RETURN TO NEVERLAND
Although Wendy (Kath Soucie) has now grown up, she has never forgotten Peter Pan and tells bedtime stories to her two children in war-torn England about the boy from Neverland. Given the responsibility of looking after her mum and her toddler brother by her dad when he leaves for the front, Jane (Harriet Owen) has misplaced her imagination and complains that it is all pixie-dust poppycock. But one night, Captain Hook (Corey Burton) kidnaps Jane, mistaking her for Wendy. They journey to Neverland where Jane meets Peter Pan (Blayne Weaver), Tinker Bell and the Lost Boys. Janeís misplaced imagination threatens Tinker Bell with extinction, and as her light fades, Jane realises what she has done.
Review by Louise Keller:
If life is making you cynical, it may be time to return to Neverland, the utopia of our imagination, where pixie dust sprinkles hope, faith and fun. Of course, there's no replacing the original 1953 classic, but Disney's animated sequel brings back the original characters that delighted us through childhood, taking us gently on a new adventure. Targeted at a young market, Return to Neverland is a bright, colourful jaunt into a land beyond the second star to the right, where rainbows glisten, mermaids sun themselves in the cerulean waters and a giant orange octopus flounces its massive spotted tentacles and huge yellow eyes. The evil Captain Hook is there of course, clad in shades of crimson and purple, but the scene stealers are delightful Peter Pan, the irrepressible Lost Boys and delicate Tinker Bell. The first feature release from Walt Disney Animation Australia, the animation is true to the original, but utilises advances in technology to achieve such effects as Tinker Bell's pixie dust, created in two dimensions combined with computer-generated effects. The story is simple, with elements of good and evil, but it's the ability to recapture the magic that only our fertile imagination can bring, that gives it its heart. When Jane retorts that she doesn't believe in fairies, Tinker Bell's light begins to wane and finally peters out. Return to Neverland is a tale about magic and believing. I am sure that I felt a sprinkle of pixie dust when Peter Pan was reunited with the now grown-up Wendy in a brief, but moving moment at the end of the film. Like Wendy, we may all change on the surface, but it is reassuring to know that we can still recapture a moment of precious innocence and joie de vivre in our own Neverland, given the chance.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Hereís a piece of trivia that appeals to my sense of irony: among the lengthy credits in the production notes for Return To Neverland, there is a CGI layout artist called Terry Posthumus. Not bad for a film about a boy who never grows up Ė never mind dies! (At the risk of stretching this thing too far, there is also an effects animator on the list called Adam Phillips Ė the irony here is that our own Phillip Adams is a founding member of the Skeptics Society, which doesnít even believe in spoon bending, never mind Never Land.) But Iím not trying to divert you: I think this is a charming film, much more enjoyable than I anticipated, and with a disarming simplicity and sincerity. Decent moral, simple story, neatly told, with clear vocal talents that will keep the youngsters engaged and fidget-free, while giving adults a brief respite from the rigours of grown up films that donít even have pixie dust! The notion is well worn, and most memorably conveyed on screen by The Neverending Story, in which Bastian almost destroyed an entire fairyland and its Princess simply by failing to believe in it. Here, the same fate threatens Tinkerbelle. But Jane learns that you donít have to give up the joys of youth to have a sense of responsibility. The classic animation technique suits the subject matter, and the filmís English setting is a nice change of pace for a Disney film. Be assured, you can take your sisterís little kids to this and theyíll thank you for it.
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RETURN TO NEVERLAND (G)
CAST: Blayne Weaver, Harriet Owen, Corey Burton, Jeff Bennett, Kath Soucie
PRODUCER: Christopher Chase, Dan Rounds
DIRECTOR: Robin Budd, Donovan Cook
SCRIPT: Temple Matthews (Characters by J.M. Barrie)
EDITOR: Anthony F. Rocco
MUSIC: Joel McNeely
OTHER: ART DIRECTOR: Wendell Luebbe
RUNNING TIME: 72 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Buena Vista International
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 28, 2002 - Melbourne, Brisbane; April 11, 2002 - Sydney, Adelaide, Perth
VIDEO RELEASE: September 4, 2002