The 1950s was a strong decade for Disney Animation. All of the Disney animated features released during that era are now considered top-tier classics. 'Peter Pan' came after such classics as 'Cinderella' (1950) and 'Alice in Wonderland ' (1951). It preceded 'Lady and the Tramp' (1955) and 'Sleeping Beauty' (1959). This was truly the golden age of Disney animation.
Disney's adaption of J.M. Barrie's work may not be as highly regarded as the other classics that came out in the 50s, but it's every bit as memorable. Up until 1953 Disney animated movies hadn't featured a whole lot of action. 'Peter Pan' remedied that. Looking back on the movies that came before, 'Peter Pan' is definitely one of the most exciting.
The movie has taken its lumps over the years though. Many still believe that the way 'Peter Pan' depicts Native Americans is downright racist. Like 'Looney Tunes,' Disney had some questionable stereotypes displayed rather proudly in their early movies. While I'm in the camp that thinks the maroon-skinned Indians in 'Peter Pan' are inherently racist, I also agree that they are a product of their time. Disney has seen fit not to censor or change them in anyway. They sure are selective in what they perceive as racially insensitive since we still can't get a new copy of 'Song of the South' anywhere.
Barrie's original story about a boy that doesn't want to grow up appeals to everyone's inner child. That's my reasoning for why Peter Pan and his adventures in Neverland are universally loved. With copyright's granted to Disney they set about creating their own version of 'Peter Pan.' It takes liberties with the source material, sure. Disney has always done their thing as far as adaption is concerned. The main thing about Disney's version of 'Peter Pan' is that it retains the childlike innocence and wonder that Barrie's story exhibits.
One night in London, Peter Pan (voiced by Bobby Driscoll) visits a young girl hoping to get his shadow back. Wendy Darling (Kathryn Beaumont) believes in the stories she's heard about Peter and has stowed away his lost shadow for safe keeping. And so begins one of the most adored stories in all of children's literature.
Wendy, along with her two brothers Michael (voiced by Tommy Luske) and John (voiced by Paul Collins) fly off to Neverland with Peter. A wealth of adventure await the travelers. Danger lies ahead also. Captain Hook (voiced by Hans Conried) has been stewing over how to finally rid himself of his arch nemesis Peter Pan. When the boy arrives with new friends in tow he eyes a chance to get rid of him once and for all.
As with most Disney animated films nostalgia plays a big role in how I review it. There's no way around the nostalgia that has worked on me for years. I grew up watching every Disney movie I could find. I revered 'Peter Pan,' along with 'Robin Hood,' 'The Jungle Book,' and 'Sword in the Stone.' I couldn't get enough of them. So, obviously some sort of perfection affection bleeds through when reviewing them decades later.
'Peter Pan' is a fantastic addition to my burgeoning Disney Blu-ray collection. With it, we finally have a complete high-def collection of one of Disney's finest decades as far as animation was concerned.
Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
The Diamond Edition of 'Peter Pan' comes with a 50GB Blu-ray Disc, a DVD, and a Digital Copy. Inside the standard size Disney keepcase is three discs. There is a code for Disney Movie Rewards. The release is region free.
Disney has provided a 1080p transfer of this classic. There may be arguments that Disney has tinkered a bit too much with the original look of the film – for example the clean picture exhibits little to no grain – so be warned that you may feel differently about the slightly revisionist view Disney took this time around. I for one and pleased with the outcome. I find the lush high-def visuals of 'Peter Pan' to be very fine indeed.
The animators' line work is concise. Color fills are strong and vibrant and rarely fade or inexplicably switch colors. The blue of London's night sky is sumptuous. The greenery of Neverland has never looked so rich.
Scratches, scuffs, and noise have all been cleaned up. This is a pristine looking transfer. It still retains the look and feel of 50s animation, but shimmers like it was done yesterday. Black levels are robust. The picturesque backgrounds, especially the Mermaid Lagoon, sparkle with fine detail and color. There have been small changes here and there, nevertheless, Disney's restoration seems on point and looks superb.
Disney has broadened the soundfield of 'Peter Pan' by adding a few extra channels. A DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track has been mixed for this Blu-ray release. An original mono mix has also been included, but sadly it isn't a lossless option.
Does 'Peter Pan' really need eight total speakers pumping out sound for it to be enjoyable? Not really. Then again, this is a Diamond Edition and they usually go big for those. Culled from a mono source Disney creates a realistic surround sound environment like it has with other movies like 'Snow White.'
What is most noticeable about the expanded soundscape is the exactness of the directionality. Dialogue and sound effects move seamlessly through the channels depending on where people are located on screen. Cannons provide deep booming explosions. The tick-tock of Hook's crocodile echoes menacingly. Rear speakers are surprisingly alive with ambient noise, as are the side channels. This is especially noticeable during action sequences. My favorite sound of the movie, when Hook skips across the top of the water like a skipping stone after shooting out of the crocodile's mouth, is wonderfully presented here.
The 7.1 track may be a little much considering its mono roots, but Disney pulls it off really well. Audiophiles and fans will enjoy what they've done here. It's just too bad that they didn't include a lossless mono option as well.
'Peter Pan' remains one of my favorite Disney movies. It still faces its share of controversy, but I'm glad that Disney didn't go completely revisionist here. They could have easily recolored the redness of the Indians in the film and decided not to. The movie looks and sounds fantastic. Disney has done another outstanding job remastering one of its classics. For Disney fans this will be a must own. For everyone else it's very highly recommended.