It’s a pretty poorly kept secret that I’m a little obsessed with interpretations on the classic Peter Pan story (See: Neverland, Second Star to the Right, and The Pirate Fairy), so when Disney DVD invited me to view Jake & The Neverland Pirates: Battle for the Book, it seemed like a no-brainer to jump on the opportunity.
The story is simple: The Darling children’s personal Neverland storybook is swiped by Captain Hook. No good. In fact, it’s worse than we think because the longer they’re separated from the book, the less and less they can remember about their adventures with Peter Pan. Luckily, Jake and his merry men answer Wendy’s call for help (because Peter’s a bit occupied with some mermaids and a many-armed monster).
A pause for a moment to explain some things: Jake and his fellow child pirates have been tasked with protecting Neverland by Peter Pan, who has left to explore Neverland. That seems weird to me, too, but my young cousins (ages 4 through 8) don’t seem to notice or care the weirdness in that turn or in the fact that Peter Pan hates pirates, so I’m suspending my disbelief, too.
With the help of Wendy, John, Michael and Nana, the mini-pirate crew tromps through the streets of London and then through the tree-root tunnels of Neverland in an effort to get the book back. But it’s only with Peter’s help that the little ‘uns manage to rescue the book and save the day.
The story is an interesting sort-of sequel to the classic movie and addition to the Peter Pan lore. I especially appreciated the mid-century modern-inspired, Shag-ish way the backgrounds are drawn, reminding me of old school Hanna Barbara cartoons. And the way the Darling children are drawn, all big, wet eyes and soft, round edges.
I also loved the little nods to the movie. For example, at one point one of the pirates asks, “What’s a Wendy?” echoing the Lost Boys. And Peter’s directions to London: “Second star to the left and straight on until nighttime.” And a callback to the Big Ben clock hands gag. Overall, it really made me laugh (especially little Michael and Captain Hook).
If all of this sounds pretty familiar to you, that’s because this episode originally aired on television in October, but the story was just released on DVD last week (which is why we’re talking about it now).
As a pretty great (and surprising, to me) bonus, in addition to the hour-long Battle for the Book, the DVD also contains four additional episodes, including The Sleeping Mermaid—in which a ‘spell shell’ turns the Mermaid Queen into the Neverland equivalent of Sleeping Beauty. I’m minorly obsessed with Neverland’s mermaids, so this was right up my alley.
It’s also loaded with ten “Jake’s Never Land Pirate School” cartoon shorts. These are super duper cute 60-ish second lessons in good pirating from Jake and his mateys. AND inside the DVD case, I found a checker board bandana with gold coin playing pieces. Cute! (My cousins are going to DIE when I give it to them.)
All-in-all, this will be a really awesome addition to any family’s DVD library. With more than two hours of cartoons and the game, it’s a perfect road trip companion, too. Pick up a copy for your family today!
Disclosure: I received a review copy free of charge from Disney. The opinions expressed are my own and are based on my own experience.