Written by Senora Bicho
Pete’s Dragon is a 1977 Disney musical that combines live-action with an animated Elliot the Dragon. Pete (Sean Marshall) is an orphan who was bought by the Gogan Family to be their slave. The Gogans are so mean to him he runs away with his best friend Elliott, who can turn invisible. They end up in the small fishing village of Passamaquoddy where Elliott starts trouble for Pete from the start. Most of the town wants Pete to leave except for lighthouse keeper Nora (Helen Reddy) and her father Lampie (Mickey Rooney), the town drunk, who try to make a stable home for him. Unfortunately just as Pete is getting settled, the Gogans and Dr. Terminus (Jim Dale), a traveling medicine show man, show up and try to break-up the happy home. The cast also includes Jim Backus, Red Buttons, Jeff Conway, and Shelly Winters.
Elliott has the ability to be invisible so most of the time he doesn’t appear in many scenes, which works since the combination of animation and live-action is more fantasy than reality and ties in with the idea that the adult characters think Elliott is Pete’s imaginary friend. That is until they meet him. Also, the animation of Elliot, supervised by Don Bluth, doesn’t blend well with the live action by today’s standards, but considering the advancement over three decades, the visuals are still pretty impressive. This is the first Disney film that didn’t contain work by any of the animators known as the Nine Old Men.
There are lots of fun song and dance numbers in the film. “Brazzle Dazzle Day” and “Candle on the Water,” which was nominated for an Academy Award, are the most well known. Helen Reddy performs “Candle on the Water” with the lighthouse as the backdrop. It is much more impactful watching it as an adult because the emotions are identifiable, and is the best moment of the film.