Eye For Film >> Movies >> Peter Pan: Special Edition (1953) DVD Review
Peter Pan: Special Edition
Reviewed by: Amber WilkinsonRead Amber Wilkinson's film review of Peter Pan: Special Edition
So, five years after it received the 'special edition' treatment Peter's out on a two-disc version. The decision, I'm sure has nothing to do with the fact that we're due to get Tinker Bell - a film, which from the DVD 'sneak peek' looks to be a lack lustre CGI spin-off which will appear in a blitz of marketing likely to result in girls up and down the land being desperate for a sub-Barbie fairy doll. There will be five to collect, so start saving those pennies now, parents.
But let's get back to what the US refer to as platinum Pan - released under the 'special edition' label in the UK. Certainly, the film has never looked better, in fact, it looks so spookily scrubbed up, you begin to wonder if they've remade it. Presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, it is considerably better than the print on the special edition release. You can clearly see the difference if you take a look at the disc two extra You Can Fly: The Making Of Peter Pan, which was clearly made for the earlier release and features clips from the vastly inferior remastering. Tinker Bell, in particular, is a sparkling advert for digital restoration.
What is odd, then, is that no mention of the restoration is made elsewhere on the disc. It is crying out for an extra detailing how they went about brushing things up. As far as the sound goes, there isn't much call for an enhanced 5.1 mix but its here if it floats your pirate ship.
When it comes to the extras, it's worth considering what was available before, on the single disc. I've had a hunt about and - please, correct me if I'm wrong - as far as I can tell the commentary track is nothing new. It is a good one, however, featuring Walt's nephew Roy Disney as our host, and featuring everyone from original animators to voice talents and critics discussing the film. They aren't 'talking to the film' but have been interviewed and edited to suit. The film is virtually muted throughout the commentary, so you may wish to turn on the subtitles - uniformly good - while you listen. Sadly, if you're deaf, you won't get to share the fun of the commentary, since it isn't subtitled - why do so many DVD releases persist in doing this? Surely subtitling extras can't be that much of an extra expense?
Talking of subtitling, you can also enjoy(?) the film all over again on disc two in the rather misleadingly titled: English Read-Along: Peter Pan. Not a book, as you might expect - although there is one of those on disc one - this is a captioned version of the movie. They're customised to show which character is speaking and more fun than the straightforward subtitles over on disc one, but the question, why include this instead of more interesting extras, remains.
The disc one extras are firmly aimed at the little 'uns, with the aforementioned Tinker Bell movie sneak peek, the most scary. Talk about making you count your blessings. If this is the future of CGI, bring back 2-D as all is very much forgiven. Casting that travesty aside, kids can settle down to Peter's Playful Prank: Storybook. This is also a carry over from the special edition release - shame they couldn't have splashed out on something new. It's even more of a shame that they didn't correct the misspelling of Tinker Bell - presented in the story as one word despite being two everywhere else. It's the usual read-along or read-alone fodder, which will leave older children cold.
Also on disc one is a Disney Song Collection, featuring The Second Star To The Right, You Can Fly, A Pirate's Life, Following The Leader and Your Mother And Mine - no surprise to see that What Makes The Red Man Red? has failed to make the list, although odd to see that The Elegant Captain Hook doesn't get a look in. Odder still, is the fact that they haven't included 'bounce along' lyrics with these - they have on certain other releases. You can turn the subtitles on, however, and, if you really can't resist knowing what, allegedly, does make the red man red, it's fully captioned on the Read Along: Peter Pan on disc two.
The meat of the extras, lies on that second disc, where music lovers who haven't had enough singing along, can get another fix in the Music And More section.
This includes Deleted Song: "The Pirate Song" a rather good also-ran which is introduced and then shown over storyboard images and which would, presumably, have run in place of The Elegant Captain Hook, if it had made the cut. Also include is "Never Land": The Lost Song. This shows Richard Sherman - wearing what appears to be a show-stealing toupee - talking about the discovery of a 'lost lyric' which Paige O'Hara (the voice of Belle in Beauty And The Beast) then goes on to crucify, er, I mean sing. Oddly the dreadful music video with Paige features as a separate extra on the disc, although it in fact runs on from the featurette about the song.
