Disney’s classic animated feature from 1953, Peter Pan, returns on Blu-ray sporting the same transfer as before, adding a handful of new special features and including most of the archival features.
The Production: 4.5/5
J.M. Barrie’s classic tale of a boy who refuses to grow up and his adventures with young girl and her two brothers was a perfect fit for Walt Disney and his team of animators. Disney first optioned the rights in 1939, after Paramount’s option for a live action version had expired, beating out competing Fleischer Studios. With financial disappointments like Fantasia and Pinocchio, a devastating animator’s strike, and World War II cutting off access to foreign markets, Peter Pan along with several other features in development were placed on hold. The film finally arrived in theatres on February 5, 1953, ending the studios’ distribution deal with RKO, earning back nearly twice its $4 million budget in its initial release, eventually grossing over $87 million after subsequent theatrical re-issues (including an ill-advised cropped 1.85:1 edition in 1982). The film’s popularity continues, with the Peter Pan’s Flight ride at Disney’s theme parks still demanding over 60 minute waits.
Peter Pan is still one of my all-time favorite Disney animated features, thanks to Hans Conried’s scenery-chewing vocal performance as Captain Hook, but the real star of the film is the crocodile who, after tasting Hook’s hand, desperately wants more, moving in perfect synch with the ticking alarm clock he also swallowed. The portrayal of Native Americans, particularly the What Made the Red Man Red musical number, comes off as rather racist by today’s standards, but is a standing piece of history of our nation’s views at the time the film was made.
3D Rating: NA
All of Disney’s digital incarnations of Peter Pan, unfortunately, have had all of their original film grain scrubbed clean, leaving a sterile, all-too-clean image that often lacks depth and much of its original fine detail. As much as I have enjoyed this film in my lifetime, I’ve only owned it on laserdisc (which eventually rotted shortly before my player died), the 2007 Platinum Edition DVD (which as of this writing I still own), and this new Signature Collection edition Blu-ray. I may be wrong, but when comparing the 2007 DVD to this 2018 Blu-ray re-issue, it appears to have been taken from the same source transfer. Both are free of any trace of film grain and the opening credits are nothing more than single still frames from the original credits dissolving from one to the other. Colors are bolder in this Blu-ray edition, and overall the image is much brighter and sharper. The real shame is that Peter Pan still looks quasi-digital, which coming from a very analog era, it definitely should not.
Peter Pan contains a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track (likely the same one included on the 2013 Diamond Edition Blu-ray) that opens up the front soundstage a bit more than the original mono track (also included on this disc as a Dolby Digital 1.0 track) with a few discrete surround moments. Dialogue is clear and understandable throughout.
Special Features: 3/5
Sing Along with the Movie: Watch the movie with all of the lyrics appearing at the bottom of the screen as subtitles.
Play Movie with DisneyView: For those who can’t stand it when their entire TV screen isn’t filled with images, Disney commissioned background artist Cristy Maltese to fill in those black spaces on the left and right with static images. I’m surprised Disney hasn’t done this with their letterboxed releases (like Lady and the Tramp and Sleeping Beauty). At least this disc doesn’t have Disney Intermission.
Stories from Walt’s Office: Walt & Flight (1080p; 4:13): Disney archivists discuss the theme of flight throughout the studio’s shorts and features during Walt’s lifetime. New to this release.
A Darling Conversation with Wendy & John: Kathryn Beaumont and Paul Collins (1080p; 8:13): The two actors reminisce about working at Disney in the 1950s and more specifically, on Peter Pan. New to this release.
“You Can Fly” – Oke (1080p; 2:11): A music video sing-along, with new computer generated backgrounds. New to this release.
“Never Smile at a Crocodile” – Oke (1080p; 1:48): The song appeared as a deleted song on the previous Diamond Edition Blu-ray, and now appears on this version as an animated sing-along. New to this release.
DVD Copy: The movie (and only the movie) in 480p with English, French, and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 and the original mono in Dolby Digital 1.0.
Digital Copy: An insert contains a code to redeem a digital copy on Movies Anywhere which can be viewed on MA partners Vudu, iTunes, Google Play Movies, and Amazon Video.
Most of the archival bonus features are included on this disc, a real shocker when compared to other recent Signature Collection releases, and can be found under the heading Classic Bonus.
Deleted Song – The Pirate’s Song (480i; 2:22)
Deleted Song – Never Smile at a Crocodile (1080p; 2:13)
Deleted Song – The Boatswain Song (1080p; 3:15)
Deleted Scenes (1080p; 10:00): The Journey Home and Alternate Arrival.
You Can Fly: The Making of “Peter Pan” (480i; 15:59)
Tinker Bell: A Fairy’s Tale (480i; 8:27)
The “Peter Pan” That Almost Was (480i: 21:01)
The “Peter Pan” Story (480i; 12:04)
Growing Up with Nine Old Men (1080p; 41:08)
Audio Commentary: Hosted by Roy Disney.
“Never Land”: The Lost Song (480i; 2:39)
In Walt’s Words: Why I Made “Peter Pan” (480i; 7:40)
Music Video: Never Land Performed by Paige O’Hara (480i; 3:16)
Music Video: The Second Star to the Right Performed by T-Squad (480i; 1:03)
Song Selection (1080p; 7:11): View only the songs from the film, with lyric subtitles.
As I said, Peter Pan is one of my all-time favorite Disney animated classics, but I was disappointed that the studio decided to recycle their old, grain-scrubbed transfer from over 10 years ago yet again. Although the few new features are nice to have, plus the fact that most (but not all) of the classic bonus features have been included on the disc this time, there is no real reason to upgrade if you own the previous Diamond Collection Blu-ray.