Review: "Peter Pan Diamond Edition" - More Faith, Trust, and High-Definition Pixie Dust
In rewatching Disney’s Peter Pan on Blu-ray, I find I have little to add about the movie itself from what I already said back in 2007 when reviewing the then top-of-the-line Platinum Edition DVD. The movie is still a nearly unalloyed delight from start to finish, packed with indelible moments and much more prone to Looney Tunes-style slapstick than any other Disney movie I can think of. I may be ever-so-slightly less inclined to be charitable to the “redface” depiction of the Native Americans in the movie now, but the difference is pretty negligible. It also strikes me how well-tailored the movie is to the sensibilities of little boys, now that I’ve spent nearly 4 years charting the growth and development of a little boy of my own. The movie’s sense of play that alternates between the aggressive and the absurd is now exceptionally familiar, and probably goes a long way in explaining the longevity of the movie (and, by extension, the original play by J.M. Barrie).
What remains, then, is to compare and contrast the film’s presentation on Blu-ray in its 60th Anniversary Diamond Edition, which packages the movie on one Blu-ray disc along with a conventional DVD and a digital copy. Like all of Disney’s Diamond Edition Blu-rays so far, there seems to be an unstated goal of making the film look as close to modern animation as possible, so while there is tremendous sensitivity in capturing and remastering the image and sound as sharply and crisply as possible, it also seems to clean up a bit more than is strictly necessary, removing all traces of film grain or other natural artifacts of the animated filmmaking process as it was when the movie was made in the late 1940’s. I’m still somewhat ambivalent on how to take that, since there’s enough material in the film itself to ensure that it won’t be mistaken for a modern product. The aforementioned Native Americans would be one example, as would the occasional but prominent tobacco use (which, according to at least one modern producer, would be enough to earn any current cartoon an instant R-rating by the MPAA). The newest Blu-ray also inadvertently challenges assertions made during the last restoration of the film in 2007, since the new Blu-ray seems to have richer, more saturated, and more consistent colors throughout the film. One might argue that advances in modern technology and high-definition mastering techniques allow for even closer fidelity to the notes and instructions left behind in the Disney archives; one might also believe that this is tweaking for the sake of tweaking, which would also fit in with my hypothesis about wanting these cartoons to look as modern as possible. In any event, the answers to these questions will remain unanswered in any official capacity, and even with them rattling around in my head I found nothing to complain about in the Blu-ray of the movie. The DVD is also a new pressing, with the same look-and-feel for the menus as the Blu-ray and the same remastered video and audio (with allowances for the lower resolution and color saturation of DVD vs. Blu-ray) An updated comparison shot of this re-release vs. the ones from 1999 and 2007 is included below, showing slightly more sharpness and a little more saturation, but fundamentally the same color palette as the 2007 re-release. Only the Tinker Bell featurette is included on the DVD.
Like other Diamond Edition Blu-rays, all the significant bonus features from the last Peter Pan DVD have been ported over intact, with only the DVD games omitted here. There are also two more bonus features: two more deleted scenes and a short film titled, “Growing Up with Nine Old Men” about the children of Disney’s legendary animation team. The deleted scenes are storyboards set to surviving dialogue and musical elements, and judging by the style of the storyboards, they came from the earlier effort to animated the movie in the 1930’s. They’re interesting, although one wonders how many more deleted scenes Disney is withholding in its archives for future home video re-releases. “Growing Up with Nine Old Men” provides a surprisingly personal look at names and men that are generally spoken in hushed tones among animation aficionados. The children have amusing anecdotes to tell, and the movie remains engaging throughout its 41-minute running time, but it also seems to presume that the viewer knows who the Nine Old Men are and why they were important. Without that context, I’m not sure that a viewer would have a very good sense of why these people are being discussed at such length. Like all other Disney Diamond Editions, the digital copy is compatible with Mac OS, Windows, and iOS systems.
I think it’s a foregone conclusion that most Disney fans will be double-dipping for Peter Pan on Blu-ray, and it remains a personal favorite among the studio’s output. The movie is certainly beautiful enough in its new high-definition transfer to make any minor complaints or suspicions I have about it trivial and unimportant concerns.