Peter Pan: Platinum Edition

Peter Pan: Platinum Edition (1953)
Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Extras: Commentary Track, Featurettes, Art Galleries, Music Videos, Games, Storybook, and much more

After spending some time in the vaults, Walt Disney's 1953 animated movie "Peter Pan" is finally returning to DVD as a 2-disc Platinum Edition. Out of the classic Disney movies "Peter Pan" has always been one of my favorites and getting the chance to see it in a new, digitally restored version sure sounded like a great proposition.

In London around the turn of the century the Darling family lives a quiet life. Their three children Wendy, Michael and John are fascinated by stories of the mythical Peter Pan. Peters is, of course, a boy who never grows up and lives in a fantasy world called Never Land and on this particular night he sneaks into the Darling home to find his shadow. His shadow keeps running away from him and the din awakens the children. Fascinated to meet the real Peter Pan they decide to go with him to visit Never Land first-hand.

With a little pixie dust from Peter's fairy friend Tinkerbell the children learn to fly and off they are to Never Land where they face Captain Hook and his pirates, jealous mermaids and native Indians, and of course the Lost Boys, Peter Pan's motley bunch of followers.

Written by James Barrie to entertain his adopted children, "Peter Pan" has always been a remarkable book that is more than a simple adventure story for children with its themes of never growing up, man's inner thrive to fly, and the ability to retain the inner child in ourselves. Disney's adaptation of the story pays perfect tribute to the story and envelops the viewer in a wonderful whimsical world where children can do anything and defeat even the most dangerous foes. It is beautifully animated with backgrounds that are breathtakingly atmospheric and overall the film features a good sense of humor. The animation of the tick-tocking crocodile is only one of the most lasting images from the film I have carried with me throughout my life.

For this release Disney has given the film a complete overhaul and the result is simply staggering. Unlike some other Disney classics that look dated despite their restoration "Peter Pan" looks like a brand new film. The style, the inking, the animation, the performances, the backgrounds all are remarkably strong and are reproduced on this release without even the slightest hint of problems. There is not a single speckle, not a single registration error and not a hint of grain in the entire transfer. It is amazing what technology can do, really, because "Peter Pan" has probably never looked anything as good as it does on this DVD. Rich colors bathe the screen, sharp edges render the characters meticulously and solid blacks give the image great visual depth. No edge-enhancement is visible and the compressions perfect.

The restoration did not stop there, though, as Disney is also providing a 5.1 channel remix of the audio track. Now, let me say this. I had to check to see if this are the original recordings of the movie or if Disney had by any chance completely redubbed the film. Of course they didn't but it gives you an idea of the sonic quality you can expect from this release. The frequency response and dynamic range of the track is wonderful making it sound much like a modern production. The dialogues however are most remarkable, I found, because the acting is so natural. Unlike many older animated features, here you feel the actors live the parts the way they do in today's animated films as opposed to the more stoic, artificial voice-overs found during the 50s. The balanced mix and frequency response of the remastered audio track certainly helps to bring out these subtle nuances in the recordings that show that "Peter Pan" was quite ahead of its time, actually, in delivering the dialogues.

Coming as a 2-disc release the DVD is also jock-full of extras. These bonus materials contain a good number of family and kids' friendly games and interactive features, such as "Camp Never Land" featuring three separate games and "Peter Pan's Virtual Flight" or the "Peter's Playful Prank" storybook.

To assemble a good mix of features however the DVD set also contains a number of features catering to the film enthusiasts among the viewers. As such you will find a great commentary track on the disc that is filled to the rim with information, refelctions, memories and anecdotes by film historians, collaborators and family members of those invovled with the film.

One of the true highlights of the release is "Why I Made Peter Pan," a featurette that recreates an article Walt Disney wrote for a magazine shortly after the premiere of the movie in 1953. In his own words we learn how the story of "Peter Pan" has affected his life and why he decided to turn it into a movie. It is one of those rare genuine glimpses at Walt Disney the genius so you sure do not want to miss this piece.

Also included is the featurette "The Making Of Peter Pan" discussing the history of the film and how it came together. "Tinker Bell: A Fairy's Tale" is a featurette is taking a closer look at Tinker Bell and her history as well as her significance in the movie and for Disney in general. "The Peter Pan That Almost Was" is a look at the hurdles Walt Disney had to overcome to make the movie and who the perception of the film changed over the many years that led up to the actual making of the movie. The featurettes are rounded out by the original 1952 "The Peter Pan Story" production featurette.
All these featurettes offer up a lot of vintage footage from early stage productions as well as form the making of the movie, making each a valuable testament to "Peter Pan" and a great addition to this release.
And then there are extensive art galleries with photos and images covering every aspect of "Peer Pan.

In the "Music Section" of the release you will not only find new music videos – pretty pointless in my mind to have hip-hop-ified versions of songs relating to a 1953 Disney movie but that may just be me – but also two songs that were originally deleted. Using story boards and voice-overs these deleted songs are wonderful to behold and also feature interview footage with composer Richard Sherman.

To round out the release there is a sneak preview of the upcoming "Tinker Bell" movie as well as a "Disney Song Selection."

This "Peter Pan" Platinum Edition is all that is should be. It offers a spectacular presentation of the movie itself and combines it with a great mix of extras that will make everyone happy. There can be no question in anyone's mind that this DVD version of the film belongs into the collection of anyone enjoying classic Disney movies. For an animated feature film of this age, "Peter Pan" deserves a 10 on a scale of 10.