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Pete's Dragon: 35th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray Review



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#1 of 55 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted October 11 2012 - 02:53 AM

At the time of its initial release, Disney’s Pete’s Dragon was the most expensive production in the studio’s history. It was yet another attempt for the company to present a fantasy family musical to a general audience hoping that it would rival the popularity of Mary Poppins, and while the film did okay business, it was not given the rapturous reception that greeted that previous award-winning work. (It took the company many more years before Enchanted was able to tap into the same mystique that had enhanced Mary Poppins.) Now in its 35th anniversary year, Pete's Dragon still offers very little magic. It’s colorful and pleasant and features a couple of decent tunes, but charm is largely absent in the movie despite an award-winning cast that’s trying their hardest to give the film some boffo comic sheen.







Pete’s Dragon: 35th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray Combo Pack)
Directed by Don Chaffey

Studio: Disney
Year: 1977
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1   1080p   AVC codec
Running Time: 129 minutes
Rating: G
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 French
Subtitles:  SDH, French


Region: A-B-C
MSRP: $ 29.99



Release Date: October 16, 2012

Review Date: October 11, 2012




The Film

3/5


Pete (Sean Marshall) has run away from the hillbilly Gogan clan who abuse him and treat him as a slave and has ended up on the Maine coast with his trusty dragon Elliott (mumbles by Charlie Callas) with him. Plucky lighthouse keeper Nora (Helen Reddy) and her rascally father Lampie (Mickey Rooney) take him in, and all seems well until medicine man Dr. Terminus (Jim Dale) and his assistant Hoagy (Red Buttons) decide that Elliott’s many parts could be carved up into lots of phony potions to make them rich. With the Gogans headed by the evil Lena (Shelley Winters) looking for Pete and the doctor looking for Elliott, both will need a lot of help to escape capture.


Many of the film’s problems come from extreme overlength. At over two hours, the plot is way too slender to support the kind of overproduction it’s granted here even with ten musical numbers to prop it up. Truth be told, most of the numbers, even with choreography by the Oscar-winning Onna White, are forgettable and unnecessary with the Al Kasha-Joel Hirschhorn songs on the whole not registering in any memorable way. Yes, “The Happiest Home in These Hills” introduces the scraggily Gogans (though it gets the movie off to a very shaky start), “I Love You, Too” helps us get to know Pete and Elliott, and “Passamashloddy” serves as the intro for Dr. Terminus and his henchman, but the songs themselves are long and uneventful. The lighthouse tended by Nora serves as the backdrop for the score’s two best numbers: the lovely “Candle on the Water” as Nora yearns for her love (Cal Bartlett) lost at sea, and the lively “Brazzle Dazzle Day” as the new family tends to chores around the lighthouse. Director Don Chaffey goes along with Disney’s standard operating procedure of the time: lots of slapstick involving mud holes, eggs, tar, and running gags with a white picket fence that keeps getting destroyed and a concrete sidewalk that’s continually ruined. But he can’t seem to do anything about pacing the film to seem shorter than its excruciating running time while production numbers like “There’s Room for Everyone” and “Bill of Sale” just never catch fire.


The director also seems to let his Oscar-Emmy-Tony-Grammy award winning cast mug and overact for the camera at every opportunity. Mickey Rooney, Red Buttons, Jim Dale, and Shelley Winters, all great talents, seem to be in a contest for who can put on the goofiest, most overdrawn performance in the film, and it’s a photo finish. In the film’s two pivotal roles, however, he has the opposite problem: neither Sean Marshall as Pete nor Helen Reddy as Nora possess an ounce of screen charisma or charm, both badly needed in a fantasy movie where they are the protagonists. Reddy sings sweetly but shows no passion and Marshall’s pale voice and inexperience doesn’t help matters much. Elliott can be a fun creation (animation supervised by Don Bluth before he left the studio), but a little of him goes a long way.



