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Return to Never Land (2002)

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 8/27/2013

All Ratings out of

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/4/2013

Hollywood loves to keep popular feature film characters, especially animated characters, in the public's conscious as much as possible. Before home video became the dominant format which it is today, studios would do this by offering television specials, usually holiday-themed, which featured familiar faces which had been a part of a big movie. As home video flourished, the trend moved in that direction, and we began to get direct-to-video sequels to popular movies. But, some of these, such as Return to Never Land feel like little more than TV specials.

Return to Never Land takes place several years after the events seen in Peter Pan. Wendy (voiced by Kath Soucie) is now an adult and she's left to care for her two children, Jane (voiced by Harriet Owen) and Danny (voiced by Andrew McDonough), while her husband goes off to fight in World War II. As the German's bomb London, Wendy tells Peter Pan stories to keep the children calm. However, Jane is a very serious girl and she doesn't believe her mother's stories. This all changes when Captain Hook (voiced by Corey Burton) kidnaps Jane from her bedroom, mistaking her for Wendy. (As no one ages in Never Land, Hook doesn't realize his error.) Jane is taken to Never Land, but she's able to escape from Hook's clutches when Peter Pan (voiced by Blayne Weaver) intervenes. Peter is glad to meet Jane, as he wants her to be a mother to the Lost Boys. But, Jane simply wants to go home and she's willing to make a deal with anyone in order to do so.

Disney has been cranking out these direct-to-video sequels since the early 90s, so our first question should be, why did they wait 49 years to make a follow-up to Peter Pan? But, we'll leave that query for another time and focus on how Return to Never Land perpetuates a trend which is very common to these types of films.

The cache to a movie like Return to Never Land is the fact that Disney can cash in on a familiar character. There's certainly no harm in that, as that's what most sequels do. The problem with movies like Return to Never Land is that they simply take the story from the first film and cast a new character in the lead role. Jane's trip to Never Land and her adventures there aren't a carbon copy of the thrills which her mother experienced many years before, but they are pretty closed. Jane is taken to Never Land, this time by Captain Hook, instead of Peter Pan. Once there, she meets Tinkerbell and the Lost Boys, and sees the odd sites of the vicinity. Just as in the original film, Peter Pan wants a mother for the Lost Boys. Jane learns about pixie dust and finds out that she can fly. Peter Pan fights Captain Hook. The famous ticking alligator from the first film is replaced by an octopus who moves the suckers on its tentacles in a rhythmic fashion.

So, Return to Never Land is told as a story about a younger generation and is meant as a retelling aimed at a younger generation. This in and of itself isn't so bad, but the problem is that the movie has little to offer outside of that. There are a few funny moments and the octopus is an interesting new foe for Captain Hook, but otherwise we are treated to the same bumbling pirate jokes and Peter Pan boasts seen in the original film. The World War II backdrop is a unique touch, but it also brings a very serious note to some of the movie -- Jane and Danny are to be taken away from Wendy -- which makes the Never Land scenes seem even more frivolous. (However, this setting does provide for the crowd-pleasing shot of Captain Hook's ship flying over London barely avoiding fighter planes.) For a direct-to-video movie like this, the animation is pretty good. Never Land seems like the kind of place where anything could happen, so it's unfortunate that the makers of Return to Never Land simply decided to repeat themselves. (But, at least they didn't re-visit the incredibly racist Native American scene!)

Return to Never Land gets a lot of mileage out of a mute skunk on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look excellent, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The animation isn't overly detailed, but the HD image doesn't reveal any problems with it. The depth is notably good. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.3 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The action scenes produce compelling surround sound effects which are often detailed. When a cannon is shot, the subwoofer gets involved. The stereo effects do a fine job of alerting to action off-screen.

The Return to Never Land Blu-ray Disc contains only a few extra features. The Disc offers four DELETED SCENES which run about 8 minutes. These are presented as a combination of storyboards, rough animation, and finished animation. There are no new characters or subplots here. We get the MUSIC VIDEO for the song "I'll Try" by Jonatha Brooke. "Pixie Previews" (6 minutes) offers five shorts which feature characters from the Disney Fairies productions.

Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.