Finally, in what can only be considered to be part of the 'More' of the section title, since it definitely doesn't qualify as 'Music' is a rendering of The Second Star To The Right by T Squad. Now, I'm no fan of the original - and I admit I may not be down with the kids - but this is rendering only in the sense of boiling something down until it is completely dead and then jumping up and down on it in the name of hip hop.
Back in the sanity of the rest of the disc extras is the Games And Activities section. This features the captioned full version of the film already mentioned and Camp Never Land: Learn To Be A Lost Boy - which conjured up entirely the wrong sort imaginings in the smutty recesses of this reviewer's mind. Thankfully, this isn't some sort of gay 'outing' of Pan - although, maybe that's why he wasn't interested in Tink or Wendy? - but rather a trip to camp by way of a series of challenges. Showing that Disney is with the Noughties, things kick off with Smee's Sudoku. The first puzzle is laughably easy, even for a four year old, while the others leapt up in complexity so much that I doubt an under-eight would manage them... this 35-year-old even made one wrong attempt, although that probably says more about me than the game.
Also speaking volumes about me was my pathetic early attempts at the second game on the disc Tarrrget Practice. There were no instructions and initially I failed abysmally, until a chance hitting of buttons in increasing amounts of frustration finally get the hang of it. A child of four, of course, would have been through this section like a dose of salts, although whether they could be bothered waiting for each screen to come up, when they could be off playing on their Nintendo, is debatable.
If they are up for the caveman gaming experience, however, the third game in the bunch is the most fun. Tink's fantasy flight, sees you control a flight through the air to avoid getting pelted with everything from fruit to cannonballs. All of this exertion with reveal an easter egg code, which in turn leads to additional sudoku - if you like that kind of thing.
Curiously, additional extra Peter Pan's Virtual Flight, appears in a section all on its own, when really it would have fitted neatly into the Games section. Another sign of DVD 'bulking out', it's a fun but slight flight with Peter Pan through London, not to be confused with the Disneyland attraction of the same name.
The most interesting extras on the disc from an adult point of view are the Backstage Disney Section. The Making Of Peter Pan is a carry over from the special edition, which seems to specialise in making everyone look slightly unwell. It's interesting enough but should be at least twice as long as the 15 minute runtime. Some of the quotes here also appear on the disc one commentary - surely it isn't too much to ask that they find 15 minutes of new material?
This is followed by a new companion piece Tinker Bell: A Fairy's Tale. This eight-and-a-half minute featurette is well worth a watch and details how Tink started off as a bit part and ended up as an icon. Margaret Kerry - who was used as the reference model for Tinker Bell - is an enjoyable companion but, again, this feels far too short.
Also included is a reading of an article In Walt's Words: Why I Made Peter Pan and a rather austere 1952 featurette.
The best extra by far on the disc is The Peter Pan That Almost Was. This 20-minute romp through 20 years' worth of drawing board versions of the tale is fascinating, though it leaves you feeling whistful about aspects of these initial imaginings that you wish had made it to the final cut. It seems Disney chose the anodyne over the adventurous.
Finally, the disc is rounded out by an exhaustive art gallery - greatly expanded from the special edition - featuring concept art, storyboards and character evolution.
This is a fairly comprehensive package of extras, but it lacks a pinch of pixie dust. Where are the trailers? The other TV spots? How about the film version that the cast shot for the animators to work from? Where, even, is the thorough modern feature this film is so desperately calling out for?
Even if you have the previous special edition, this version is worth acquiring, if only for its vastly improved print and The Peter Pan That Almost Was. This edition while not completely definitive, still has its magic moments.Reviewed on: 15 Mar 2007