Peter Pan

Written by novelist and playwright J.M. Barrie and produced as a London stage play in 1904, Peter Pan has become a timeless classic, finding its way onto stage, screen, and television. But it’s this 1953 Disney film that defines the story for most modern audiences.

Young Wendy Darling and her two brothers encounter free spirit Peter Pan and travel to Neverland, where they meet Peter’s Lost Boys, encounter Indians, and are pursued by a band of pirates led by Pan’s nemesis, Captain Hook.

The pre-widescreen, classic 4:3 production has been beautifully restored. The Blu-ray transfer is pristine, with crisp detail, clean colors, and no obvious video noise. The audio is respectable for a 60-year-old movie, but don’t expect miracles from the DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1-channel soundtrack. The original (which is also selectable) was strictly mono. extras include deleted scenes and songs, a commentary track, and an excellent documentary, Growing Up With Nine Old Men, featuring reminiscences by the children of Disney’s famed, long-serving animation team. Another feature, Disney Intermission, offers game-like features that pop up whenever you pause the film.

Peter Pan falls among Disney’s average efforts between 1939 until Walt Disney’s death in 1966—not quite up there with the giants like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Bambi, Pinocchio, Fantasia, and Sleeping Beauty, but with charms of its own. Walt himself admits to its shortcomings in a vintage recording on the commentary track. Like most early Disney films, it was aimed squarely at the pre-pre-teen set, for whom anything Disney was and still is magic. For adults, it has its moments, particularly in the Captain Hook sequences, though it fails to mine all of the richness and depth possible from the source material. But do check it out, particularly if there are youngsters in the family.

If you want a deeper and perhaps definitive look at the story (and one said to be closer to Barrie’s novel Peter and Wendy, written after the play), the 2003 live-action film Peter Pan is an absolute must-see. A solid PG, it’s suitable for children and more interesting for adults than Disney’s version. Hinting as it does at a pre-teen attraction between Pan and Wendy, but fated as the source material demands, I suspect even Walt himself would have found it enchanting—though perhaps not ideal for his young, 1953 audiences.

Studio: Disney, 1953
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio Format: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1
Length: 77 mins.
MPAA Rating: G
Directors: Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske
Starring: Bobby Driscoll, Kathryn Beaumont, Hans Conried