Video Quality

4.5/5


The film has been framed at 1.66:1 for this presentation and is offered in 1080p using the AVC codec. It’s a gorgeous transfer with rich, bright color that never blooms and accurate and appealing flesh tones. It’s generally very sharp, too, though there are a couple of scenes that are inconsistent with what comes before or after. Black levels are only good rather than great. The film has been divided into 24 chapters.



Audio Quality

3.5/5


The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix isn’t anything special and doesn’t use the soundstage optimally. There is some bleed from the orchestra into the rear channels during the main titles and the musical numbers, but most of the movie has a monophonic presence. Even the climactic storm at sea sequence finds nothing being done surround-wise to make it more exciting or immersive. Dialogue has been well recorded and has been placed in the center channel.



Special Features

2.5/5


All of the bonus material is presented in 480i.


“Brazzle Dazzle Effects: Behind Disney’s Movie Magic” is a 25 ½-minute summary of Disney’s history of marrying live action with animation going all the way back to the 1920s “Alice” shorts and right up through The Three Caballeros, Song of the South, Fun and Fancy Free, Mary Poppins, and others. The now grown Sean Marshall narrates this featurette which also offers a look at Disney inventor and technician Ub Iwerks and his great importance to the Disney magic, and Marshall also shares memories of making the movie with some behind-the-scenes shots of the cast and crew at work.


There is a deleted scene shown in storyboard form where the medicine men hunt Elliott. It runs 2 ½ minutes.


An original story concept for “I Love You, Too” is presented in a 2 ½-minute storyboard and temp track.


Two reissue trailers are presented in a montage that runs 2 ½ minutes.


The disc offers promo trailers for Cinderella and Wreck-It Ralph.


The second disc in the set is the DVD version of the movie.



In Conclusion

3/5 (not an average)


Don’t let the packaging fool you: it states that the film runs 88 minutes (the press release repeats this error), but this is the 129-minute version of Pete’s Dragon complete with near-reference picture quality and some of the bonus material from the last DVD release ported over. The film is a pleasant but forgettable entertainment, but at least this puts another film from the Disney vaults out for public consumption.




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#2 of 55 OFFLINE   rsmithjr

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Posted October 11 2012 - 03:18 AM

I saw this film in original release at Radio City Music Hall and it has been a family favorite ever since. Saw it with my 6-year-old daughter and perhaps my then-1-year-old son (I did things like take him to movies when he was 1, he ended up in film school.) Anyway, we loved it. Both of them are very anxious for this Blu-ray. My daughter likes watching it with her two children. I disagree with the reviewer and find it very charming and enjoyable. No, it is not Mary Poppins, and yes it tries to be, but it comes closer than some might think. Thanks for the thoughts about the film.

#3 of 55 OFFLINE   Virgoan

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Posted October 11 2012 - 04:42 AM

There are a handful of Disney productions that totally lack appeal for me. This is one of them! Others are "The Happiest Millionaire" and "The One and Only Original Family Band". We are all different in our tastes, and our original viewing of films often establish how we will feel about them for the rest of our lives (even the so-called great ones we initially disliked and cannot find ourselves willing to reassess many years later). "Pete's Dragon", for all its merchandising at the time of release, lacked charm, whimsy or interest for me as a young adult. I had no children through whose eyes I might have been able to see it, so I understand how it can be a family favorite for many. Wish I could feel that way about it.

#4 of 55 OFFLINE   Adam Gregorich

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Posted October 11 2012 - 04:47 AM

Originally Posted by Virgoan 

There are a handful of Disney productions that totally lack appeal for me. This is one of them! Others are "The Happiest Millionaire" and "The One and Only Original Family Band".

We are all different in our tastes, and our original viewing of films often establish how we will feel about them for the rest of our lives (even the so-called great ones we initially disliked and cannot find ourselves willing to reassess many years later).

