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  • You can be fairly sure with the animated Disney films that you're going to get something good. But with the studio's live-action films there are no guarantees. On the one hand, you might get something like Mary Poppins or 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea - in which case you'd be plenty satisfied. On the other hand you could get something as terrible as Popeye, in which case you'd need a great deal of willpower to make it to the end. Pete's Dragon is one of Disney's live-action ventures (though it features one animated character in Elliot, the dragon of the title). Though a little overlong and rambling, it is on the whole a well-made and entertaining film, and it is certainly a gulf ahead of the likes of Condorman, Popeye and Herbie Goes Bananas.

    Scruffy young orphan Pete (Sean Marshall) is on the run in the woodland of Maine from the Gogan family, a bunch of abusive rednecks led by Lena Gogan (Shelly Winters), who claims that she owns Pete because she bought him at a market. Pete escapes from them, and sets off for Passamaquoddy, a nearby coastal town where he hopes to find safety. Accompanying Pete is an animated dragon named Elliot, who can make himself invisible and who has come to look after Pete until the kid has got his life sorted out. Once in Passamaquoddy, Pete and Elliot inadvertently cause havoc, including scaring the wits out of lighthouse-keeper Lampie (Mickey Rooney). They hide out in some nearby caves, but Pete is found by Lampie's daughter Nora (Helen Reddy), who decides to take him in. Elliot's job seems done (Pete is now safe and wanted, after all) but then con-man Dr. Terminus (Jim Dale) arrives in town.... and soon he's got his mind set on capturing the dragon.

    Like I said, the film is rambling, and from this synopsis it's clear that the plot wanders around a lot, introducing probably more events and characters than necessary. Nonetheless, Pete's Dragon is still entertaining. Jim Dale as the unscrupulous Dr Terminus, and Red Buttons as his dim side-kick, are genuinely funny villains. The blending together of animated Elliot and the living, breathing actors is very good - especially for 1977 - though in a shipwreck sequence near the end the special effects are utterly dreadful. Kids will find a lot to like in Pete's Dragon as long as they can sit still for over 2 hours, and adults too will find pleasures along the way. It's certainly one of the better live-action offerings to come from the Disney studio at a time when their output was quite indifferent in quality.
  • "Pete's Dragon" is an enchanting Disney tale that combines live-action and animation. The dragon is the only animated character, but that doesn't change the fact that this is a perfect combination of live-action and animation. This is definitely one of the best live-action movies produced by Disney. One of my favorites. It's cute and charming.

    It looks dated, but that's not a major flaw. Actually, that's part of its charm (which is timeless). There are plenty of beautiful vistas: a lighthouse, mountains, green places, the endless sea and more. Passamaquoddy is a strange name, but the village is nice.

    The dragon Elliott is cute and lovable. He almost resembles Puff the Magic Dragon and has a funny way to communicate. His sounds are awesome. Elliott is a good and innocent dragon, but big and clumsy. Pete is a cute and lovable kid. I enjoy his friendship with the animated dragon.

    There is a nice cast in the film. Sean Marshall is excellent as Pete - he is a very underrated former child actor. Helen Reddy is great as Nora. Mickey Rooney is funny as the silly but comical Lampie. Jim Dale is priceless as Doc Terminus. Red Buttons is very convincing as Doc Terminus's sidekick Hoagy. Shelley Winters plays well her role (the wicked Lena Gogan, the leader of the Gogans).

    This is an underrated film. Yet, it's a nice old-fashioned one. And nostalgic too because it's a reminder of other times and also of my own childhood.

    There are some cheesy moments, but nothing too serious or enough to ruin the movie. One of the few things I don't like about this movie is Pete's teacher. She is so mean, even more when she does that corporal punishment thing to Pete.

    Hoagy is one of my favorite characters. I don't consider him a villain. He's not a bad guy, he's just a poor devil who chose the wrong friend. He is hilarious even in his name. I don't know why, but 'Hoagy' sounds funny to my ears. Classic humor is another solid point of this movie. Many of Doc Terminus's lines are funny, as well as the fact that he never says "Passamaquoddy" correctly.

    About the songs, I like most of them very much. My personal favorites are "Brazzle Dazzle Day", "It's not easy", "Candle on the Water", "Boo Bop Bopbop Bop (I love you, too)", "There's Room for Everyone" and "Bill of Sale". These songs are great. Timeless classics.

    This motion picture is one among many examples of great underrated films. Many times I get more surprised with a less popular and less appreciated film than with one of those films that most everybody loves. It doesn't always happen, but most of the universally loved films end up being overrated and turn out to be disappointing because we create too much expectations on them, while a not so known and valued movie I may not expect that much from it but turns out to be a pleasant surprise. That only makes me respect and admire these less valued movies even more.

    This should definitely be on Top 250.
  • Too many people spend too much time comparing Disney movies to each other, as if to say that every Disney movie made should unfold in such a way as to easily identify it as a "Disney Movie." That's a shame, as each movie should be judged on it's own contributions to the motion picture lexicon. Fortunately for Pete's Dragon, it contributes something that is essential and valuable to a child's world: fun.

