Peter Pan (1953) Diamond Edition Review

Peter Pan and Hook are at odds with each other. It stands as one of the greater Disney animated conflicts based on sheer entertainment value, and yet, it is never clear why they detest each other so much. Hook of course states it is because he blames Pan for the loss of his hand, bitten off by a crocodile. That insinuates Pan & Hook were at each others throats even before the loss of an appendage. The war seems to have been waged over immeasurable amounts of time.

Know why it works anyway? Kids. Imagination runs wild, and as often as kids dream of being a pirate, tormenting one and watching it be chased down by a persistent crocodile is even more enjoyable.

Peter Pan is a story about staying young and never growing up, sort of like those people who sit at home reviewing Blu-rays while ranting about them on internet forums… err, wait.

Okay, scratch the last part, but Peter Pan staying in the child-like mindset is wholly accurate. Of Disney’s roster of iconic animated features, none have a better sense of comedic wit than this one. All of the slapstick and incredible amount of activity creates a vibrancy and energy that could only come from a child.

In a lot of ways, Pan is hyper active. The Darling family, as we first meet them, are scattered. The youngest kids are tearing up bed sheets with wooden swords, the parents are all over the place trying to get away for the evening, Wendy is cleaning, and the dog somehow ends up in the way at every turn. From there, Disney’s wild, bouncy animation style from the fabeled “Nine Old Men,” has no slowdown.

The film is comprised of almost nothing but comedic relief. Hook’s right-hand man (or left technically) Mr. Smee is a bumbling fool, kind hearted enough that he counteracts the cruelty of Hook. It is constant mischief between those two, an almost direct copy of Tinkerbell and Pan. Tink, despite her recent ventures as a Disney Princess marketing machine, was first selfish, spiteful, jealous, and remarkably mean-spirited. She huffs as she is scolded for nearly murdering (!) Wendy.

Even Pan, despite his lively nature and sense of free spirit, has that layer of meanness. Most of it is childish behavior, a means of enhancing his flair for being young. He has a disdain for girls, and even treats Wendy with a tinge of disrespect. Years of equal rights have turned Pan into a rather awful caricature until you consider the mindset of any kid at that perceived age. That, and the Indians which… well, ouch.

Whereas younger children may find the likes of Snow White plodding giving the sugar-infused, hyper activity of today’s cartoons, Peter Pan is one that has not aged a day. The film has an immediate hook with its color, fast movement, and playful demeanor. None of those are lost as the thin dream-like story telling takes hold. Pan pushes for more characters, more gags, and more sense of adventure. It’s hard to look away.

Movie ★★★★★ 

Showing off @ 42:28

Disney’s visual treatment for Peter Pan mirrors that of all their animated catalog on Blu-ray so far: spotless. Scrubbed clean of any grain leaving the animation cels – and the animation cels only – room to breathe is a style that may conflict with the filmic elements. The end results speak for themselves, with clarity unsurpassed thanks to the invisible compression.

Thick (and thin) pencil lines are readily appreciated by the outstanding resolution. The same goes for the backgrounds, where each brush stroke can be viewed in substantial definition. While titles like Lady and the Tramp have revealed their technical faults, Pan does not. This is an exemplary disc that serves as a showcase for the animation talents of decades ago.

Pan comes across as a hair brighter than before in saturation, enough to make Tinkerbell pop with bright yellows, and Pan’s greens soar. Captain Hook’s red cloak is another one of those items you cannot miss, especially vivid. A visit to the mermaid’s lair is overloaded with pastels that seem to naturally shine with intensity. But, none of this comes across as unnatural or overblown.

The final piece is accuracy of the black levels, immediate in their impact as the imagery pans over a painted London. Deep and rich, they add the heft to an already contrasting look. Caves look fantastic, and when silhouettes are used, there is no loss in accuracy.

Video ★★★★★ 

Peter Pan may surprise with its initial burst of audio. The opening lyrical music is alarmingly smooth, and filled with precision fidelity. It is almost modern. From a 7.1 mix, the music also gains space, main lyrics sitting in the center, while the choir backdrop spins up into the surrounds softly and naturally. The fade is quite beautiful.

The rest of the surround effects can come off as artificially enhanced. As Pan’s home collapses late, falling debris is recycled into the stereos and surrounds, no directionality noted. The same can be said for the cannon fire that introduces the kids to Neverland.

Still, there are examples of the wide soundstage. Around 40-minutes, Pan’s voice will appear from all over as he tricks Mr. Smee. The crocodile’s clock can also be heard in a specific channel as it sneaks up where appropriate. Dialogue in general sounds like it was recorded yesterday with no discernible haze or static.

Audio ★★★★☆ 

Roy Disney’s commentary from the DVD edition is brought over, along with five other features from that disc. You can view original treatments from the ’30s, a making of, a message from Walt on why he chose this project, a look at Tinkerbell, and a vintage piece that details the Peter Pan story through the ages.

Of the little new to this Blu-ray, the real winner is Growing up with Nine Old Men. This tracks down the children of those famed animators as they discuss their parents and what it was like growing up. It is outstanding, with wonderful memories shared and great details into the mindsets of these animators. Take the 41-minutes and spend some time with it.

Two deleted scenes and two deleted songs are here. You can also view a short intro from Diane Disney Miller, add borders the 4×3 frame of the feature, and take part in a sing along.

Extras ★★★☆☆