to set-top games of yore without requiring as much attention or commitment.

Adding to the industry's regrettable, ongoing mission to devalue DVD, the combo's FastPlay-enhanced second disc skimps on the bonus features, including only "Tinker Bell: A Fairy's Tale" and Diane Disney Miller's introduction. Clearly, Disney has exhausted its interest in the still widely preferred home video format. At least the DVD is filled close enough to capacity to justify the exclusions on that basis, though I'm guessing anyone still content with DVD's quality would have preferred higher compression to accommodate some of the other extras. As is, Peter Pan's best DVD release stands as one that has been out of print for some time.

The discs open with previews for the Little Mermaid 3D, Monsters University, and Wreck-It Ralph, followed by the Pinocchio-themed anti-smoking PSA. The Sneak Peeks listing repeats the trailers and follows them with ads for Disney Movie Rewards, "Jake and the Never Land Pirates", Disney Parks, "Sofia the First",
Return to Never Land: Special Edition Blu-ray, Monsters, Inc.: Ultimate Collector's Edition Blu-ray 3D, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, The Muppet Movie: The Nearly 35th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray, Mulan: 15th Anniversary Edition, Planes, and the thus-untitled next Tinker Bell movie.

The set's third disc is the lightweight digital copy platter. With a DVD-ROM or BD-ROM drive, you can transfer the film in one iTunes or two Windows Media formats to best suit your computer or portable device needs, using your code as insert. Disney has been offering these premium versions of their Diamond Edition titles, in which the digital copy adds $5 to the list price (and usually at least that much to your out-of-pocket cost), for a while, but this is the first time they've actually sent that edition to me for review.

The packaging prominently bills "Storybook App" as the fourth component of this combo pack, but that's sort of a cheat. There is an application you can download from iTunes that will treat you to games, coloring pages, and such. I believe you need a smart phone or tablet to access this content. Since I don't have those, I can't comment on them, but I will say that these types of bonus features are a hassle that I doubt many customers bother exploring. It's kind of like official movie sites. You know they're out there, but unless it's an obscure movie with little information elsewhere, do you care?


A number of items from Peter Pan's Platinum Edition DVD do not resurface here, but few that you're likely to miss. Gone are the English Read-Along version of the film (some kind of failed ESL experiment), the virtual storybook "Peter's Playful Prank", three "Camp Never Land" set-top games (plus a bonus fourth), the screensaver "Peter Pan's Virtual Flight", a preview of the first Tinker Bell movie, and, most troublingly, a large art gallery consisting of 463 images. Included on the 2002 Special Edition DVD, but subsequently dropped was a "Pirate Treasure Hunt Game" and a Return to Never Land trailer.

In addition, several things that should be obvious inclusions -- Paramount's 1924 silent film Peter Pan (long in the public domain and included on France's release), trailers (still not a single one from any of the film's many engagements!), and 1951's "The Walt Disney Christmas Show" (which the press release even mentioned as a Beaumont credit) -- remain excluded. My offer to be Bonus Features Consultant still stands, Disney! But then, as D23 illustrates, the company doesn't really know what to give its most devoted fans (ooh, a quarterly magazine!).

The Blu-ray and DVD menu drop by the various locales found on a three-dimensional rendering of a Never Land map.


The menu moves around a three-dimensional rendering of a Never Land map, dropping into the different sites for pertinent music and animation. The Blu-ray does not resume playback, but does remember where you left off if your movie viewing went unfinished.

Boasting artwork different from and less standard than the two-disc combo, this 3-disc version is packaged in a standard Blu-ray case with a swinging tray and topped by an embossed holographic slipcover. There are three inserts: a single sheet "Blu-ray Guide" with an overview of the new extras, a Disney Movie Rewards booklet, and a pamphlet of Disney and non-Disney product ads.

The lines of Good and Evil are clearly drawn when Captain Hook and Peter Pan do battle.


Disney has done little to make Peter Pan a must-own Blu-ray. The 60-year-old film has that covered itself. Picture and sound are first-rate, as expected, and there is a new documentary that is high quality for a bonus feature, though not overwhelmingly specific to the film. The loss of an art gallery and a bunch of games will disappoint some, while the missed opportunity to uncover more items to complement the slightly thin recycled DVD supplements will disappoint others. This set is not one of the studio's finest efforts supplementally, but an animated classic as significant as this, breathtakingly restored, is enough to warrant interest and a recommendation. Still, you won't want to unload the Platinum Edition DVD if you value its games and art galleries.

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Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy / Blu-ray + DVD / Instant Video /
2-Disc Platinum Edition DVD (2007) / Special Edition DVD (2002) / Limited Issue DVD (1999)

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Related Reviews:
Diamond Editions: Cinderella Lady and the Tramp The Lion King Bambi Beauty and the Beast Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Finding Neverland Return to Never Land Tinker Bell Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure
Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue Secret of the Wings Jake and the Never Land Pirates: Yo Ho, Mateys Away!
1950s on Blu-ray: Alice in Wonderland To Catch a Thief Hondo Sunset Boulevard A Night to Remember The Killing
Recent: Hotel Transylvania Frankenweenie Thor: Legend of the Magical Hammer Babes in Toyland (1961)

Disney Animated Classic Blu-ray + DVD Combos:
Alice in Wonderland Fantasia & Fantasia 2000 Dumbo
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Treasure Planet Home on the Range The Princess and the Frog Tangled Winnie the Pooh

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Reviewed February 1, 2013.