    There's nothing too serious in Pete's Dragon. Granted, the catalyst for the action in the film is a boy running away from an abusive family, only to encounter an equally abusive society (not to mention a scheming charlatan who wants to capture - and kill - Pete's Dragon for his own monetary gain), but all involved in the production are aware that their target audience is children, and so all of the aforementioned is handled with kid gloves. The best example of this is the acting.

    The cast does their best to have fun with their character and, as such, contributes greatly to the light-hearted tone of the film. In particular, the villains are played with great, over-the-top gusto, which is exactly what is needed in a kids movie. You want to teach children a lesson, not scare the crap out of them. As such, Shelley Winters as Ma Gogan and Jim Dale as Doc Terminus are classic kiddie villains: Winters stomps through her scenes in a bluster of hilarious hillbilly kookiness, while Dale steals every scene he's in - and nearly the whole show - in a deliciously maniacal role that should have one him an oscar - seriously!

    Any actor can bring on the tears and boo-hoo their way through an "emotionally intense" role; they're a dime a dozen. It takes a real actor to come up with the kind of performance Dale did, in which every line of dialogue is nailed, and his voice and his body seem to be in completely in synch with each other and with the character. There is not one word left untouched by his genius. Especially fun are his interactions with his sidekick, Hoagy, played by Red Buttons. The two are perfect comic foils. They are no matches, however, for the straight-shooting Nora.

    Nora (Helen Reddy), along with her father Lampie (Mickey Rooney) tend to the local lighthouse. It is in these two characters that children find their protectors. In any kids movie, there needs to be at least one character on screen with which children can find comfort and solace. Reddy plays Nora as a down-to-earth, take no bull lady who becomes a mother figure to Pete. Rooney plays Lampie as a drunken old coot who rides the fence about Pete until about halfway through, at which time he, too, joins the side of good. There's a lesson in this movie for adults, too.

    Nora and Lampie both learn a little about life from Pete. Nora had decided to keep people at arm's length for fear of losing them (as she did her beau, a seaman who was lost at sea). Through her encounters with Pete, she learns to open up and allow love back into her life, this time in the form of motherly love. Lampie, too, becomes attached to the kid, and, throughout the process of his daughter and Pete bonding, learns that there's more to life than the bottle: there's family. These, really, are important lessons for adults, and ones that are never dated, rather, always applicable to any time and place. So is the lesson for children.

    At the heart of Pete's Dragon is a simple message for children: hold tight to all that is right, no matter how bad life gets, and good things will come. Pete escapes a horrid life slaving away for the wretched Gogan family, only to run into the arms of a civilized society that looks down on him because of he's an outsider. He's anything but welcomed, and when things start going wrong, he's the first one to be blamed. No matter how hard he tries, society won't believe him, or accept him. He could easily make the wrong choice: give in and become the ruffian they all think he is or, worse, do what society did to him, and turn his back on his friend, Elliot, who is partly to blame for Pete's predicament, as he pulls pranks while he's invisible, leaving Pete to take the rap. In the end, his perseverance pays off: the town embraces him and he gets a family. This lesson is learned, as is to be expected in a musical, with a song and a dance.

    The musical numbers are by far the weakest element in the movie. The songs are simple, yet they work (believe me, after you watch the movie, you'll find yourself spontaneously singing the choruses the next day). The dancing is the most difficult to digest, as it is often stiff and pointless. That's okay, though, as the story and the acting more than make up for it. When all is said and done, Pete's Dragon is everything a kids movie should be: educating and entertaining.
  • This is one of the best musicals of all time, right up there with The Sound of Music. Yes, I have a lot of nostalgia as I had this on Betamax growing up and wore it out... but now I'm watching it with my own kids and they love it just like I did. This movie holds up and translates well to all generations.

    The songs are fantastic, but my least favorite is the one it may be most known for (Candle on the water). Lampie... Doc Terminus... they're all just really, really good performances of well written songs.

    It has everything a musical needs. Great acting, great singing, great choreography, great story, and a lot of heart. The live action/animation is really good for the time, so there's no reason to get hung up on that. Plus Elliot is awesome.

    I honestly can't understand how this is under 9 stars.
  • Endearing animated monster movie about a lively dragon and his little friend . The story takes place in Maine circa 1908 , the starring are an orphaned 9-years-old boy named Pete (Sean Marshall) and his sympathetic dragon Elliot . Freckly Pete flee the overbearing foster Gogan family (Shelley Winters , Charles Tyner), who all utilize him as a slave instead of a kind child. When Pete can successfully escape from them with his protective dragon , his only friend , that only can see , then they stumble into the town of Passamaquaddy- an ocean front dock town plenty of fishermen, drunks and rare people . Pete's arrival does not fit well with the townsfolk , as his pale green dragon Elliott accidentally causes town destruction and rioting among the school teacher , the Mayor (Jim Backus) , the citizens , among others . Expecting to be an outcast yet again, Pete is cared by the loved Nora (Helen Reddy) who lives in a lighthouse with her daddy Lampy (Mickey Rooney ). And when a phony con disguising as a Dr. Terminus (Jim Dale) and his pal (Red Buttons) arrive in the little town , they see Elliott the Dragon as the ultimate profit to his fortune and money.

