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Peter Pan: Platinum Edition

Not every Disney "classic" can be an out-of-the-park home run like Snow White and Cinderella — some of them need to be triples or even doubles. Peter Pan falls solidly into that category. The 1953 animated tale about a flying boy who whisks the Darling children off to Never Land for some fun and adventure has plenty of charming moments and iconic characters (Hans Conried's seething dandy Captain Hook is still one of the Disney canon's greatest villains), but the story isn't anchored firmly enough in the land of fairy tale to avoid feeling dated a few decades down the line. (Exhibit A? The painfully un-PC Indian characters and their now cringe-inducing "What Makes the Red Man Red" musical number.) Plus, frankly, Peter Pan (Bobby Driscoll) is kind of a jerk. Of course, he was created that way; ever since he first came to being in J.M. Barrie's imagination, Peter has been a creature of pure id, dedicated to enjoying himself and being a child forever. When you're a kid yourself, Peter and his antics are delightful — but when you're an adult, it's hard, like Wendy Darling (Kathryn Beaumont), not to get a bit annoyed when Peter ignores other people and even puts them in danger while he shows off. But if you can manage to suspend your inner grown up, Peter Pan is still quite entertaining. The idea of being able to fly off to an adventure-filled paradise like Never Land just by thinking a few happy thoughts is as appealing as ever, as are characters like Hook, his bumbling sidekick Smee (Bill Thompson), feisty fairy Tinkerbell, and the crazy-eyed, Hook-stalking crocodile. And while the movie's animation isn't as consistently gorgeous as, say, Snow White's, certain sequences are lovely — like Peter and the Darling gang's nighttime flight over Victorian London. As pure escapism, Peter Pan still works; just don't think too hard about what you're watching.

*          *          *

Luckily, there are plenty of distractions on Disney's two-disc Platinum Edition. The first disc offers a new, digitally restored full-screen (1.33:1) version of the movie with "Disney Enhanced Home Theater Mix" Dolby Digital 5.1 audio (a restored version of the original mono soundtrack is also available, as are French and Spanish stereo tracks and English closed captions). Extras on this disc include a commentary track hosted by Roy Disney, who introduces remarks by the likes of Beaumont and film critic/historian Leonard Maltin; the "Peter's Playful Prank" read-along storybook; a song-selection feature that lets you jump right to the different musical scenes; and sneak peeks at a bevy of Disney movies and DVDs, including the direct-to-DVD Tinker Bell movie. The second disc houses the lion's share of the special features, including extensive art galleries (de rigeur for all Disney discs); the vintage 1952 featurette "The Peter Pan Story"; a two-minute aerial "tour" of London and Never Land hosted by Pan himself (the "loop" option for this feature all but guarantees that parents whose kids choose to watch it over and over will soon want to banish this disc to the furthest reaches of the attic or basement); a collection of "making-of" featurettes that cover story development, characters, and general making-of information (the most interesting is "The Peter Pan That Almost Was," which goes into early concepts and abandoned ideas); a storyboard sequence for the deleted "The Pirate Song"; a featurette about another "lost song" called "Never Land" (and an accompanying music video); a tween hip-hop video for "Second Star to the Right"; a trio of unimpressive games grouped under the heading "Camp Never Land" ("Smee's Sudoku Challenge," "Target Practice," and "Tink's Fantasy Flight"); and, last but not least, a "read-along" option that lets you watch the entire film with on-screen lyrics/dialogue. Dual-DVD slimline keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech

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