Release date: Nov. 3, 1977
Based on: “Pete’s Dragon” (unpublished short story by Seton I. Miller)
Directed by: Don Chaffey
Starring: Helen Reddy, Jim Dale, Mickey Rooney, Red Buttons, Jeff Conaway, Shelley Winters, Jane Kean, Jim Backus, Sean Marshall, Charlie Callas
Budget: $10 million
Box office: $36-39.6 million
An orphan boy finds himself under the protection of a magical dragon while pursued by his adoptive family.
By the 1970s, multiple generations of audiences had come to know Disney and the magic the company could produce. Yet, while a few of its films during the decade had the magic, it lacked in many. Pete’s Dragon is one such example, showcasing how out of touch Disney had become. It’s a complete mess of a film and has way too much going on. There’s the main plot involving the main characters, a side plot involving one of the main characters and a tertiary character who has their own plot. Though they all do converge on each other to become one, the film becomes bloated by its halfway point making it difficult to care about anything happening.
Additionally, most of the musical numbers feel as if they are pointless, existing only to provide unnecessary padding. Few songs in this film are at all memorable and the rest are entirely forgettable. They all drag on too. More than half seem as if they should have ended quite a while before they actually did. It feels as if the filmmakers were unsure how to transition from one scene to the next and instead of trying to make the story better and reduce the bloat, they put in a rather lengthy song to serve as an awkward transition to whatever they had planned next.
The characters are also mostly unlikeable. There are only two or three who are able to employ any sense of logical reasoning and others are completely dense to the point of obnoxiousness. Many characters exhibit this in their belief that Pete is causing damage perpetuated by an invisible Elliot. Not only is the mess not something a child would even be able to do, but one character blames Pete for something she was clearly able to see wasn’t him. Further, while he is one of the smarter characters in this film, Pete spends nearly all of the film being whiny and unpleasant. Elliott comes off as the only somewhat enjoyable character and he’s barely in the film.
A majority of the actors appear like they don’t want to be in this film either. The only one who gives a somewhat decent performance is Rooney whose best scenes are in his introductory musical number. Everybody else’s performances make it clear they had no interest in this film and only wanted to act in something by Disney. The worst performance is Marshall as Pete who is unable to make anything believable.
This is an awful and boring waste of film with the only memorable aspects being some songs which can easily be heard on their own.
Best Music, Original Song (For the song “Candle on the Water.”)
Best Music, Original Song Score and Its Adaptation or Best Adaptation Score
Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA - Saturn Awards
Best Fantasy Film
Best Supporting Actor
Golden Globe Awards
Best Original Score - Motion Picture