    Enjoyable story that mingles animation with live action . This is a likable sort of a kiddies' adaptation of ¨Harvey¨ and another attempt for repeat the Mary Poppins magic . The dragon Elliott steals the show , as itself grins, grunts and botchers around.The primitive but efficient animation is by Don Bluth who subsequently would direct successes as Nimh , Anastasia and Titan A.E. .Colorful and evocative cinematography by cameraman Frank Philips . Agreeable choreography and beautiful songs and musical score by Irwin Kostal. The motion picture is professionally directed by Don Chaffey (Jason and the Argonauts, Lassie , million years B.C ).The children will get a kick out of this Disney musical . Rating : Acceptable and passable.
  • I remember at one point in my childhood, I heard about a movie called "Pete's Dragon", maybe when it was about to come on TV, and also remember seeing some of it, though I can't remember how much I saw. There was another part of the film I remember seeing some years later (the part where the Dr. Terminus character manages to win over the initially angry people), but I didn't know what movie I was seeing. After many years, I could still remember the title of this mostly live action Disney film (but one with a cartoon dragon), and finally decided to watch it from start to finish this week. It's far from one of the most highly regarded Disney productions in the long history of the company, and I wasn't expecting it to be among the great ones, but I was expecting it to be better than I found it to be, which is not good at all for the most part.

    With the help of his magical dragon, Elliott, a young orphaned boy named Pete manages to escape from his cruel adoptive family, the Gogans, but they are still determined to find him somehow or other. The boy and his dragon friend travel together and soon come to a village called Passamaquoddy. Before they enter, Pete tells Elliott that he must make himself invisible (a magical power of his) in order to avoid scaring the people, so the dragon reluctantly does so, but even in his invisible form, he soon causes a lot of trouble in the village, and since nobody can see him, it looks like Pete is responsible! After Pete gets away from an angry mob and Elliott scares Lampie, the drunken lighthouse keeper, the two of them go to a cave near the lighthouse, where Nora, Lampie's daughter, finds Pete and decides to give him shelter in her home. He often talks to her about Elliott, and she doesn't believe that this dragon actually exists, but plays along. Unfortunately, the dragon continues to cause trouble for Pete, and the village of Passamaquoddy has another problem when medicine showman Dr. Terminus and his assistant, Hoagy, are back to swindle the villagers again with their fraudulent formulas!

    This live action/animation crossover is a musical, and unfortunately, the songs generally don't have much effect. I think this already shows with the first song, sung by the Gogans as they pursue Pete, but it gets worse after the boy and his dragon friend get away from them and we hear the next musical number, "Boo Bop Bopbop Bop (I Love You, Too)". During this song, I felt like I was watching something strictly for the very young. Basically, the rest of the songs also fail, including the "I Saw a Dragon" one featured in the part where Lampie tells the people in the tavern what he saw, a notably clumsy segment of the film. The musical numbers are only one of the significant flaws in the film. Most of the cast performances failed to impress me, especially Jane Kean overacting in the role of Miss Taylor, the strict teacher of the village. It doesn't seem that Sean Marshall, who plays the title character, was a very good child actor. "Pete's Dragon" does have some pretty funny parts, but not enough to make it really work as a comedy, either. Also, while I certainly didn't find myself not caring what happened to any of the characters, I still didn't find most of the story too entertaining for some reason, but that might have been largely because of the other problems.

    This is a mainly live action family musical, and maybe I'm not usually into movies like this, but that hasn't stopped me from finding "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory", a live action family musical from six years before this one, to be a great film, so it's definitely not like "Pete's Dragon" would look bad to me regardless of quality. This particular Disney piece came out the same year as "The Rescuers", an all animated feature which disappointed me when I first saw it last year (I actually found its 1990 sequel, "The Rescuers Down Under", to be much better, as rare as that is with sequels and as much as many Disney fans would probably disagree), but even that film I found to be better than this very lacklustre live action/animation crossover. I gave "Pete's Dragon" a try, and realize that it has a following (not a huge one, but it is a following), but simply put, I just didn't like it. I guess I can still recommend it for kids and won't say adults should avoid it at all costs, but I also still think there are good reasons for all the criticism.
  • With the release of the newly updated version out this past Friday, I wanted to write about the original Disney masterpiece, Petes Dragon. It was a great memory as a child, watching this magical film and singing the songs. I realize that not everyone is a fan of musicals or Disney films in general, but this was one of the last true musicals, up there with Bedknobs and Broomsticks and Mary Poppins.

    I like the original, it has depth and feeling. Remakes just make me feel like I'm paying for a story I already know. Some remakes can be good, but the original Petes Dragon isn't even that old of a film. And I know Disney has a history of remaking a lot of their own films, but Petes Dragon? It's a classic.

    This film has so many memorable moments, from the characters to the sets to the music. Mickey Rooney as Lampie was great, probably his most remembered role ever. And Helen Reddy as Nora was excellent, and her song Candle on the Water is beautiful. And Doc Terminus, played by Jim Dale was hilarious and charming. He is a real treat to watch in any Disney film.

    If you love Disney films, watch the classic and give it credit where it's due.
  • sethn17225 August 2006
    Disney's combo live action and animation fare didn't just end over at "Mary Poppins." No, no; it lived on with "Pete's Dragon" from 1977!!!!! It's a nice little film about an orphan who finds a nice, magical dragon. From that point onward, it's a grand old big adventure!!!!! Very nice, indeed!

