by MARTY DEMAREST & r & & r & Peter Pan & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & P & lt;/span & eter Pan is a very dark movie. It's not the story that makes it dark -- the story is as purely translated from J.M. Barrie's whimsical play as Disney ever achieved in adaptation.
Rather, the darkness in Peter Pan comes from the film's long sequences of night skies, cool lagoons and shadowy caves. Peter Pan is a nighttime movie full of blacks, blues, purples and deep greens. In a movie theater, those nocturnal colors glow with cinema's illumination, deepening into the pure black of the cool, windowless auditorium.
But black is a problem on the DVD format unless adjusted carefully. The greatest success in Disney's Platinum Edition of Peter Pan (aside from the fact that it marks Peter's late arrival on DVD) is that the blacks are rich and deep, plunging fully into the images onscreen.
And what images -- Captain Hook, the foppishly cruel pirate, hangs on the screen in crimson and white. Tinkerbell flits about in a glow of gold, appearing much less human-looking than she's lately become in the service of Disneyland. And Peter himself, weightless and carefree, flies with greater ease than he has on any stage.
Everything about this DVD version of Peter Pan is perfect. There's even a restored mono soundtrack to complement the new multi-channel remix that Disney has engineered. The enthused choruses of singers sound as rich as they must have in 1953 as they breathlessly pump out "You can fly!" over a building orchestra.
But all things age, and Peter Pan's youthfulness is lost slightly during the "What Makes the Red Man Red?" song that is sung by a wailing chorus of Indians. Certainly everything in Peter Pan is seen from a child's simplistic perspective. But it's one thing to present one-dimensional pirates and mermaids, and another to distinguish an entire group of humans as saying "ugh." I'm carried away by the good spirits and lack of ill will that is apparent in the film every time I see the sequence; nevertheless, it remains a sticking point for some people. As a result, the film's spirit is darker today than it may have been in the past. (Rated G)