When Disney Jr. formed as its own cable network separate from Disney Channel in 2011, the first brand new series to debut was Jake and the Never Land Pirates. The series follows the adventure of three young pirates in Never Land (Jake, Izzy and Cubby) and their adventures against Captain Hook and Smee. The series was an instant success and has helped make the network a success.
Over the course of the series, there have been several special episodes that take a departure from the typical interactive preschool content that comprises most episodes. They have all been billed as "Feature-length," which really means its a 45 minute special. These specials are more story focused, giving them greater appeal than a typical episode of the show. That latest special premiered on Disney Jr. last October called Battle for the Book, which arrived on DVD on January 6th, 2015.
The story begins in the Darling nursery where Wendy is reading a book about Peter Pan to Michael, John and Nana. Captain Hook and Smee overhear the stories in the magic time pool and Hook sails his ship through the sky to steal the book. When Pan hears what's happened, he sends Tinker Bell to fly Jake, Izzy and Cubby to London to save the day ("Second star to the left and straight on 'til nighttime"). After picking up the Darling children, they chase through the London skies after Hook and back to Never Land where the Darlings are reunited with Peter Pan and must face-off against Captain Hook to get their book back.
While still targeted at preschool aged kids, Battle for the Book is quite accessible to adults who haven't forgotten the magic of Walt Disney's Peter Pan. The animation style of the show is more simplistic in design and it's weird to see these characters appear more squashed and with bigger eyes. But this version of Neverland (to be specific, Jake's Never Land) uses colors and a style that would make Mary Blaire proud. There are also a handful of in-jokes for Disney fans, including a recreation of Tinker Bell's opening of the Disneyland TV series at the end. My only complaint is that Hook is too soft, but that's to be expected from a Disney Jr. villain. The story is a fun departure from the typical episode format and if nothing else, should ensure that current Disney Jr. viewers graduate to watching the original 1953 classic someday.
To add value to this set, Disney has included four additional episodes as part of the main feature. They are Treasure of the Pirate Mummy's Tomb/Mystery of the Missing Treasure!, Pirate Genie Tales, Captain Gizmo/Jake's Pirate Swap Meet, and Sleeping Mermaid/Jake's Mega-Mecha Sword. These episodes bring the total disc run time to 141 minutes.
On DVD, Jake and the Never Land Pirates looks better than it does on standard definition cable. Kids most likely won't care about the merits of the video presentation, but this disc doesn't disappoint.
These episodes are presented in sensory-friendly 2.0 Dolby Digital. This ensures that surround sound effects won't startle little ones while watching this disc. Other audio options are French and Spanish.
Ten Jake's Never Land Pirate School shorts are offered as bonus features. These play on Disney Jr. as interstitials. The shorts are Flying, Tick Tock Croc, B-B-Big Bugs!, Go Bucky!, Saving Captain Hook!, Mama knows Best!, Dancing with the Pirates, I've Got My Sword!, Hop-Hop-Hop!, and Look Out! There is a convenient "Play All" feature and each short lasts about a minute and a half.
Packaging & Design
This disc is housed in a standard black DVD case, which includes an embossed slipcover in the first pressing. A sticker on the box advertises a free checkerboard bandana game inside. This game is literally a bandana with a checkerboard printed in the center with characters from the show around the boarder. Cardboard gold and silver coins are included so you can teach your little ones how to play checkers. In case you don't already know, instructions are included. Other inserts include a Disney Movie Rewards code (75 points) and an ad for Disney Movie Club.
"This disc is enhanced with Disney's FastPlay." If you let it run its course, the disc opens with ads for Inside Out, Tinker Bell and the Legend of the Neverbeast, and Big Hero 6. Selecting "Sneak Peeks" from the main menu also plays ads for Disney Movie Rewards, Doc McStuffins, Sofia the First, 101 Dalmatians Diamond Edition and Disney Nature Monkey Kingdom. The menu is a static image of the kids trying to grab the book from Hook's hands with score from the special playing.
If your little ones love Jake and the Never Land Pirates, it's hard to go wrong with Battle for the Book on DVD. It contains over 2 hours of Jake and his Never Land adventures plus a board game for a low price (Disney Jr. DVD's rarely cost more than $15). For grown up Peter Pan fans curious to see characters from Walt Disney's classic film in further adventures, I recommend buying the special digitally for even cheaper, as the bonus episodes aren't as attention grabbing.