    What I like about this film: This is another one of Disney's real/hand-drawn films, and like "Mary Poppins," this movie is wonderful. Seeing this really brought a smile to my face, and that is wonderful also for anyone who watches this movie. This is great Disney fun; no bad stuff, and always 100% G-rated!!!!!

    "Pete's Dragon" is a great movie for people ages 3 to 103. Don't miss it!!!!!

    10/10
  • "Pete's Dragon" is not the last Disney classic combining live-action and animation (although the dragon is really the only cartoon in it), but it's one of the last in the traditional sense. That is why it looks older than it really is. It's from 1977 but in many ways it looks like something from the 60's or even the 50's. This means that even in 1977 it already looked dated, an impression that is even stronger considering "galactic" movies like '2001: A Space Odyssey', 'Star Wars' and 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind' and "galactic" TV series such as 'Star Trek' and 'Battlestar Gallactica'.

    But the dated style for its time isn't really a fault. It's just temperament. Actually, "Pete's Dragon" has a charm of its own. It's a timeless classic. This was one of my childhood films.

    Settings are authentic and owners of a great and natural beauty. I wonder if Passamaquoddy exists for real. Nevertheless, Passamaquoddy is one heck of a name. Not as difficult to spell as "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" (and by no means as difficult as to say it backwards, which is "dociousaliexpiisticfragicalirupus" but that's going a bit too far, don't you think?), yet still a little difficult to pronounce at first. Takes its time to learn how to pronounce. But it's not as hard to spell as Doc Terminus wants to make us believe (ha ha ha).

    The dragon Elliott is cute and very friendly and sweet. If he was real, he'd make a wonderful pet.

    The kid is cute. What ever happened to Sean Marshall? He was both a very talented actor and a gifted singer. In other words, he was an authentic actor and singed like an angel. Speaking of music, this movie has immensely charming songs. "Candle on the Water" is soft and very relaxing. "It's Not Easy" is very touching and beautiful. "Boo Bop Bop Bop Bop (I Love You, Too)" is quite cute. "Brazzle Dazzle Day" is a feel-good and very optimistic song. "There's Room for Everyone" is another wonderful and nostalgic song. "Bill of Sale" has a different nature than all the songs previously mentioned, but it's just as great and memorable.

    Jim Dale is priceless as the sly as a fox Dr. Terminus and Red Buttons is hilarious as his follower Hoagy. Hoagy is the typical Disney follower of a villain: mostly harmless, not truly evil or threatening, just a poor guy who made the wrong friend. That's real acting in both cases!

    Charlie Callas makes very well Elliott's sounds. Helen Reddy and Mickey Rooney are great too. The actors who portray the Gogans are quite convincing in their roles. The Gogans are dirty and creepy, they aren't nice and likable people, but there are moments when they're funny. Pete's teacher isn't a nice and likable person either, but the actress convinces in her portrayal.

    Title in Portugal: 'Meu Amigo o Dragão'.
  • I saw this movie when I was a little kid and my older siblings before me. I can remember every detail and every character and every song! Brazzel dazzle day, There's room for everyone, candle on the water, its not easy... all songs that I remember word for word! I love this movie! Great for any age! My sisters and I always quote this movie. We go back and forth singing "We've got a bill of sale right here!" and every other song. This movie isn't just a kids movie. My sisters are in their 20's and I am 18 and we all watch it still! Granted the acting wasn't the best but come on it was made in 1977! And even for a 70's movie it was awesome and completely unforgettable!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Pete is a small boy running away from slavery with an abusive hillbilly family who have "bought" him. He falls in with an invisible dragon and a lighthouse keeper and his daughter, and assorted good and bad things happen.

    This Disney offering is one of the more forgotten live action movies despite the fact that it has quite a lot going for it. It is colourful, daft, has a good moral heart, some excellent villains, decent songs, and decent effects (both physical effects and traditional animation).

    The performances are all good, with Helen Reddy doing well in her only movie lead role, and young Sean Marshall's sincerity outweighing his winsome cuteness.

    This is still a good family film.
  • For 1975 this children's classic is absolutely magnificent. Beautifully cast - masterful songs - brilliant color and scenery. Disney couldn't have produced a more memorable, masterful musical than this one. Mickey Rooney gives a fine, stunning performance as the comical, drunken 'Lampie' and is alloted full use of his veteran musical talents in 'I saw a dragon' - tripping about the saloon after a chance encounter with "Elliott".

    Helen Reddy is dandy as 'Nora', the unmarried daughter. And Jim Dale and Red Buttons are at their comical genius best as 'Dr. Terminus' and 'Hoagie' - especially in their performance of 'Every Little Piece', which I countered in connection with an off-Broadway musical style quality - of which the song could also garner a Tony.

    The Gogan's - I felt, almost stole the show - next to Elliott-the dragon. Their memorable hillbilly opener "happiest home in these hills" was brilliantly choreographed & performed. And actor Conaway is still remembered all these years later (outside 'Kenicki' in GREASE) as one of the bumbling, hillbilly brothers.

