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Peter Pan (1953)
DVD disk
10.07.2004 By: The Shootin Surgeon
Peter Pan (1953) order
Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske

Bobby Driscoll
Kathryn Beaumont
Hans Conried


star Printer-Friendly version
Disney strikes again with this 1953 classic of a boy who refuses to grow up. Wendy and her brothers, John and Michael are faced with spending their last night together in the nursery before Wendy gets her own room. When she cringes at the thought of growing up, Peter Pan takes them along for a ride through the magical place called Neverland, where kids stay kids forever. Unfortunately, things turn out quite differently when Captain Hook, a vicious pirate with a grudge against Peter attempts to get revenge and the kids must band together to battle the evil buccaneer.
Is there really any way that you can go wrong with Disney's classic animation features? I think not. Despite some shortcomings and the fact that this is one of Disney's most somber features, you can't help but admire the brilliance of the creative minds behind it. It seems to be strangely different than the rest of the features you immediately think of when you mention Disney, such as Cinderella, SNOW WHITE and Beauty and the Beast to name a few. Peter himself is an ambiguous character, at once innocent child and at the same time, swashbuckling hero. The same can be said for Wendy, who seems terrified of growing up, and yet is already taking care of her two younger brothers and is probably the most mature character in the film. The film moves at a much slower pace then you'd expect from time to time and sort of loses you before claiming your full attention back towards the end, but being intended for viewing by children, I guess it can go either way. Younger kids will still enjoy the flashes of colors and sounds, with some cute songs and funny characters, but some of the older kids may just get a tad bored. I guess I'll have to get a hold of some kids to test this theory out.

The animation itself though, is vintage Disney. The richness of the textures and the flow of the movements is a thing of wonder that CGI can't and will probably never be able to reproduce. The amount of work that must have gone into the development of a feature like this must've been astounding and the results definitely demonstrate that. Character-wise, Captain Hook steals the show, with his booming voice, sour evil and all around desperation to get his hand (he's got only one) around Peter's neck. Having had his hand chopped off by Peter and fed to a crocodile, he is visibly still quite agitated at this incident and vows revenge. Peter himself is quite the ladies man and seems to have the two main female characters, Wendy and the Pixie Tinkerbell, wrapped tightly around his finger, without really knowing it himself. In fact, it's Tinkerbell's jealousy toward Peter's new friend that starts the ball rolling in terms of trouble and she also becomes a scene-stealing little packet of pixie-dust without ever uttering a word.
As you'd expect from Disney, a very decent set of features is offered on this DVD. The first one you'll have access to is entitled "You Can Fly! The Making of Peter Pan". It's a 15-minute featurette introduced by the great Walt Disney himself and features some discussions mainly with some of the voice actors and with movie historian and all-around loser Leonard Maltin. They discuss the historical aspect of the tale itself and how Disney decided to turn it into an animated movie. Pretty neat if you can avoid listening to Maltin. This is followed by "The Peter Pan Story", which is an original 1952 theatrical promotion featurette (12 mins). The interest in this is that it basically introduces people to the process of animation at that time. Remember above when I mentioned all the work that has to go into these? Well, this explains the steps and all of the people needed to make fantasy turn into reality.

Following that is a feature-length commentary. Actually, it's a really interesting concept that I could really learn to enjoy on any type of movie. Hosted by Roy Disney, it's basically a film-length interview of many of the people who were involved in the creation of the film, including voice actors, live-action models, animators and the great Walt Disney himself. Oh yeah, that weenie Maltin also puts in his two bits. This is cool as it avoids you getting bored by a single person giving you a run-down of the film. Anyone who's ever heard a DVD commentary by Tim Burton (i.e. Sleepy Hollow, great movie by the way) will know what I mean by boring commentaries. Next in the lineup is a Peter Pan Still Frame Gallery which covers, through still pictures, some of the earlier drawings of the film, such as abandoned concepts, character development and visual development. It's amazing to think that these guys had to draw and redraw hundreds upon hundreds of sketches to develop the final look for each single character in the picture.

The next three features will certainly make any little kid a very happy camper. It begins with a "Follow the Leader" Sing-Along Song, which they'll enjoy yelling their little lings out at. Unfortunately, the way the lyrics are presented isn't really of any help (all clumped up in one scene). It would have been better to have them scroll at the bottom with a little ball hopping over each word. Next is "Peter's Playful Prank", a storybook in which the kids can either read a story along with Wendy or read it on their own. I guess any kid who's learning to read will love this chance to show off their new skill to their parents. The last of the three kiddy features is the "Pirate Treasure Hunt Game", where kids (and myself) answer questions about the film and advance until they finally reach Captain Hook's pirate ship and take a booty to his fanny. Questions are fairly simple and the answers are illustrated by pictures.

DVD-ROM features are also there but since I can't access them, you'll have to ask your 8-year old to show you how to use the computer and help you figure out what they are. Aside from that, several (and I mean several) sneak peaks at other Disney features are present throughout the DVD.
Although it doesn't strike the same emotional chord as The Beauty and the Beast (which has reduced your humble Surgeon to a mess on more than one occasion) and Cinderella or Snow White, this film unquestionably stands proud on its own and will be a pleasure to watch for both young and old. You can definitely rent this for your kid, but odds are that they'll want it over and over, so you might as well make them happy and buy this one. If it buys you one more hour of your kid being a kid, then I guess it will have been more than worth it.
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