The Disney sequel factory made this 2002 continuation of the adventures of Peter Pan. In my opinion it’s the first one that seemed worthy since the film was run through theaters before being sent to DVD. However, it still feels a little false in some places.
Wendy has returned to England after her adventures in Never Land to grow up. She has grown up and now has a pre-teen daughter named Jane (Harriet Owen), and a young boy named Danny (Alex McDonough). Her husband Edward (Roger Rees) is off to war and London suffers nightly from bombings by Hitler’s Luftwaffe.
In this time of crisis, there’s not much room for imagination and Jane has been hardened by the war and doesn’t have the belief in Peter Pan that Danny does. The villainous Captain Hook (Corey Burton) flies his pirate ship into war torn London and kidnaps Jane thinking that she’s Wendy. Jane ends up in Never Land and is rescued by Peter Pan (Blayne Weaver).
She’s not as accepting as her mother was of the fantastical land and only wants to return to London to take care of her family. So much so that she says that she doesn’t believe in fairies and Tinkerbell starts to die. Jane is tricked into helping Hook when he promises to get her back to London, but she starts to have second thoughts about Peter and Never Land, but can she change her ways before Hook gets his hook into Pan and Tinkerbell loses her magic?
The Disney sequel machine had started to make direct-to-video sequels to many of their classic animated films and most of them were pretty dire. Return to Never Land was the first one that they had the confidence in to run it through theaters before dumping it to video.
They were partially correct since there are some great sequences, but for the most part the film seems to ape elements from the first film.
Let’s start with the good. Corey Burton does a decent job channeling the spirit of the late Hans Conried as the elegant Captain Hook. There’s also a thrilling sequence as Hook’s pirate ship flies through war torn London and through a group of fighter planes (this sequence was featured in the trailer), but it seems to be over so quickly. There’s also an opening sequence that reminds you of the first film that’s quite good.
However, the bad is that they try and ape elements of the first film with different characters. The crocodile is replaced with a slurping octopus that does exactly the same thing as the crocodile, so why not just bring back the croc? The animation is just a bit above the other direct-to-video efforts, but there’s only the one show-stopping sequence and nothing else really rises to the occasion.
Return to Never Land is presented in anamorphic widescreen (1.66:1) and is enhanced for 16×9 televisions. This new edition of the film mainly serves as an advertisement for the new Tinkerbell movie (which perhaps tellingly seems to have been relegated to a direct-to-DVD release instead of a theatrical release as planned).
Special features include 5 minutes of deleted scenes with introductions by producer Chris Chase and executive in charge of production Sharon Merrill. These scenes are in varying stages of completion. The Games and Activities section contains a new game called Tinkerbell’s Challenge.
The Backstage Disney section contains 4 minutes of “Disney Fairy Moments” that feature some of the characters from the new Tinkerbell film. There are also previews for other Disney DVDs.
Return to Never Land has its moments, but it still pales in comparison to the original. However, it does stand above the other sequels that have been spat out of the studio. However, this edition doesn’t offer much beyond a promotion for the upcoming Tinkerbell movie.