    I proudly own my own DVD copy, the org. vinyl, and my new CD. Sadly, Disney doesn't produce high-quality action-animation like this classic much more these days. Which makes appreciating this film as a work of art.

    PEANUT
  • If I were to first see this movie as an adult, I would probably scoff at it and return to "more important" things like ipods. However, I have been watching this movie since I was about five years old, and I have always loved it. Maybe my reason for loving it is because it brings back memories of my wonderful childhood, or maybe it's because the catchy melodies continue to get stuck in my head. This is a Disney movie from the 70's. It doesn't have to be Godfather II material. It's sad that the animation of the movie doesn't even compare to the computer animation of today, but don't let that get in the way of this story. It's just fun, bubblegum for the brain. This will always be one of my favorite Disney movies, and I will continue to watch it. I recommend that you do the same.
  • I completely agree with Leonard Maltin's review for this film: the animated dragon is indeed a charming character, but when he's off-screen, watch out! Most of the actors (but especially the nauseatingly cute kid and the seriously neurotic Mickey Rooney) seem to be participating in an overacting competition. When Shelley Winters is not even the most over-the-top person in a film, you know you're in trouble. In short, this is STRICTLY for kids. Leave the room and let them see it alone. (**)
  • The 1970s saw a great many quality films get made, but they were not good years for Walt Disney Studios. "The Aristocats" and "Robin Hood" are familiar critical whipping boys, but perhaps the greatest flowering culmination of Disney's nouveau wretchedness is a movie that's only half-animated: 1977's "Pete's Dragon."

    It's marvelously inept entertainment – one of the biggest and worst musicals you'll ever see. Sean Marshall's vocal performance is among the most limply sung and out-of-tune I've ever heard, the choreography and camera-work beats Robert Altman to the "Anti-Musical" by a good three years, and the songs can only be called models of awfulness. (The fact that they're also terribly hummable only aggravates the pain they cause - they're as catchy as smallpox.)

    Most of the adult actors seem to think they're competing in some kind of ham Olympics, with Mickey Rooney, Red Buttons, Shelley Winters, and the actress playing the schoolteacher all reaching unbelievable heights of mugging, veritably tripping over themselves for the gold. In terms of artistic construction, the concept is frankly absurd, and the narrative structure is as lumpy as a garden planted with rocks (we've long since forgotten the Gogans by the time they arrive, etc.). The animation is unconvincing, the drinking scenes unfathomable from a modern perspective, and the 128-minute running time is simply unforgivable.

    The movie is truly hilarious, but even I've never been able to watch it all the way through. Yes, it's *that* long. So better break it up into fifteen-minute segments, punctuated by some extremely heavy drinking of your own. 2 out of 10.

    Everybody! And it's money, money, money by the – money, money, money by the – money, money, money by the – money, money, money by the . . .
  • Musical opus from director Don Chaffey and the Disney Studios mixes animation with live-action in the possible hope of creating another "Mary Poppins". Plot concerns turn-of-the-century orphan (Sean Marshall, who is both too old and too modern) escaping from villains with help from a lighthouse keeper, his daughter, and a goofy 50-foot dragon (who mostly stays invisible!). Harmless family film isn't especially inventive or witty, opening with a big production number featuring Shelley Winters dressed as a singing hag. The infrequent animated dragon may lure youngsters, but the picture seldom comes together and is woefully overlong. Another piece of heavy-handed whimsy from mid-'70s Disney. *1/2 from ****
  • Though it has the words "Walt Disney's Classic" above the title on most of its video incarnations, this charming story of a boy and his pet dragon gets overlooked more often than not when lists are made about people's favorite Disney films. And though it's always on mine - I can understand why.

    A. It's too long and slow. At over two hours, the movie is paced like an elephant moving through a vat of mud. Long sections drag - 30 minutes could have been cut and no one would really notice.

    B. Technical merits are dire. Though everyone in it speaks English and the film is in English, it appears some post production work has been done as the voices and mouths don't always match up completely, and foley noise is overemphasized. Also, the mixture of live action and animation is pretty rough - though technically good for the time, one can see the strings and seams showing almost always, and there is no doubt the actors are reacting to air.

    C. Speaking of actors - the acting is terrible. The cast overacts with glee, and Sean Marshall, as young Pete, has the dubious distinction of being a poor actor AND singer. Not a good thing when he is given most of the major songs.

    But all this aside, I LOVE this movie. I remember when VHS was new and we used to rent this movie every weekend and I would watch it four or five times. The songs never fail to touch me or move me to sing along even today. "Candle on the Water," "Brazzle Dazzle Day" and the rest get me every time, and I will often slip this movie in as a pick me up.

    It's one of my most treasured DVDs. And in this high tech era of family filmmaking, if you haven't seen this film - rent it, and return to a time when "kids films" were about the story, the songs, and imagination.
  • By the middle/end of the 1970s, the Disney studio was in crisis. Walt had died relatively recently, and the conservative management who ran the company kept on consciously producing films they thought Walt would have made back in the 50s and 60s. As a result, nearly all of the films being produced, at least the live-action ones, were not just throwbacks; they were generally all quite stale with it. "Pete's Dragon" is one such film. It tries to be the next "Mary Poppins" but genuinely fails. Not only does it not live up to that film's legacy, but it hasn't really got any pizazz of its own.

