I think it’s best to go on the record and start things off by mentioning that I have a curious relationship with the 1977 film Pete’s Dragon. That film was, supposedly, an idea that sprang from the brain of Walt Disney himself but was never brought to fruition until roughly a decade after the movie mogul’s death. I was a wee lad of seven when I took in the original film on a Saturday afternoon in the company of my mother and sister. My sister and I thought the film was pure cinematic bliss and after seeing the film we took to reenacting scenes from the film in the kitchen of our home later that evening which should tell you how enamored we were of the film.
As a parent, some two and half decades later, I decided to pass the film down to my own daughter and that’s when the flaws of the film really began to stand out.
Turns out that it wasn’t the film that I originally imagined but rather an interesting, though not earth shattering, Disney affair that was atypical of the type of product being turned out by the studio at what would later be acknowledged as a low point in the studio’s history. The film was littered with clunky musical numbers that did nothing to move the narrative forward and the story was thin at best. The special effects that served to put the title character on screen were, I suppose, impressive for a film that was made during those days before CGI technology and the film included a notable cast but that was about it.
So here we are thirty-nine years later as Disney has decided to dust off the old Pete’s Dragon property and give it a retrofitting for the 21st century. Incidentally, the setting of the film is the early 1970s but the special effects are definitely of the contemporary variety. Also gone are the awkward musical numbers found in the original film and that’s a good thing. Instead the film focuses on its story about an orphan named Pete (Oakes Fegley) and his beloved dragon, Elliot, who shelters the boy and serves as a surrogate parent after the death of Pete’s biological Ma and Pa.
The central narrative of Pete being taken in by a real family while the locals pursue and attempt to capture his beloved Elliot remains intact. In this version a park ranger (Bryce Dallas Howard) and her husband (Wes Bentley) take Pete into their family fold after their daughter (Oona Lawrence) discovers the orphan in the woods. They, along with the young girl’s grandfather (Robert Redford), attempt to stop the local yahoos from harming the dragon in the film’s climax.
The effects are quite convincing in the film and the end manages to effectively tear at the heartstrings. There are certainly worse ways to update a 39 year old film than what has been achieved here, so if you’re looking to revisit the Pete’s Dragon story anytime soon this is one is perfectly acceptable.
Pete’s Dragon is playing in Hickory and all around the area.
Photo: Howard & Oakes Fegley in Pete’s Dragon
Questions or comments? Write Adam at firstname.lastname@example.org.