(The Disneycember logo is shown, before showing an image of a huge shelf full of video cassettes and covers of some direct-to-video/DVD Disney sequels)
Doug (vo): Okay, so, a little history. If you're younger and you're watching this, you may notice that when you go to the video store or, hell, if you still go to any video stores, you'll see a lot of Disney sequels, like Cinderella 2, or The Little Mermaid 2, or Lion King 2. The reason for this is that there was a time when hand-drawn animation was dying. I mean, okay, you could argue it's not really around much anymore, especially cinematically, but Disney was losing it big time.
Doug (vo): Most of their films were not making money, so they did a lot of direct-to-DVD sequels. And most of them were...pretty bad.
(The poster for The Jungle Book 2 is shown, before showing clips and stills from Return to Neverland)
Doug (vo): This is worth mentioning because one or two actually made it to the big screen. And in this case, it's Return to Neverland, the sequel to one of Britain's most beloved children's stories. When it came out, it was panned, the critics hated it. Everybody said, "It's just another direct-to-DVD movie just thrown on the big screen, given a little bit more budget. It's a waste of time." So, that's the movie I was waiting to see, and...honestly, I don't think that's what I got. Okay, it's not great, but it was actually a little better than what I was...expecting. Kinda...sorta...
Doug (vo): Okay, well, it's years later. Wendy is grown up and has a family of her own. But, unfortunately, it's during wartime. Oh, yeah, we're going there. Not only is Wendy's husband going off to war, but it also looks like that her children, one being the main character, Jane, are about to get sent away because of the bombings. Jane has forced herself to grow up faster than most children because of the obvious situation. While Wendy still tries to tell stories of Peter Pan and imagination, she just can't seem to get into them anymore, and understandably so. But that all changes when one night, Captain Hook returns, kidnaps Jane, and takes her to Neverland, mistaking her for Wendy. But Peter Pan finds her and saves her, and thus, she tries to figure out how to get back home using her logic and not really knowing how to use her imagination. So the Lost Boys have to learn how to be more reasonable, even allowing a first Lost Girl, and she has to learn how to be playful and creative, all while avoiding the evil grasp of the pirates.
Doug (vo): The major criticisms that everybody makes about this movie is that it didn't need to exist, and...they're right. This doesn't need to exist. The first Peter Pan is fine exactly how it is. Both the book and the play hint that there's other adventures that go on, but it's not something we always necessarily need to know. I guess for me, though, I grew up with a show called Peter Pan and the Pirates.
(Stills from that animated show are shown)
Doug (vo): It's a show not a lot of people know about, but it was damn good. It explored Neverland, it explored the characters, and it treated it very, very seriously. Yeah, did that need to exist? No. But I would've missed out on all these great adventures.
(Back to Return to Neverland)
Doug (vo): Return to Neverland kind of has a similar feel, except in the Disney universe. It's still clearly the Disney Peter Pan and the Disney Captain Hook. In fact, the voices they got to replace them (Blayne Weaver and Corey Burton) are amazing. They sound just like the original actors. But that doesn't mean anything if there isn't a good story to go along with it, and this story, yeah, has a little bit of the "liar revealed" elements to it, but it doesn't focus on them that long, and all the other elements, they kind of take from the original book. For example, there's a scene where Jane says she doesn't believe in fairies. I sort of rolled my eyes and said, "Oh, yeah, well, we all know what this is because of the first...movie...wait a minute. They didn't do that in the first movie." We also have the manipulation of Hook with Wendy*, except this time, it has to be Jane. But this was a great scene, too, because it showed that Hook could be very clever. He wasn't just a dumb pirate who waved his sword around, he actually did have a little bit of a mind.
- Note: In the first film, Hook actually tricked Tinker Bell into revealing the location of Peter's lair
(Footage and stills of Jane are shown)
Doug (vo): And the struggle Jane goes through is a very understandable struggle. You see the war, they show you some of the grittiness...I mean, okay, not too far, they don't show dead bodies or anything...but they show it's tough. She isn't just a stick-in-the-mud, you completely understand why she has this mindset and why it's hard for her to imagine things, heck, why it's even hard for her to be happy.
(Various clips and stills resume showing)
Doug (vo): Now with that said, there definitely are things you can complain about. For example, they have pop songs. Oh, yeah, and they really don't fit. There's one song that the Lost Boys sing that sounds like a traditional Disney song, but aside from that, all the songs are sung by pop singers, and they're early 2000s pop singers, so they had this (Mimics a scratchy voice) scratchy voice that's supposed to sound tortured, (Speaks normally) and it sounds like shit. It sounds like shit. It's awful, it's distracting, it's a slap in the face every time there's supposed to be an emotional moment. I hate it when they do this with Disney films, especially ones that take place such a long time ago and in fantasy lands, and you just hear this incredibly dated 2000s song and...ugh! It hurts every time you hear it.
(More stills of Jane are shown)
Doug (vo): Also, the voice actress for Jane (Harriet Owen) is kind of hit and miss. Sometimes, she really gets the lines right, and other times, it sounds a little forced. But it's nothing too distracting.
(Stills showing Captain Hook's new nemesis, the octopus, replacing the crocodile, are shown)
Doug (vo): There's also some weird changes that I never quite got, like instead of a crocodile, they have this giant octopus or squid, something like that, and now he's the thing that chases Captain Hook. It's funny and it's still animated well, but why didn't they just do the crocodile? They just say he's gone, but why? This octopus thing does the exact same thing. I don't get why they needed to switch it out. But for the most part, what they do switch out or keep in is actually kind of welcomed. And besides, that's not the focus. The focus is on Jane interacting with the Lost Boys and trying to get back her childhood...which...yeah, sounds a little familiar, right?
(The poster for the 1991 film Hook is shown, along with an image)
Doug (vo): I guess if you do have to compare these two, I would say Hook is the better movie, but I don't know. For a sequel to Disney's Peter Pan, this is kind of exactly what I would expect. It has some really nice imagery, like when Hook is taking Jane to Neverland, this ship is flying through London. It looks amazing. There's a wonderful scene at the end where young Peter Pan meets grown-up Wendy, and it plays out exactly how it should play out. It's not too emotional, but it's not too simple either.
Final thought Edit
Doug (vo): And that's kind of how I think of the movie. If you're looking to find problems with it, you won't find any shortage. You can definitely find things that don't quite work or maybe you've seen in other movies and such. But if you legitimately want to see a sequel to Peter Pan and you want to know what happens, I think this is a very delightful adventure. I was really surprised. I was not expecting to like this film. I thought I was gonna hate it like all the other critics did, but I actually kind of enjoyed it. It's not grand or epic, but it's simple and nice. Did it need to be made? Probably not. But since it does exist, I think it's fine. I think kids can watch it and get a lot of laughs, and adults can watch it and enjoy some of the more emotional moments. It felt like the people making it enjoyed the subject matter and weren't forced into doing it. They appreciated the magic and the imagination and the humor and the artwork, and they wanted to do something very similar. And in my opinion, they succeeded. I guess it's not a favorite for a lot of Disney fans, but for me, I have no problem believing in fairies with this one.
(A scene showing Captain Hook's ship flying towards Neverland is shown)