    The story concerns a young orphan named Pete who runs away from a cruel family of hillbillies with the help of his pet dragon Eliot. Along the way, Eliot, who can turn himself invisible, gets up to mischief, and hilarity ensues. The pair arrive in a small New England town, where Pete ends up staying with a kindly lighthouse keeper named Nora and her lovable drunken father. In keeping with the spirit of replicating "Mary Poppins", the titular dragon character is animated, and the best moments in the film tend to feature him. He is a cute and well animated creation, even if he doesn't quite fit seamlessly into the live-action world around him. However, the story overall is boring and introduces too many elements at the wrong time, and many scenes fail to move the plot along at all (including a scene where the lighthouse keeper and the evil doctor's assistant go to look for Eliot in the cave). Acting and character development are also consistently below average. The musical numbers tend to be overdone, and some of them are just downright awful. Though I saw the standard version many years ago, the version I last watched was the shortened version on the UK's Channel 5, which did a lot of good by shortening or even removing the most long-winded scenes (primarily the musical numbers), but even that didn't do much to diffuse some of the film's problems.

    Let me state that I did not want to go out of my way to hate this film. I am a big fan of Disney, and I watched "Pete's Dragon" as a child a few times and I quite liked it (even if not to the same extent as "Mary Poppins" or "Bedknobs and Broomsticks"). However, as an intelligent adult, I can see hardly any worth in this film. It seems overall like a mismanaged and highly amateur attempt to make a "Disney classic" based on the elements of more successful previous films.
  • I rewatched this for the first time in almost 2 decades, and found it still holds up in many ways despite some technical glitches and weak jokes. I credit the film's watchabl-ness to the following; 1) Leisurely pace. The narrative is pulled off onto tangents by the wealth of talented actors in supporting roles. The director seems happy to allow them to do this, and it benefits the film. 30-40 minutes could easily be cut, and 3 minute scenes could easily be reduced to a single line of dialog - but where's the fun in that? Viewer's who commit the time will get to see pretty much every actor interact, whether the scene is necessary or not (Buttons and Rooney, Dale and Reddy, etc.) 2) Catchy Songs. With a few exceptions, the songs in Pete's Dragon mostly reflect the quasi-lounge feel of Burt Bacharach numbers. Each number is mounted as a "showstopper," with dance and dialog breakdowns that contribute to the running time. However, unlike most modern musicals, the songs are integral to the plot.

    3)Solid Ham in supporting roles. The veteran performers chew scenery like James Bond villains without ever failing to take the proceedings seriously. Winters especially gave me the creeps.
  • In my review of THE CAT FROM OUTER SPACE I mentioned that that the Disney studio were chugging out a lot of rather poor family orientated movies in the mid to late 1970s and PETE'S DRAGON is another example What struck me is once again relatively poor production values . Watch 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA to see a Disney movie made by master craftsmen who love their art and compare it to this movie which feels like it was churned out in order to simply fill some Summer schedule .

    The film is too brightly lit for one thing and as for the cast .... well Mickey Rooney was a big name but that was when no one made movie in colour , equally Red Buttons had been appearing in not very good disaster movies while Jim Dale as a con man selling snake oil to gullible customers isn't exactly the most memorable villain seen in a Disney film . It should also be pointed out that a movie that has a friendly dragon seems doomed from failure from the start . Say what you like about REIGN OF FIRE but at least in that film we saw dragons do what dragons are supposed to do and that's burn people to death with their fiery breath .

    PETE'S DRAGON can't be described as being charming or innocent , it can only be described as naive and that's not a compliment
  • After having found success in earlier films such as Mary Poppins and Bedknobs And Broomsticks mixing live action with animation and musical numbers, Disney foisted this tale of a boy named Pete(Sean Marshall) and his Magic Dragon on us. They should have stopped with Mary Poppins.

    Pete is a young lad who's run away from the family that bought him(I think it may have been from an orphanage, details are sketchy)as their own personal slave. It seems Pete has taken up residence in a cave with the animated Dragon, Elliot(voice by Charlie Callas), who is also Pete's best and only friend. Only Pete can see the dragon because Elliott has this habit of making himself invisible whenever anyone but Pete is around. This also helped conveniently cut down on animation costs as well. I mention this because Pete's Dragon is also notable for the film that caused Don Bluth(animation director), who wasn't too pleased with the restraints of working on Pete's Dragon, to leave Disney and strike out on his own. Then again it could be Elliott just wants to hide from this mess of a film.

    Nora(Helen Reddy), owns and operates a nearby lighthouse with her father Lampie(Mickey Rooney). Her husband, you see, has been lost at sea, so owning and operating a lighthouse is a good occupation for her if he ever decides to journey home. The lighthouse also enables songwriters Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn to throw in a song, so when Nora sings "I'll be your candle on the water" we are aware of it's double meaning. Cute.

    Of course, Nora finds Pete, and takes him into her home. Since she can't see Elliott, we know that Nora will spend most of the film thinking Pete's invisible dragon is an imaginary playmate made up by Pete because he has no real family. Stir into all this the villainous Dr. Terminus(Jim Dale), who believes there is a dragon and wants to capture him for his own nefarious purposes. If that's not enough villainy for you, there's the Grogans headed by Lena Grogan(Shelley Winters) who "owns" Pete and comes looking for their lost property.