"Pete's Dragon", for all its merchandising at the time of release, lacked charm, whimsy or interest for me as a young adult. I had no children through whose eyes I might have been able to see it, so I understand how it can be a family favorite for many.

Wish I could feel that way about it.

Funny.  Happiest Millionaire is one of my wife's favorites (I tend to agree with you on it), and Pete's Dragon is not my favorite, but up there.  Can't wait to get the BD and share it with my kids for the first time.



#5 of 55 OFFLINE   Rick Thompson

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Posted October 11 2012 - 07:26 AM

True, the picture isn't much, other than much too long. But the "Candle on the Water" sequence is worth the price all by itself. It's a case where the director was content to let a beautiful song have the room it needed without a bunch of "Hey, look at me! I'm here and I'm brilliant!" over-staging and rapid cuts -- just one long, gradually zooming in, take. Just excellent!

#6 of 55 OFFLINE   MatthewA

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Posted October 11 2012 - 07:53 AM

I agree with Robert. On its own terms, I have always found it delightful, though the editing of the film has always seemed pretty "off" to me.


While it's good Disney put effort into the transfer, there are extras missing. If they could fit on a one-disc DVD 3 years ago, then why not here?


Enough is enough, Disney. No more evasions or excuses. We DEMAND the release Song of the South on Blu-ray along with the uncut version of Bedknobs and Broomsticks on Blu-ray. I am going to boycott The Walt Disney Company until then.


#7 of 55 OFFLINE   Colin Jacobson

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Posted October 11 2012 - 09:27 AM

I've written nearly 5000 reviews over the last 14 years, and along with "10 Things I Hate About You", I've gotten the most e-mail about "Pete's Dragon".


I've been called many a horrible name by folks who defend the movie due to its gentle charms - kinda ironic, don't you think?


I was 10 when I saw "Dragon" and I'm sure I liked it back then.  As an adult, though, I find the film to be an atrocity, one of the most cloying, annoying cinematic concoctions ever screened.  I WANT to like it but just can't stomach the thing - it's as awful as awful can be.


Can't wait to run my Blu-ray review so I can generate a whole new run of hate mail! Posted Image


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#8 of 55 OFFLINE   NY2LA

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Posted October 11 2012 - 09:35 AM

It always bothers me when previous extras are left off a new edition. Clearly the studios usually do not consider those who have bought it before or even look at the previous edition. I had just moved to NYC when this movie came out. Heard of the premiere and went to Radio City to see who came. While I didn't get the best view of the arrivals I was surprised to find that there were tickets available for that showing. (plenty, apparently) When the movie began, there was this roar of applause and cheering from the first mezzanine (where the more expensive, reserved seats were). I roamed around the place during the screening, and noticed that, while the rest of us on the main floor and presumably anyone in the other two mezzanine-balconies (which weren't full either) were pretty quiet throughout the film, there continued to be a substantially loud and raucous reaction from the first mezzanine. Obviously that's where the cast and studio people were. Maybe I might have felt differently about Pete's Dragon had I still been a kid when it came out. While it was okay to sit through once, I found the movie paled to Bedknobs and Broomsticks and certainly to Poppins, and even as young as I was I could recognize the studio's efforts to make those films LOOK like Poppins. Not just in formula onscreen, but especially in the ads. Most ads for Poppins put the title in what looked like lightbulbs on a rooftop sign. Unfortunately Disney scrapped the much nicer art for Bedknobs (see the original LP album cover) in favor of a very cheezy 70s "general release" poster right from the beginning but still spelled the title out in lights. (The title was rendered in actual lights for the tail end of the stage show that accompanied Bedknobs at the Music Hall). Pete's Dragon had the ad title in neon, again trying to mimic Poppins. Actually I think some ads for Millionaire used the rooftop sign look too. I've heard about different cuts of Pete's Dragon. Is this one as complete as its fans would want it? I didn't get to see Family Band for years after it came out, but liked it, though not as much as I did Millionaire and Bedknobs, which again, i saw as a kid. Even as an adult I feel Bedknobs (though I would have preferred the Sherman's vaudeville sequence to the soccer game) is a better film than Dragon. There has been talk of a Bedknobs stage version for years. Has anyone else wondered why this one came out on Blu before Bedknobs?

