January 14, 2013
Sean Marshall, Helen Reddy, Mickey Rooney, and Jim Dale
Since every Disney movie grosses 300 million dollars
nowadays and becomes an instant classic the minute it hits the screen,
most people who grew up in the 90's or the 2000's would probably assume
that it has always been that way. Yes, if you grew up in the
past 25 years or so, I am guessing you probably assume that Disney has
always been a monster. And that their movies have always been
the best of the best. And that Disney has never had a problem
cranking out one hit movie after another.
Well, that perception is fun, but unfortunately it would also
Disney was a wasteland when I was a kid. They
weren't producing anything even remotely memorable. I know
how astounding that will sound to anyone who didn't grow up in the late
70's/early 80's, but it is true. Between about 1972 to about
1988, Disney was practically as nonexistent as nonexistent can be.
They weren't on anyone's radar as a great moviemaking studio
anymore. In fact, when I was a kid, I remember the perception
of Disney was that they were great back when they were making Mary
Poppins and Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. But they had
been coasting by on that reputation for nearly 20 years. And
that Disneyland was just a big tribute to the kind of movies that they
USED to do.
If you go back and look at the kind of movies that Disney was
cranking out in the 1970's, you will see a ton of nothing. It
is just one forgettable live action kid's movie after another.
Some of them were minor hits. Some of them just
faded directly into obscurity. Some of them I see the title
now and I don't remember a single thing about them. But you
will be shocked when you see how obsolete Disney was for nearly a
decade and a half. It wasn't until Beauty and the Beast and
The Little Mermaid came around in the late 80's that they really sort
of made a comeback and became relevant again.
And then we come to this one, Pete's Dragon
In my opinion there were only three significant Disney productions
during that 15 year time period of the Disney wasteland.
There was the Fox and the Hound, which was memorable but was
probably too sad to be all that beloved. There
was The Black
Hole, which I personally loved (and I might write about it later) but
which is now known as probably the biggest flop in Disney history.
And then of course, there is my favorite. Pete's Dragon from
In my opinion Pete's Dragon is the one really good movie from that
whole era of the Disney wasteland. It is my favorite of the
big Disney movies of the era, yet for some inexplicable reason it
is the only one of the three that has sort of been relegated to the
garbage can of history. Nowadays it is almost unheard of for
people to even REMEMBER that it was a Disney movie. Let alone
be able to tell you how good it was.
First off, I have to admit that Pete's Dragon was the very first movie
I ever saw in a theater. My mom took me to see it when I was
four years old. And needless to say, since I grew up to be
such a big movie buff this was kind of a big deal. You never
forget your first movie. Especially when you watch and think
about movies as much as I do. Pete's Dragon has always had an
enormous impact on my life because it was my first.
I can't tell you how many times I saw this movie when I was a
kid. Whenever my family went to the video store and we rented
a VCR (remember, this was 1980, back then you didn't rent movies you
had to rent the VCR too!) I always talked my parents into renting
Pete's Dragon. Oh, how I loved it. I remember I had
the soundtrack on vinyl, I had the read along storybook, I had the
toys, I had the board game, I had the Viewmaster cartridge. I
had everything. The way that a lot of people nowadays feel
about Toy Story, well that's how I felt about Pete's Dragon.
It was the absolute center of my childhood movie experience.
It also has Mickey Rooney overacting like an idiot. Which is
Pete's Dragon came out in 1977 and it was a pretty big hit for its
time. Audiences were amazed at its combination of live action
acting and animation, which remember, at that point in history, really
had only been successfully done in a handful of movies. Mary
Poppins and Bedknobs and Broomsticks are the two big ones I can think
of. But by 1977 animation techniques had come a long way, and
when Pete's Dragon came out it was considered to be a technical
You watch Pete's Dragon now, and you think that actors
interacting with a cartoon is no big deal, but you have to keep in mind
when this movie came out. In 1977, from an animation point of
view, the effects in this movie were as impressive as Star Wars.
