Revisiting cartoon classics like ”Peter Pan”
Peter Pan (2-disc Platinum Edition)
(G, 77 mins., 1953)
Getting a complete audio and digital overhaul, this retooled 1953 Disney classic is certainly worth having on your shelf. (Read EW magazine’s review here.) But can we watch Peter Pan the same way now as when we were kids? Probably not — and I don’t just mean that adults can’t identify with a boy who never grows up, because there’s a certain amount of that sentiment that almost everyone retains.
One reason is, listening to Pan with adult ears is quite a different thing. Especially when songs like ”What Makes the Red Man Red?” about ”injuns” and their coloring, seem so jarringly inappropriate today. How do you explain that to children who are (hopefully) taught to respect each other’s cultural differences? And Peter himself seems less like an independent swashbuckler and more like a selfish boy who doesn’t think about the consequences of his actions. Still, there are tunes like ”Your Mother and Mine,” which Wendy sings so sweetly to the Lost Boys, and which Smee overhears, lifting up to show his own ode to Mom — his ”Mother” chest tattoo — that help redeem the film.
Apart from the songs, it’s also curious to note how females are portrayed. Jealous, jealous, jealous creatures! Especially Tinkerbell, whose tantrums are on display when Wendy and Tiger Lily capture Peter’s attention, and apparent even to toddlers. ”When Tinkerbell gets mad, she turns red!” exclaimed one young viewer. So while there’s no way to change cultural attitudes of a bygone era, Peter is best viewed with a few explanations along the way.
Adults will find the extras — especially the piece on why Walt wanted to make the film, in his own words (he played Peter in an elementary-school production) — fascinating stuff. And kids will get a kick out of some of the games: Smee Sudoku is a good one, as is a flying exercise, but we still can’t make sense of the one where you throw tomatoes at Captain Hook. —Eileen Clarke
Recommended ages: 4 and up
El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera
(Nickelodeon, Saturday at 10:30 a.m.)
This is a fresh-faced approach to the world of cartoons in more ways than one. For starters, the characters are Latino powerhouses, set against a vibrant flash-animated backdrop. Told in a humorous, telenovela style, El Tigre is about 13-year-old Manny Rivera, a boy who must decide whether to follow in the footsteps of his honorable superhero father White Panera or those of his super-villainous Granpapi Puma Loco. The beauty of Manny (by Mexican-born creators Jorge R. Gutierrez and Sandra Equihua) is that he wavers in between the worlds of good and bad, tasting a little of each, and has a lot of fun along the way (Guacamole Monsters be damned!). Delicioso! A- —EC
Recommended ages: 6 and up
Grief Girl: My True Story
By Erin Vincent
True story: When Erin, an Australian teen, was 14, her parents — who had driven to a countryside cemetery to visit a grave — were in a terrible car accident. Erin is the one home when a passerby calls to describe the scene. ”I pray. Please, God. Don’t let them be dead. I’ll do anything. I’ll sing hymns and hand out pamphlets at the mall, I’ll watch religious TV….” But her mother is dead, and her father dies a month later. That leaves Erin, her 17-year-old sister Tracy, and their three-year-old brother Trent on their own. During the next few years, as the girls struggle to hold things together, Erin battles anger and depression and their Uncle Ronald swindles them out of their paltry inheritance (he sinks the money into his tractor business). Vincent isn’t a terrific writer, but that doesn’t matter much with subject matter like this. Dave Eggers for teens Grief Girl is not, but it’s a messy, compelling story, tinged with the rawness only real life can provide. B —Tina Jordan
Recommended ages: 13 and up
Dog and Bear
By Laura Vaccaro Seeger
The illustrations are just wonderful in this book, which contains three stories about a fearful stuffed bear and his bouncy, irrepressible dachshund friend. The messages aren’t anything new (there are creative ways to get over your fears; sometimes friends need space to do their own thing, etc.), but they’re imparted with gentle cheek. Anyone who reads this column knows I have a soft spot for dachshunds (I have two), but really, I didn’t pick up the book because of the dog’s breed — it was the chunky, charming drawings that caught my eye. B+ —TJ
Recommended ages: 2-5