Some dragons just refuse to become extinct. One of those is that furry giant green dragon– Pete’s Dragon. If this story sounds rather familiar to you older readers, well you are right. This was already a Disney film in 1977,based on a Hollywood script. Originally set in the early 20th century in Maine (though filmed in California) this movie featured various pop songs by Helen Reddy and others. This version of the film is different in various respects, not the least of which is the country folk music, and how much less that is featured in this version of the film. This time around the movie was filmed in scenic New Zealand, a decided upgrade from the previous version of the story. The one really recognizable star in this version of the film is Robert Redford as Mr. Meacham, the man who claimed he saw a dragon in the woods many years ago.
One of the regular and celebrated features of the older Disney movies was the relationship between a young child and his or her pet (usually a dog— see Old Yeller cf. the TV show Lassie). There is that sort of endearing quality to this film as well. Pete is an orphan who survives a car crash and the loss of his parents, and lives in the woods with his friend Elliot– the friendly dragon. Now this dragon not only is nothing like Smaug in the Lord of the Rings, he’s positively a homebody who loves children. His special properties other than being like a big friendly dog, is he can make himself invisible and he flies, and yes, if necessary he’s got dragon breath— i.e. flame on. The story has various predictable elements— cruel humans who want to hunt down the dragon once it has become a known quantity misunderstanding the beast. There is also a Jungle Book kind of feel to the movie most of which is set in the wild and involves kid to animal interaction. All in all this movie is a good family film with no objectionable content, but I wouldn’t call it a classic. I’d call it an upgrade from the previous version. It’s not worth getting the 3D effect, and at under two hours, even small children can stay focused on the story. Not bad for end of summer family fare.