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    Return to Never-Land Blu-ray Review

    Blu-ray Disney

    Aug 20 2013 01:23 PM | Matt Hough in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
    Disney’s 1953 Peter Pan is one of the most popular and profitable of the studio’s animated classics, so doing an animated sequel to that story is a tricky proposition (like it has been with other classics like Bambi, Cinderella, and Lady and the Tramp). You don’t have the original voice actors, and the studio isn’t going to spend incredible amounts of money trying to match the stupendous animation in the original. True, modern technology offers surround sound and computer animated techniques to add in the production process, but these sequels to classics are still risky and tough to pull off. Return to Never-Land is a barely acceptable follow-up to the first movie. Not that it can come close to matching the original film, of course, but there are some slight amounts of magic present and a few stylish touches which make it one of the few semi-worthy sequels to an original.

    Title Info:

    • Studio: Disney
    • Distributed By: N/A
    • Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
    • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
    • Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 5.1 DD, French 5.1 DD
    • Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
    • Rating: G
    • Run Time: 1 Hr. 12 Min.
    • Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copy
    • Case Type: keep case with slipcover
    • Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
    • Region: ABC
    • Release Date: 08/20/2013
    • MSRP: $36.99

    The Production Rating: 3/5

    The time is now World War II, and London is in the midst of the blitz that caused such destruction and loss of life that children were routinely being shipped to the countryside to get them away from the horrors of the bombing of the city. Wendy (Kath Soucie), now grown up, is on the eve of sending her two children Jane and Danny away from London. Jane (Harriet Owen), though still a young girl, has left childhood far behind in an effort to do her part for the war effort now that her father (Roger Rees) has been sent away to fight. But she’s kidnapped by Captain Hook (Corey Burton) and his pirate band in an effort to use her to learn the whereabouts of Peter Pan’s new hideout. He whisks her back to Never-Land where she’s rescued by Peter (Blayne Weaver) and, just like her mother years before, charmed by the boy who won’t grow up. Hook’s continual attempts to kill Peter using any means necessary carry right over from the first film’s adventures, only this time there are no mermaids, no Indians, and no crocodile. (We do have an octopus who isn’t nearly as much fun.)

    Originally this movie was planned as a made-for-home video feature, but Disney decided to give it a theatrical release in 2002 in America and Europe before bringing it out on home video. The problems with resurrecting the characters and situations from Disney’s memorable 1953 effort are multiple. The gap of forty-nine years between the first effort and this one is telling in so many ways. All of the original animators are no longer around, and the kind of detailed and character-rich animation they did then just isn‘t done any more, for cost reasons if nothing else. The voice cast is entirely different, and try as they might to mimic the voices of icons like Bobby Driscoll, Bill Thompson, and Hans Conried, it just can‘t be done with the degree of panache those performers imbued their characterizations. And the score of the 1953 film is so much more flavorful and intoxicating compared to the mediocre drivel on display in this sequel (singer Jonetha Brooke nasally wails the original’s beautiful “Second Star to the Right” and a weak new song “I’ll Try” on the soundtrack, and the Lost Boys have “These Are the Things Lost Boys Do” that’s momentarily lively). Add to that a rather piddling rescue plot and some embarrassingly lame modern attempts to be hip (belching, spitting on their hands and shaking as a sign of bonding, a fart joke, the anachronistic use of “Do You Believe in Magic?” over the closing credits) and you’ve got a movie sequel that is in no way in the same league as its predecessor.

    The animation is very bright and colorful if much less detailed than the earlier picture, and modern advances in sound design give the movie a punch in the London blitz scenes and later pirate attacks that weren’t possible back then. The movie does get off to a most imaginative and stylish start as cloud designs and shadows echo memorable moments from the original Peter Pan. Jane is every bit her mother’s daughter, as quick-tempered and stubborn as Wendy was on her excursion to Never Land and something of a pill until the film’s last quarter hour. But the plot is really quite limp and underdeveloped, and the slapstick antics aren’t inspired or inventive enough to be more than fitfully amusing.

    Video Rating: 5/5 3D Rating: NA

    The film has been framed at a 1.66:1 aspect ratio and is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. The transfer is immaculate and vibrantly colorful with bright, bold hues that are deeply saturated but never bleed. Lines are strong and solid with no hint of aliasing, and there is no banding either in the transfer. The film has been divided into 26 chapters.

    Audio Rating: 4/5

    The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is quite impressive for a medium budget animated feature. The musical score by Joel McNeely is constantly filtered through all of the available channels, and there is some definite effects activity in the rears as well (though there could have been more). Dialogue is clear and clean and has been placed in the center channel. The LFE channel gets a good workout what with the explosions during the blitz sequence and Hook’s cannon fire and is most impressive.

    Special Features: 2/5

    Five Deleted Scenes (8:21, SD): may be watched individually or in a single montage. Some of the animation is completed and some is rough pencil drawings or in-betweens.

    “I’ll Try” Music Video (4:02, SD): singer Jonetha Brooke wrote and performs this song sung on the soundtrack over action during the film.

    Pixie Previews (HD): five brief Disney Fairy shorts featuring Tinker Bell and her friends from the Pixie Hollow series: “Hide and Tink” (1:17), “Dust Up” (1:17), “Shooting Stars!” (1:32), “Volley Bug” (1:17), “Just Desserts” (1:02).

    Promo Trailers (HD): Super Buddies, The Little Mermaid, Planes.

    DVD/Digital copy: disc enclosed and code sheet inside case

    Overall Rating: 3/5

    Return to Never-Land doesn’t reach any new heights nor sink to any new lows in the field of sequels to animated classics. Younger fans of Peter Pan and his friends will undoubtedly enjoy a continuation of the story, but there isn’t much here for older members of the family.

    Reviewed by: Matt Hough
    Support HTF when you buy this title:


    I took my niece and nephews to this when it was in theaters.


    I went in thinking I would *hate* it and I did not.  Not a a classic by any measure, but it was far from horrible; I liked it more than any of the other Disney direct to video sequels I had to sit through with the kids.


    Won't be buying it, but your review helps!  Thanks, Matt!