As indicated previously in reviews of other films that are suitable for young children, notably the animated features produced by Disney, Pixar, and DreamWorks, I have ten grandchildren and welcome opportunities to watch films with them. They range in age from three to 18. I had not seen Pete's Dragon previously (it was first released in 1977) and only recently watched it for the first time in its re-released "High-Flying Edition." Set in New England early in the 20th century, the plot focuses on an orphan boy named Pete (Sean Marshall) and his guardian raptor, a pink and green dragon named Elliott (with Charlie Callas providing his voice). Pete is adopted by the Gogan family who serve as villains who pursue Pete and Elliott after they escape, finally arriving at Passamaquoddy, a harbor village on the coast of Maine. They are befriended by a young woman named Nora (Helen Reddy) who lives with her father Lampie (Mickey Rooney) and is responsible for the lighthouse. The situation soon becomes complicated for reasons best revealed in the film, and then even more complicated with the arrival of Dr. Terminus....
The "Bonus Features" are excellent. In fact, I suspect that some younger viewers will enjoy them more than the film. They include items identified as "Brazzle Dazzle Effects," "Deleted Storyboard Sequence," "Original Song Concept," "Original Demo Recordings," "Promotional Record of 4 `Pop' Versions of the Songs," and "MUCH MORE!" I would rate these features Five Stars in terms of their entertainment value but rating the film itself against Disney's admittedly high standards for quality, no more than Three Stars. Hence the consolidated rating. One other point. The best of Disney's animated films seem to have lost none of their charm after (in some instances) 65+ years but, one man's opinion, that is true of very few of the films featuring human beings. To adults looking for films that both they and their much younger companions will enjoy, I suggest that there are other and better candidates.
When I was in college, a good friend of mine had me and several other friends watch his favorite movie of all time, PETE'S DRAGON. That was the first time I had ever seen the movie and I remember enjoying it and almost crying at the end. Released in 1977, PETE'S DRAGON is an overlooked gem in the Disney library. The movie is mostly a live-action musical film with only a little bit of animation included when Elliot the Dragon becomes visible. The story opens with the young … more
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This story of a winsome orphan and his guardian dragon features an Academy Award-nominated score and song, Helen Reddy's "Candle on the Water." The combination of a live-action story with an animated figure was innovative in 1977, and the green dragon with pink wings will still charm youngsters today. However, its plot has the boy running from a nasty family to whom he's been sold into slavery, as well as an evil magician who tries to steal the dragon for his parts. These dark story lines may scare or bore younger children, who only want to see Elliot the dragon belch fire and give Pete rides on his back. And older children who might appreciate the plot may scoff at the relatively crude animation. This leaves a rather narrow audience window of about ages 3 to 7. A cast of veterans includes Shelley Winters, Mickey Rooney, and Red Buttons, who all turn in the hammiest of performances. Acting newcomer Reddy demonstrates both why her acting career never took off and why her singing career did. (Lines like "You're a bunch of superstitious ding-dongs" don't give her much help.) However, her sometimes awkward performance as the lonely lighthouse keeper who gives the boy a home provides the film with its heart. Bottom line: it's a keeper for diehard Disney fans, dragon lovers, and those who remember this movie fondly from their childhood.--Kimberly Heinrichs