Remember, Who Framed Roger Rabbit (which admittedly did the
exact same type of visual effects, only better) didn't come out for
more than a decade.
This type of shot was practically impossible in 1977. Yet
Pete's Dragon did it.
Pete's Dragon had amazing special effects for its time. It
had amazing songs for its time. Again, this has also sort of
been forgotten by history, but there are about ten great songs in this
movie. In fact I would say there are as many memorable songs
in Pete's Dragon as there have ever been in any Disney movie.
And yes that includes Mary Poppins.
One of the songs in Pete's Dragon (Candle on the Water) was even
nominated for an Academy Award. Does anyone ever remember
that? Of course not.
Candle on the Water - a beautiful song that still holds up
But here is the thing about Pete's Dragon. Yes, it had great
special effects. Yes it had a really good soundtrack.
Yes it had an appealing lead actor (Sean Marshall).
But those aren't the things that I think of when I think of
Pete's Dragon. Nope. This movie had all of those
things going for it, I would have recommended it to you just for the
animation and the music alone, but they were NOT my favorite things
about Pete's Dragon when I was a kid.
Jim Dale as Doc Terminus. My favorite Disney villain ever.
Ah yes. Doc Terminus. The greatest Disney villain
of allll tiiiiiiime.
Seriously, if there is one reason you should watch Pete's Dragon, it is
for the villains. Or rather, should I say, the hammy
overacting villains. Because there may have never been a
movie with more hammy over the top scene chewing villains than Pete's
Aside from Doc Terminus there are also the Gogans
Jim Dale is my favorite of the villains. His work as Doc
Terminus is so over the top and broad it is like looking at the Mona
Lisa. I remember just being entranced watching him when I was
a kid. Even though he was supposed to be the bad guy he was
always my favorite character in the movie. I would just sit
there and watch Pete's Dragon and wait for the scenes where Jim Dale
would show up. Even as a kid I could tell he was having so
Red Buttons and Jim Dale performing my favorite song in the movie,
"Every Little Piece."
Pete's Dragon is chock full of actors hamming it and trying to overact
one another. Again, remember, this movie stars Mickey Rooney.
Mickey Rooney has always been the definition of broad
Mickey Rooney subtly trying to convey an emotion
And again, don't forget this. This will haunt your
Mickey Rooney. Jeff Conaway (from Grease). Shelley
Winters. Red Buttons. Not a subtle nuanced actor
among the bunch. It is just one big overacting cheese
festival with everyone trying to be the broadest. It is like
watching a Chris Farley festival.
But again, no one beats Jim Dale.
If Pete's Dragon were a Murderer's Row of hammy overactors, Jim Dale
would be the Babe Ruth. I really think he should have won
some sort of an award for this.
Jim Dale and Red Buttons. The stars of the movie.
In short, Pete's Dragon isn't the greatest movie in the world.
Some of the effects don't hold up that well nowadays, most of
the acting is broad and as cheesy as hell, and at two hours long it is
way too long for a children's movie. But man, the stuff that
is fun in the movie is REALLY fun. I just watched it the
other day for the first time in like fifteen years, and I was surprised
to see how awesome the soundtrack still is. In fact, I
currently have about eight songs from Pete's Dragon on my iPod.
While I can kind of understand how the movie might have been
forgotten by time, in no way will I ever understand how the soundtrack
could have been forgotten. Pete's Dragon has one of the
better soundtracks of any Disney movie. It is a shame that
stuff like "Candle on the Water" and "Every Little Piece" and "Brazzle
Dazzle Day" and (a personal favorite) "Bill of Sale" could
have ever been forgotten.
I am not going to sit here and tell you that Pete's Dragon is a
masterpiece. I am not going to sit here and tell you it is
better than stuff like Finding Nemo or Toy Story. However it
is a lot better than most anything else that Disney was cranking out in
the 70's and 80's. And it is sad that only people my age (mid
to late 30's) seem to even remember it. It is one of those
rare movies in the world that is both underrated and overrated.
