By Leonard Maltin | Leonard Maltin February 4, 2013 at 3:02PM
The new Blu-ray/DVD/Digital release of Walt Disney’s Peter Pan includes the bonus features from previous DVD releases plus a few additions, including Growing up with Nine Old Men, a short documentary in which Ted Thomas, the filmmaker and son of top Disney animator Frank Thomas, checks in with the children of the other artists who were nicknamed the Nine Old Men. There are no revelations or airing of dirty laundry, but if you’re a diehard Disney buff you’ll enjoy learning about the personal lives, families, and hobbies of such animation titans as Thomas, Ollie Johnston, Ward Kimball, Milt Kahl, Wolfgang Reitherman, Les Clark, and John Lounsbery. (Marc Davis and Eric Larson had no children, although they taught and mentored many young artists.) Hearing Clark’s daughter talk about her father’s love of painting, and seeing the portrait he made of her mother, is especially moving.
Answers vary as to whether they feel they had “charmed lives” as children, but they all seem to agree that being able to show 16mm prints of Disney films made their birthday parties extremely popular. Johnston and Kimball also had backyard trains; didn’t everybody?
Walt Disney’s daughter, Diane Disney Miller, who is admittedly camera-shy, provides an all-too-brief introduction to Peter Pan, which had great meaning to her father, and gets a chance to plug the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco, which deserves this kind of high-profile attention.
Under the umbrella of Deleted Scenes we’re treated to a pair of fully storyboarded sequences that were dropped from the final screenplay: one as Wendy, Michael and John arrive in Neverland, and one that would have altered the ending of the film. Storyboards also accompany original demo recordings of two deleted musical numbers, “The Boatswain Song” and “Never Smile at a Crocodile,” which did have a life outside of the feature. The demo is performed, quite well, by Henry Calvin, who later became a Disney regular as Sergeant Garcia on the Zorro TV series.
Material from two earlier DVD releases cover the length and breadth of Peter Pan’s production history and the creation of Tinker Bell. There is even an audio performance of a magazine article from 1953 ostensibly written by Walt called “Why I Made Peter Pan.” Best of all, the late Roy E. Disney hosts a commentary track that gathers remarks and recollections from a variety of artists who worked on the film and animation people who admire it (including me).
Best of all, the film looks and sounds great. I recently hosted a screening of Peter Pan at Disney’s El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood. It was a pleasure to revisit the film on the big screen in this pristine restoration (including the opening credit for distributor RKO Radio Pictures). Prior to the show I interviewed Kathryn Beaumont, the voice and animation model for Wendy, Margaret Kerry, the model for Tinker Bell and voice of the red-haired mermaid, and filmmaker Ted Thomas onstage before an appreciative audience of Disneyphiles. It was a lovely experience, second only to digesting all the goodies on this new release. In keeping with current, quixotic Disney policy, most of the new bonus features are only on the Blu-ray disc and not the DVD which comes in the same package.