    Having made her big screen debut three years earlier in a silly role as a nun in Airport 75, Helen Reddy tries to extend her acting chops in this film. She doesn't extend them very well, and the less said about it the better. As for her vocal talents, Reddy managed some good pop hits with songs like I Am Woman, Delta Dawn and Angie Baby, but her range is limited, and the awful songs she is given here only emphasize that fact.

    The adults aren't the only offenders in this film. Sean Marshall as Pete demonstrates no acting ability, no singing ability, and isn't cute enough that we care to let those deficiencies slide by. In a duet called "Boobob bobbob bob (I love you too)" that he sings with Elliot, Elliot clearly overshadows him even though he's only required to sing the "Boobob bobbob bob" line.

    Jim Dale is wicked enough as "Dr. Terminus" I suppose, though he plays it way over the top which seems to be a prerequisite of being a villain in a Disney film. You'll find his shtick more than a little annoying after a few minutes of his screen time.

    There are a few good things in this film. The animated Elliot steals every scene he is in. When he is on the screen is about the only time the film comes alive. The film would have been a lot more fun and immensely more whimsical if they had done away with the invisibility bit and given the dragon more screen time. Since the film is called Pete's Dragon, one would have thought that would be a no brainer.

    Shelley Winters seems to be having a lot of fun as the villain Lena Grogan. Next to Elliot, she gives the best performance of anyone associated with this production. She also has the best musical number in the film with a little ditty called "Bill of Sale". I would have voted to can Dr. Terminus and just have the film center around Lena and the Grogans as being the villains. Mickey Rooney as Lampie isn't too awful, playing the kind of outlandish character Mickey Rooney can do well. Let's face it, if it were Mickey Rooney playing Mickey Rooney we wouldn't have minded because that would have been infinitely more fun than anything else going on in this debacle. Maybe Lampie should have told his daughter Nora to get out of the house and get a life before the film started. Red Buttons as Hoagy, plays the same Red Buttons character he plays in almost every film since Sayonara. Everybody else in this film is there for window dressing.

    As for the rest of the musical numbers, besides the ones I mentioned earlier, they are painful to listen to and sit through. How painful? They would make a Barney song sound like Beethoven.

    If you have a child watching this film, they'll be entertained during those few moments when Elliot is on the screen. When he is not, they may become restless and revolt. Come to think of it, that about sums it up for adult viewers too.

    My Grade D
  • I know I loved this movie as a child, but I can't really understand why. Of course, it is meant to appeal to children, so perhaps it's only natural that it's lost its ability to charm me. On the other hand, there are plenty of kids' movies that are fun for the grown-ups in their lives. I think the main problem with this one is that it just seems awfully dated. And creepy. Now that's one thing about it that has never changed.

    For starters, there are the Gogans. I can watch Deliverance without breaking a sweat, but years after I first saw Pete's Dragon the Gogans still make me feel all icky. They are impossibly dirty hill-folk who want to enslave a young child. Their antics, I'm sure, are meant to have a cartoonish quality to them, but they fall short of that goal and land squarely in the realm of "unsettling."

    The same is true of the way-over-the-top medicine show duo of Dr. Terminus and Hoagie. For example, Dr. Terminus offers Pete a potion that will "bring on puberty two years early" if he turns over the dragon. That proposition is just loaded with ick factor, not to mention the fact that the word "puberty" is vile and should be used in a clinical or classroom setting ONLY.

    Finally, there's the abusive school teacher who humiliates and beats her pupils. I realize that a lot has changed in the field of education, but I don't think there was ever a time when that was considered funny.

    Actually, any of these plot elements could be funny, if handled correctly. Here they have too much of a inappropriate or nightmarish quality to pass as such. A person who is especially emotionally fragile would do well to steer clear of this one.

    It is fun to play "film school" with Pete's Dragon, trying to figure out what the director/producers were thinking and trying to figure out what it was about that era that led to the birth of such a bizarre bit of movie-making.
  • I must be one of those children of the 1970's to understand and appreciate this offbeat film. Helen Reddy IMHO is the star of the film and makes it shine. Mickey Rooney is pretty funny and is in the state you should be as you're watching this film unless you're under 12. This film reminds me of "Puff the Magic Dragon" in the way it is light-hearted and makes me light-headed. It's crazy and whack and I really don't think kids will enjoy this unless they understand what is going on. I rated is a ten based on my love for the film. Honestly, it doesn't take much to get a perfect ten from me. I simply am a movie addict and it all started in my early living with the Superman movies and Star Wars.

    So in conclusion, I believe if you should watch this film, you must want to watch it no matter what negative opinion may be concocting within your brain. Are we so expectant these days of explosions and vulgar words that we can't simply enjoy the moving pictures?
  • Once you see this film you'll never be able to forget it. I haven't. I can remember it like I first saw it yesterday. I loved the entire movie and I shall never forget it. I was in the library a few days ago and I recommended this movie to a young girl, probably no older than five or six. When I coincidently saw her again, she said she loved the film and so did her mother. They loved Elliot the animated Dragon and thought that it was even better than Bedknobs and Broomsticks.

