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Disney In Depth: ‘Return To Never Land’ Blu-ray Review
Brett Nachman   |  @   |  

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"Return To Never Land" Blu-ray cover

Return To Never Land
Directed by Robin Budd
Starring Harriet Owen, Corey Burton, Blayne Weaver, Jeff Bennett, Kath Soucie
Walt Disney Home Entertainment
Release Date: Aug 20, 2013

Return To Never Land soars onto Blu-ray, and though it’s not in ship shape, the Peter Pan-themed movie heads into the most vital port: childhood comfort central. While this sequel cannot stand up to Walt Disney’s masterpiece, I would say this movie is rather fly.

Silhouettes of notable Peter Pan figures and set-pieces highlight the clouds above the London skyline at the start of Return To Never Land, in some ways re-tread of the 1953 classic. But this sequel, which premiered in theaters nearly 50 years after the original, takes some tonal risks and ventures into less-than-wondrous environments.

The real setting, taking place during World War II, finds Wendy’s daughter Jane under tumultuous circumstances. The country’s children are being sent off to the safer countryside, and pragmatist Jane longs to remain at home. Jane’s continued exposure to the realities of war has contributed to her no longer believing in her mother’s Peter Pan stories. Why bother? They’re just fairy tales, so Jane thinks. But this girl will soon be mistaken after Captain Hook kidnaps her.

Never Land rarely maintains an effective balance between its skill in hitting dramatic moments and occasional clumsiness in handling the silly content. I appreciate how the London-set scenes are far from overbearing, and Disney successfully pulls off the first fifteen to twenty minutes. But once we’re in Captain Hook territory the film attempts to throw in Pan‘s trademark fantasy features. That just does not fit in what could have been a much darker and gutsier storyline. Nothing contrasts Jane’s deep intentions to return to her family like an asinine, hungry octopus threatening an equally mindless Hook.

Peter Pan and Captain Hook in Return To Never Land

In addition to all this muddled drama, Tinker Bell begins to lose her light – and may lack it entirely if Jane cannot believe in fairies. Just a little forced tension. Poor Tink. Her storyline is shadowed by lack of attention and negligent intention. Maybe her death sentence would end up being characterized in CG form in a series of direct-to-video films. Then again, those movies and this more direct sequel to Peter Pan possess ageless beguilement and syrupiness. The crowd-worthy and good-natured ending, which almost measures up to the 1953 film in its pleasantness, touches on the sentimental part of any Disney lover.

One of the film’s best assets is its cast. Legendary voice actor Corey Burton stands up as the best alternative to Hans Consried, the original voice of Hook. Harriet Owen makes a sensible Jane quite likeable, Blayne Weaver does a fine job with owning Peter Pan’s signature spirit, and Jeff Bennett gives the Smee sidekick status some much-needed hilarity. While there are no superstars voicing these characters, that does not matter much, as these choices suit the roles.

Joel McNeely‘s A-rate orchestral score, a fanciful work of musical talent that gives a contemporary and classy spin to the tale, works wonders. The few songs found in Never Land enhance the feature, thanks to Jonatha Brooke‘s nightingale voice for the two main pieces. She provides a new rendition of “The Second Star to the Right,” as well as Jane’s title song called “I’ll Try.” Brooke’s inclusion is lovely in every way.


Radiance. That is the first word that comes to mind when I consider Return To Never Land‘s beaming visual and aural presentation. The glittery island colors sparkle and even the more ominous, darker scenes are rich in their delivery. The sounds and music emit near-perfection, too, be it the deep cannon booms or light pixie dust.

Jane flies with Peter Pan over Never Land in Return To Never Land

Bonus Features

Deleted Scenes contains a handful of brief clips excluded from the final feature. “Where Jane and Hook Meet for the First Time,” shown in storyboard form and even color animation, does not accomplish much in its short 40-second running time. “Gift for Tink” gives the pixie some more time on screen, but this too holds little plot. “I’ll Try,” easily the best of the bunch, reintroduces the Brooke song when Jane camps out on Never Land and discovers the oasis’ magic. “Hook’s Song: “˜I’ll Give You One Guess'” should have made the cut, as it’s a completely and randomly self-flattering pop/hip song for the villain. “”˜Second Star To The Right’ Lullaby” glimpses into what might have been if Wendy sang the piece to her little boy.

“”˜I’ll Try” Music Video Performed by Jonatha Brooke platforms the singer-songwriter even further, and justly so, since I could listen to her voice all day.

“Pixie Previews,” almost as unnecessary as some of the deleted scenes, contain little vignettes based on the Tinker Bell series.

This disappointing set of bonus features, which don’t even exceed 30 minutes total, pinpoint Disney overlooking its “non-masterpieces.” It’s lacking in both quantity and quality. No doubt this is one of the studio’s weakest bonus features sections – for an animated film, at least – in recent memory.

Film: B
Presentation: A
Bonus Features: D

Overall Grade: B-

Despite the quick running time that prevents development of a full-fledged and convincing movie, I could not help but be enchanted by re-living Never Land once again. The fun physical humor, well-known and beloved characters, and fantastic presentation contribute to this calling over any Peter Pan fan. The film, much like the Jolly Roger ship, struggles to stay afloat, but does not completely sink either. So raise the flags – skull, crossbones and all – and set sail on a magical – if not entirely satisfying – Blu-ray adventure.

This is Brett Nachman, signing off. Follow me on Twitter for alerts of upcoming editions of Disney In Depth, Thursdays on Geeks of Doom!

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