Disney’s Pete’s Dragon

| August 26, 2009

People who grew up in the 80’s seem to cling onto nostalgia more than any other generation. Pete’s Dragon, even though it came out in 1977, made it’s VHS debut in the 80’s and flew into the homes of nearly every child who was also at the time being brought up with classic Disney animation and Saturday morning cartoons, (I mean the good ones.) There are a lot of things we have as children that we remember fondly, but when we see them again as adults don’t seem to hold up to the standard we remember. Pee Wee’s Playhouse holds up. I can watch an entire season on a rainy afternoon and be just as entertained as I was when I was 5 years old. As for the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I realize now that the animation is actually really bad, so much to a point where I notice scenes where Michelangelo’s colors change from orange to yellow. That may sound snobbish, but remember, I grew up in the 80’s and still think it was the greatest decade ever!
Pete’s Dragon was one of those rainy day movies. It’s enough to get the kids to sit down and leave you alone for 15 minutes, but they probably won’t be able to pay 100% attention to it or sit still for the whole whopping 128 minutes. It’s about Pete, a little redheaded orphan boy who’s on the run for his evil, hillbilly foster family. Poor Shelly Winters plays Lena, the hillbilly mother, and boy did they mess her up good! Dirty face, missing teeth, the works! It kind of is a shame when you see her like this, the woman has 2 Oscars for God’s sake. Then you see Mickey Rooney’s character, Lampie, and even though Lampie is drunk 90% of the time, he still looks better by comparison.
Pete runs away from his foster family with his not so imaginary friend, Elliot the dragon, to a little town by the ocean called Passamaquaddy. There, Pete tried to make friends and fit in while keeping Elliot out of trouble. Pete falls in with Nora, a kind woman who looks over the town’s lighthouse, and her father, Lampie. The trouble begins when the townspeople realize that Elliot is very real and a traveling salesman decided he wants to capture the make-believe creature for his show. Meanwhile, Pete’s foster family is still on the hunt for him. The ending is pretty sad, it comes to a point where Pete realizes he doesn’t need an imaginary friend anymore and Elliot simply disappears.
As the animation person I am, I need to point out Don Bluth’s animation of Elliot the dragon. Growing up with Bluth’s films, An American Tale, The Land Before Time, All Dogs go to Heaven, you find it easy to point out certain animators work and Bluth’s style is very noticeable in the character Elliot. The way he moves, the shape of his face and hands, it’s very much his own. The way Don Bluth’s characters move is the one thing that always stuck with me, even as a child. It’s very bouncy, I honestly don’t know any better way to explain it, it’s just very Don. Though the animation in the “High Flying Edition” DVD didn’t melt into the live action as they assumed it would when Disney went back to re-touch the master, the animation itself is still astounding to watch.
I know this review sounded a little judgmental, Pete’s Dragon really is a great live action film for children and it really does hold a special place in my heart. Because I loved it so much as a kid it’s hard to come back as an adult and watch it, it’s not like Hook or Goonies. If I had children I would absolutely buy this DVD for them so that they may have the same memories about it that I did.

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