People my age who grew up with it and remember it as a
milestone of our youth probably overrate it. And
then everyone who sees it later and compares it to other
Disney movies probably underrates it.
I don't know. All I know is that I loved Pete's Dragon when I
was a kid. And I watched it again a couple of days ago and I
think it is a really fun movie. The soundtrack is great.
Jim Dale is a trip. The Gogans steal every scene
they are in. Mickey Rooney is ridiculous. And not
in a good way, but at least in a fun way.
It might not be the greatest movie in the world, but it never should
have been a forgotten one.
I'll swallow your soul
favorite IMDB user reviews about Pete's Dragon
Obviously one of Disney's
finest few - 4 February 2007
1977 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
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.
actor Conaway is still remembered all these years later (outside
'Kenicki' in GREASE) as one of the bumbling, hillbilly brothers.
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
Not Mary Poppins but a
"Brazzle-Dazzle" Movie - 12 July 2012
many people, I am in the process of upgrading my collection from VHS to
DVD/Blu-Ray. This was on-sale at Amazon. What a surprise! Much better
than I remember it. Great songs and cast with great performances by Red
Buttons and Mickey Rooney. Shelly Winters plays a wonderfully-horrible
villain with "blackout" teeth. A simple story about a dragon that only
Pete can see (at first) and clever dragon mechanical effects: Pete
riding Elliott, toasting apples, dragon footprints, his "outline" on
the schoolhouse wall, thrashing around inside a whale-sized net. The
dragon animation by Don Bluth is fanciful, which is good because this
is a children's' movie. Some technical glitches, as the "yellowscreen"
(sodium vapor) process renders Elliott the Dragon somewhat transparent
and prone to color-shifts. But this is not something that kids care
about anyway. Although "Candle on the Water" is the Oscar-wining song,
I bet you start humming "Brazzle-Dazzle Day" as the movie ends!
Solid but forgotten
Disney family fare - 12 February 2012
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
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
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
Simply Amazing! - 17
saw this movie sometime in the very early 1980s on TV, and I absolutely
loved it. Then for all these decades I never saw it again until a week
ago I requested it on DVD from our public library. I was allowed to
keep it for a week (and sadly have to return it today). I watched it
every single day of the week! This is one of the best movies ever made.
It was filmed before the obsession of computer generated "realism"
started. Instead of CGI, it relies on its performers, on music, on pure
photography, and, for the dragon himself, on a cartoon. All of them
were topnotch back then and still are topnotch today.
character, Pete, is played by a multi-talented twelve-year old Sean
Marshall who has to be one of the best twelve-year-old performers I
have ever seen (and I have seen quite a few as I have lived in a number
of very different countries in my more than half a century). This kid
has an amazingly powerful voice. His facial expressions can show so
many emotions. He can carry any tune in his singing. He has a wonderful
sense of rhythm, whether in the way he sings and dances, or in the way
he talks and walks. How any of the reviewers below can be critical of
this talented young man (yes, really, at twelve he had the full talents
of a grown-up man!) is beyond me.
This movie is amazing. The only bad thing about it is that I have to
return it back to the library already!
One of the best
underrated live-action Disney films - 23 January 2008
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
One of the last
representatives of an era - 16 December 2010
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 being obsolete
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.
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
Jim Dale is hilarious as the sly as a fox and
corrupt Dr. Terminus and Red Buttons is priceless 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!
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.
Weirdly Compelling - 21
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? Viewers 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
favorite scene in Pete's Dragon
Really, any scene with Doc Terminus is going to be a good one.
Like one of the IMDB user reviews mentioned above, Jim Dale
chews the scenery like he is a James Bond villain. But my
favorite two scenes in the movie are his two songs: "Passamashloddy"
and "Every Little Piece." That is Pete's Dragon at its best.
at the IMDB
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