Toon Talk: Peter Pan Special Edition DVD
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Disney Film & Video Reviews by Kirby C. Holt
Special Edition DVD
Fly Away Home<
Following last year's Dumbo Special Edition DVD, Disney apparently will be re-releasing some of the "non-Platinum worthy" animated features in this one disc format, complete with extra features such as "making of" documentaries, thumbnail galleries, et cetera. The reasoning seems to be that such "smaller" films do not have enough background material to merit a full two-disc set. (The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh will be next in getting this treatment, later this year.)
The Dumbo disc scored with it's charming collection of odds and ends, but alas, the extras on the recently released Peter Pan Special Edition DVD offer a mixed bag of repetitive information that makes it apparent that the makers didn't dig quite deep enough into the Disney vaults to unearth any abundance of previously unseen treasures.
Of course, the core of any good movie on DVD is the feature itself. And Peter Pan (1953) never looked better in this restored version. But I must admit that, while it certainly has it's supporters, Pan was never one of my personal favorites from the "second Golden Age" of Disney animation. The characters never did much for me, and the storytelling is almost as episodic as it's predecessor from that period, Alice in Wonderland (1951).
Still, Pan was a popular success and has thrived as one of the staples of the Disney animated legacy, spawning theme park attractions (the famed dark ride Peter Pan's Flight), merchandise, and it's own recent theatrical sequel, Return to Neverland. (Click here for Toon Talk review of Return to Neverland).
And while it's great to have a definitive edition of Peter Pan for your Disney video library, one would have hoped for a little more Pixie Dust.
Hosted by Roy Disney, the audio commentary features a smorgasbord of old and new material, including audio snippets from everyone from Walt Disney to Tinker Bell's live action model Margaret Kerry.
It certainly is great to hear such legendary animators as Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnson and Marc Davis pontificate on the creation of the film, even if at times what they are discussing has nothing to do with what's going on on screen, a problem with using preexisting recordings. And Wendy's voice actress Kathryn Beaumont's tales of going to school while making the movie are about as exciting as, well, going to school.
And as is apparent all throughout this disc, by the end of the film the speakers are beginning to repeat themselves. At one point, animation historian John Canemaker even repeats the same information twice in the same conversation.
The Top Ten Things We Learn From This Commentary:
- Hans Conried continued the stage tradition, playing both Mr. Darling and Captain Hook in the film.
- While Bobby Driscoll (the voice of Peter) did the main live action model work for the film, dancer Rolland Duprey did the honors for the flying and sword fighting sequences.
- The live action footage was used for reference only; the animators did not just simply trace it.
- Mr. Smee's voice, Bill Thompson, was a popular radio actor, appearing on the classic Fibber McGee and Molly program.
- Sound man (and future voice of Mickey Mouse) Jim MacDonald used shards of aluminum for the "Pixie sounds" of Tinker Bell.
- Animator Ward Kimball admits that his Indians in the film "may not have been done this way today".
- Candy Candido is the voice of the Indian Chief. His unique vocals were recorded without any mechanical enhancements. He was also the voice of the angry apple tree in The Wizard of Oz and Maleficent's goons in Sleeping Beauty.
- Margaret Kerry (who started her career in the Our Gang shorts) was also a voice, along with voice legend June Foray, of the mermaids.
- "Never Smile at a Crocodile" is the most popular Disney song that was not sung in a Disney movie (it's only heard instrumentally). Jerry Lewis had a popular version of it at the time of the film's release.
- Marc Davis comments on how proud he was that his creation, Tinker Bell, went on to be used so prominently in future Disney projects, such as the Disneyland television series and theme parks.