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.
This “High-Flying Edition” includes several special features. “Brazzle Dazzle Special Effects” is a featurette narrated by an adult Marshall. This is very well done and provides an amazing opportunity to see the progress of special effects over the company’s history through a lot of rare behind-the-scenes footage. “Deleted Storyboard Sequence – ‘Terminus & Hoagy Hunt Elliot’” contains original sketches along with a rare demo track. “Original Song Concept ‘Boo Bop Bopbop Bop (I Love You, Too)’” is the first demo recording of the song along with concept sketches. “Original Demo Recordings” and “Promotional Record” offer old and new versions of some of the more popular songs from the film. “Where’s Elliot? The Disappearing Dragon Game” is intended for the younger viewer to find Elliot who is hiding in Passamaquoddy. “About Pete’s Dragon” is presents the making of the movie. Last but not least, there are art galleries, trailers, the Donald Duck cartoon “Lighthouse Keeping,” “Disney Family Album (Excerpt)” is a look at an animator and “The Plausible Impossible 10/31/1956 (Excerpt)” looks at animation.
Pete’s Dragon is a sentimental favorite from my childhood, eliciting fond and happy memories. The songs and relationship between Pete and Elliott still make it a relevant film today. It is also a sweet and innocent tale that includes no gross or inappropriate humor, perfect for younger children.