'Pete's Dragon (High-Flying Edition)'
(Jim Backus, Walter Barnes, et al / DVD / G / (1977) 2009 / Disney)
Overview: Pete, a young orphan, runs away to a Maine fishing town with his best friend--a lovable, sometimes invisible dragon named Elliott! When they are taken in by a kind lighthouse keeper, Nora (Helen Reddy), and her father (Mickey Rooney), Elliott's prank playing lands them in big trouble. Then, when crooked salesmen try to capture Elliott for their own gain, Pete must attempt a daring rescue.
DVD Verdict: When PETE'S DRAGON premiered in 1977, I was extremely excited that a MARY POPPINS/BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS-type Disney movie was arriving. I listened to the various records over and over. I even was fortunate enough to see Wally Boag himself appearing at the Lakes Mall in Lauderdale Lakes, Florida, in which the "Every Little Piece" sequence was recreated with an Elliott puppet that popped out of the box.
I loved the movie, though probably not as much as MP or B&B. It's very much like the other frothy Disney comedies of the period, only an hour longer and with songs. I would have preferred something with just a tad more gravity, though not as dark as today's movie fantasies.
That said, it's still very entertaining and captures a period when the Disney studio had a backlot and you could smile at the sight of familiar faces like Jane Kean and Jim Backus. The score deserves better appreciation that it has received in recent years.
The idea of an animated Elliott cavorting with humans was not miraculous even in 1977, since Tony the Tiger and friends did it frequently on TV). It of course reached the next level with ROGER RABBIT. Thanks to outstanding animation, Elliott's soars beyond a mere gimmick.
A couple of trivia gems: the screenwriter, Malcolm Marmorstein, was one of the writers for TV's DARK SHADOWS and, if you're a fan of the TV classic THE PRISONER, many of its episodes were directed by PETE'S DRAGON director Don Chaffey.
The new DVD, while not including an audio commentary, does improve on the previous edition in a major way -- at least to a Disney music buff like me. There are a selection of demo recordings and a handful of Kids of the Kingdom-style "pop versions" of the songs I had not heard before. "Brazzle Dazzle Day" had a different melody with mostly different lyrics. "Every Little Piece" had the same lyrics with an "If I Were a Rich Man"-like melody. "It's Not Easy" had alternate lyrics that transformed it into a romantic love song. And there's even a deleted song called "The Greatest Star of All," clearly intended for Jim Dale's character, Terminus. These alone make the new DVD worth getting. [GE] This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Sneak Peeks: Snow White on Blu-ray, The Prince & The Frog (theatrical), Disney Blu-ray, Hannah Montana the Movie, Up, D23, Earth, and Tinkerbell: The Lost Treasure.
Brazzle Dazzle Effects - Documentary (25:23): Narrated by Sean Marshall (Pete) who is heard present day, but never seen!
Deleted Storyboard Sequence: "Terminus & Hoagy Hunt Elliott" (2:25)
Original Song Concept: "Boo Bop BopBop Bop (I Love You Too)" (2:35)
Original Demo Recordings (all from February 11, 1976): Brazzle Dazzle Day: Alternate song, first attempt. The song was liked by re-written;
Every Little Piece: Alternate melody. Thought to be too somber, the lyrics were kept, but the melody was rewritten; The Greatest Star of All: Deleted song for a deleted character. Artist Ken Anderson thought 2 villains were not needed, so both song and character were cut.
Promotional Record: Pop versions of songs from the movie released on a 7" Vista record are presented here: It's Not Easy, Brazzle Dazzle Day, There's Room For Everyone, Candle on the Water.
Art Galleries: Concept Art, Behind-the-scenes, and publicity galleries.
Trailers: International & Theatrical Trailers
"About Pete's Dragon": 5 screens with production notes about the movie.
"Disney Family Album" (excerpt, 2:20): About artist Ken Anderson.
"The Plausible Impossible" (excerpt, 3:36): From the Disneyland TV show, October 31, 1956.
"Lighthouse Keeping" (1956, 6:45): Donald Duck cartoon.