    Although the actors are not up to the Disney standard (Helen Reddy wasn't that bad) Elliot was funny, cute and most of all, fun. No offense to anyone, especially Mickey Rooney, but Elliot was the best actor, as he stole the show. And I think that they knew that… but I'm not complaining. The movie is fun to watch even at 14! Notice how it holds my regards!

    To all who bash the film for what is could have been, what else is missing except for a little better acting? I love the music and I sometimes, even now blurt out some of the words whenever I'm feeling down. A DRAGON… A DRAGON! I SWEAR I SAW A DRAGON!

    With all the above in consideration, I am forced to close on a very positive note about this film, one that I hope will be in everyone's hearts for the rest of eternity!

    And I know that people who were born in the 70's like it because my teacher has a little sun catcher of Elliot! Beat that!

    MPAA Rating: G

    My Rating: 1 and up (SERIOUSLY! MY NIECE WATCHED IT AT THIS AGE! SHE STILL LOVES IT!)

    My * rating: 8
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Sunday,Feb. 21st, I took out an old copy of Pete's Dragon, that i have on VHS and decided to watch it. It had been a few years since I'd looked at it.

    I watched it in the company of my significant other, who being a few years younger, had not yet seen it. Well, not only did she like it but I was reminded why I liked it in the first place. For a few of my so called 'grown up years, I'd dismissed it a great deal as 'not Disney's best work'. I also didn't have a nice word for Sean Marshall's (Pete's) singing voice. (I'd roll my eyes during the 'I Love You Too' song.

    Now this past Sunday also, was the Disneyland 60th anniversary show on ABC, in which a preview trailer of the NEW 'Pete's Dragon was shown. I had no idea that a 'new' version of this childhood favorite was coming out soon or was even being made.

    What I can tell anyone who is thinking of going to see the new version is, as I always say about remakes, see the original version first.

    Sure, it was made in 1977 and the special effects aren't the same as what we're used to today....but that's what they had to work with then and what movie goers were used to then as well. Yes, that includes 'green-screen'effects.

    More importantly, what makes Pete's Dragon engaging is that it 'is' so very simple and child-like in most of it's telling. There's a few things said & done by adults in the film that are not up to today's Politically Correct do's & don't's, where kids films are concerned.

    They're a product of the time it was made and by a different generation, so it's best to just consider the era they're from.

    The film over the years has been called things from kiddie-fair, to overly sentimental to emotionally disturbing. None of which are fair labels, nor are they grounded in anything but certain scenes taken out of context.

    I would say that maybe, since it's a movie with a dragon, people then possibly expected Elliot to do more fantastic things than he actually did. He's a funny character with a funny way of talking and uses 'some' of his magic. I'm sure it was expected he'd use that magic on a greater scale.

    Anyhow,the story is this. Pete's an orphaned boy between 10 & 12 who is 'purchased' by the despicable 'Gogan' family, who are dirty, filthy and lazy and use Pete as child slave labor back home. They even have a 'bill of sale'.

    Pete's been befriended by Elliot, a usually invisible but sometimes seen, green Dragon (with little wings) that's helped him escape from the Gogans.

    He and Pete have come upon the quiet seaside town of Passamaquoddy, Maine. (Circa 1910s) Where in no time at all, Elliot makes the possibility of Pete living (and hiding out) there almost impossible.

    Enter Nora (Singer Helen Reddy) and 'Lampie' (Mickey Rooney), who operate the local lighthouse. (It's never made clear if they're co-workers or Father & daughter).

    Lampie is a drinker & former sailor, who actually sees Elliot and is frightened like crazy. Nora (and the boys at the bar) doubt him completely.

    Soon, because of Elliot's antics, it seems the town (except for Nora) is against Pete. Nora takes him in and thinks that Elliot is just something Pete made up.

    As the story goes on, there's other baddies to worry about besides the Gogans. Doc Terminus a snake-oil (fake medicine) salesman and his shill Hoagie arrive also. not just to take money from the townspeople but, when finding out about Elliot, want to get hold of him to use his parts in the things they sell.

    How will all of this turn out? Watch and see.

    In the meantime, I can tell you the songs here are pretty good. Reddy's 'Candle On The Water' is a great number, so much so it w released as a single for radio in1978. All of her numbers are good, as before this she'd had many top selling records. "Brazzle Dazle Day' is also an unforgettable & very catchy number sung by her, Roony & Marshall, as the paint the lighthouse.

    The Gogan's "Bill Of Sale' song is as grungy as they are. not note perfect but they're not perfect either, so it's fitting. Other songs by other characters are sung , 'in character'. To be fair to Pete, Marshall is actually a good singer but is singing as a regular boy like Pete could only be able too.

    So, I feel it was meant to happen that I ended up watching the original the same day as that special. Meaning, I may just go see the new version but it's still good to know that the original's always there.

    Not just to give an idea of what the new version may be like or how it'll be different ..but also, if someone may just like something from a time that was simpler and more easy going.

    9 out of 10 from me, only one off for,again, some questionable dialog and actions from the grown ups in the film. (END)
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