Dick De Jong
February 15, 2013
On its 60th anniversary, Peter Pan, the much beloved Disney animation, is being released for the first time in high definition on Blu-ray.
After all these years, spoiler alerts are not necessary when recounting this classic bedtime story, (originally a play, Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up, written by J.M. Barrie over 100 years ago).
In the Disney version, Peter with the able assistance of Tinkerbell and her Pixie dust, whisk Wendy Darling and her two younger brothers, John and Michael, to Never Land full of adventures with red-blooded Indians, the nasty Captain Hook and his band of pirates, and a snapping ticking crocodile.
What more could a boy desire? As the Lost Boys of Never Land sing.
Why would they ever want to grow up? The innocence of youth is simply too much fun.
Alas, I think that same wide-eyed naivety is required to really enjoy watching Peter Pan.
I feel a bit like the Grinch who stole Christmas in saying this, but there are a few stereotypes in this Peter Pan fairy tale that even Disney Studios would not depict now.
For example, Tinkerbell - whose jealousy of any female competing for Peter's attention can turn Tink leaf-burning red hot - exhibits much more genial Pixie power in the present-day Disney Tinkerbell franchise.
Now, I'm not calling for a raid by the PC police, just making a calm acknowledgement of a characterization that may have been more acceptable 60 years ago.
To transport us back to that time, the film's sweet artistry exudes that youthful charm and guilelessness.
And the Blu-ray, in its high-def glory, wonderfully displays the luscious, digitally restored print. Be forewarned that Peter Pan is presented in the original 4:3 aspect ratio and not in 16:9 HD, therefore it will not fill the full width of an HDTV screen.
At first blush, the Bonus Features, especially the ones made for this Blu-ray release, are not that gratifying. For example, "Growing up with Nine Old Men" is a rather long documentary put together by Ted Thomas one of the sons of one of the Nine Old Men, who were the core team at the Disney Studios back in the days when animated films like Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, and Peter Pan were created.
Thomas interviews other children of the Nine Old Men about what it was like being reared by these artists who were creating magic at work. Unfortunately, their real lives were more mundane.
The real gems are buried in a sub-menu titled "Classic Backstage Disney. Many of these featurettes were compiled for an early DVD release.
I grew up watching "The Wonderful World of Disney" on TV and it was nostalgic to see Walt Disney describing his attraction to J.M. Barrie's creation in the bonus, "Why I Made Peter Pan."
And "You Can Fly: The Making of Peter Pan" offers a behind the scenes look at the creative process with many of the original artists.
Also, if you want to hear a rebuttal to my grumbling about Tinkerbell, then take a look at "Tinkerbell: A Fairy's Tale." The litany of praise for Tink's spunk and independence almost convinced me that she was the very model of a modern woman, though I believe the perspective is a bit revisionist.
If you are ardent Peter Pan fan, you will discover plenty of nuggets in these Backstage features.
Studio: Walt Disney Studios
Director: Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, and Hamilton Luske
Cast: Bobby Driscoll, Kathryn Beaumont, Paul Collins, Tommy Luske, Hans Conried, Bill Thompson, Heather Angel, Tom Conway
Length: 77 minutes
Aspect ratio: 1.33:1
DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1
5.1 Dolby Digital
DTS Digital Surround 5.1
English SDH, French and Spanish