With some overacting, slapstick, and an array of quirky characters, “Pete’s Dragon” may now look and feel dated, but there's a certain old-fashioned charm that the film still manages to deliver a few decades after its original release. The majority of the songs are memorable and the few that fall short may appeal to kids who find the antics of the characters involved humorous. “Pete’s Dragon” - while not perfect - does manage to have a fully formed story that kids young and old may enjoy. Younger kids will enjoy “Pete’s Dragon” for the animated dragon called Elliot as well as the songs and energy of the film, while older kids may be pulled in by the story.
“Pete’s Dragon” is about a young boy named Pete (Sean Marshall) who, at the beginning of the film, is running away from The Gogan’s, a family who purchased him and then used him as their personal servant. With the help of Elliot the Dragon (voice of Charlie Callas), who can become invisible, Pete manages to lose the family who are trying to find him throughout the film. Pete wanders into a nearby town where Elliot gets him into trouble by ruining bits of the town with his tail and general size, as well as trying to defend Pete from those who talk down at him. The townspeople run after Pete, but he loses them (rather easily) and runs into Lampie (Mickey Rooney) who sees Elliot and runs off to the tavern to tell everyone what he saw (“I Saw a Dragon”), but they don’t believe him due to his drinking. And Lampie is taken home by his daughter, Nora (Helen Reddy, absolutely charming in the role) to their lighthouse.
Nora finds Pete living in a cave on the water, near the lighthouse, and brings him to stay with her. There, the two form a sweet bond and for once Pete feels what it’s like to be loved. From here, the story adds another level. Much to the town’s upset, con-artist Dr. Terminus (Jim Dale) and his assistant Hoagy (Red Buttons, perfect for the part) arrives and tries to win them over after selling them fake products (“Passamashloddy”). The arrival of Dr. Terminus and Hoagy brings trouble for Pete and Elliot as well. The duo realize the profit in selling pieces of the dragon, but they’ll have to buy him, or catch him first. “Pete’s Dragon” is full of lots of turns and action that will surely keep kids entertained despite its lengthy running time. With the return of The Gogan’s looking for Pete, Elliot trying to stay out of mischief, Pete going to school and finding his home with Norah and Lampie, and even a love story between Norah and her fiancé who was lost at sea, “Pete’s Dragon” has a great deal to offer any viewer.
While “Pete’s Dragon” isn’t the best Disney film, it does weave a decent tale and has several memorable songs, including Oscar Nominated “Candle on the Water”. Elliot is a loveable dragon, who - despite his clumsiness and disruption - means well. The pairing of Elliot and Pete is a wonderful story of friendship that remains forever relevant and enjoyable to watch. The film is definitely dated, though. With visible strings, obvious backdrops and animation that has inconsistent colors and at times feels flat in a live-action world, “Pete’s Dragon” shows signs of it’s time. Still, if you can look past some of the visual issues, you might be surprised at how fun “Pete’s Dragon” is to watch.
VIDEO: "Pete's Dragon" is presented in 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen. The picture quality does have its share of flaws - some mild specks, marks and dirt are occasionally seen on the print used. However, considering the budget and age of the picture, the film still looks a little cleaner than expected. Sharpness and detail are pretty good, as while the picture did not look spectacularly crisp and well-defined, it did at least maintain pleasing detail throughout much of the running time. Colors looked bright and generally satisfying, although were slightly smeary at times.
SOUND: The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is - considering the age of the movie - satisfactory. Surrounds are put into action to deliver some mild reinforcement of the music and light ambience, but the audio is otherwise front-heavy. Dialogue and music remain crisp and clear, while the music sounded at least somewhat full. Overall, while not remarkable, the audio presentation is slightly above expectations.
EXTRAS: BONUS FEATURES:
“Brazzle Dazzle Effects: Behind Disney’s Movie Magic” - While the effects in “Pete’s Dragon” weren’t amazing by any means, this is a nice feature with Sean Marshall talking about the process of acting with a character that wasn’t really there. This feature shares how live action was combined with animation in the seventies, as opposed to the CGI of today. This offers a nice timeline of Disney’s work with live-action and animation together. With extra footage from the making of the film and footage of other Disney favorites, this feature is worth a look.
“Deleted Storybook Sequence: Terminus and Hoagy hunt Elliot” - storyboard with audio showing a scene where Terminus and Hoagy try and find Elliot.
“Original Song Concept: “Boo Bop Bopbop Bop (I Love You, Too)” - a storyboard version of the song with audio.
Original demo recordings of “Brazzle Dazzle Day (Alternate Song)”, “Every Little Piece (Alternate Melody) and “The Greatest Star of All (Deleted Song for Deleted Character)” as well as Promotional “pop versions of the song used to promote the music” including: “It’s Not Easy”, “Brazzle Dazzle Day”, ‘There’s Room for Everyone” and “Candle on the Water”.
An excerpt from “Disney Family Album” is a short look at Ken Anderson, who designed Elliot, as well as an excerpt from “The Plausible Impossible” with Walt Disney talking about dragons and how the impossibility of dragons may be plausible.
Also included on the DVD are: “Where’s Elliot? Disappearing Dragon Game” - a game for younger children to search for Elliot while also offering fun facts. “Pete’s Dragon Art Galleries” offers images of “concept art”, “behind the scenes” and “Publicity”. Trailers for the film included, as well as “Lighthouse Keeping” - a short animation featuring Donald Duck.
“Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”
Disney Movie Rewards
Disney Blu-ray: Magic in High-Def
“The Princess and the Frog”
“Hannah Montana: the Movie”
“Tinkerbell and the Lost Treasure”
Final Thoughts: "Pete's Dragon" may not be a classic, but the picture still maintains an old-fashioned charm and offers fun performances and an entertaining story. Those who do not own the prior release should certainly look into picking up this new edition.
The Film B