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Posted October 11 2012 - 11:36 AM

I like the film, but it is no Mary Poppins. It's not even Bedknobs and Broomsticks (which comes closest to replicating Poppins' magic, but still nowhere near.)

#10 of 55 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted October 11 2012 - 11:38 AM

Surely Bedknobs and Broomsticks will be forthcoming next year. It appears DIsney is interested in putting out second tier vault titles now on Blu-ray (and I really like Bedknobs but it only made the kind of money for a second tier title in their eyes.)



#11 of 55 OFFLINE   NY2LA

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Posted October 11 2012 - 12:15 PM

Surely Bedknobs and Broomsticks will be forthcoming next year. It appears DIsney is interested in putting out second tier vault titles now on Blu-ray (and I really like Bedknobs but it only made the kind of money for a second tier title in their eyes.)

I like the film, but it is no Mary Poppins. It's not even Bedknobs and Broomsticks (which comes closest to replicating Poppins' magic, but still nowhere near.)

I agree with both you guys, but please don't call me Surely... ;)

#12 of 55 OFFLINE   Jay Taylor

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Posted October 11 2012 - 12:49 PM

I was in the U.S. Air Force on an AWACS crew in 1979 when the American Embassy in Iran was taken over and the diplomats held hostage.  Our crew was deployed to a desert location where a few weeks into the crisis they began showing and re-showing the few movies that we had in a makeshift theater in a bunker.  One of those movies was Pete's Dragon.


After about three showings of this movie we "crew dogs" had most of the script and songs memorized so naturally our participation became reminiscent of a midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. It was hilarious watching the entire audience mock this movie, especially when we mimicked the dragon Elliott's "lyrics" to the song I Love You Too.


So to myself and those who served at that isolated desert hell hole, Pete's Dragon will forever be considered a cult classic!


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#13 of 55 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted October 11 2012 - 02:06 PM

Thanks for sharing that truly funny story, Jay!

#14 of 55 OFFLINE   Colin Jacobson

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Posted October 11 2012 - 02:45 PM

Originally Posted by NY2LA 

It always bothers me when previous extras are left off a new edition. Clearly the studios usually do not consider those who have bought it before or even look at the previous edition.
I had just moved to NYC when this movie came out. Heard of the premiere and went to Radio City to see who came. While I didn't get the best view of the arrivals I was surprised to find that there were tickets available for that showing. (plenty, apparently) When the movie began, there was this roar of applause and cheering from the first mezzanine (where the more expensive, reserved seats were). I roamed around the place during the screening, and noticed that, while the rest of us on the main floor and presumably anyone in the other two mezzanine-balconies (which weren't full either) were pretty quiet throughout the film, there continued to be a substantially loud and raucous reaction from the first mezzanine. Obviously that's where the cast and studio people were.
Maybe I might have felt differently about Pete's Dragon had I still been a kid when it came out. While it was okay to sit through once, I found the movie paled to Bedknobs and Broomsticks and certainly to Poppins, and even as young as I was I could recognize the studio's efforts to make those films LOOK like Poppins. Not just in formula onscreen, but especially in the ads. Most ads for Poppins put the title in what looked like lightbulbs on a rooftop sign. Unfortunately Disney scrapped the much nicer art for Bedknobs (see the original LP album cover) in favor of a very cheezy 70s "general release" poster right from the beginning but still spelled the title out in lights. (The title was rendered in actual lights for the tail end of the stage show that accompanied Bedknobs at the Music Hall). Pete's Dragon had the ad title in neon, again trying to mimic Poppins. Actually I think some ads for Millionaire used the rooftop sign look too.
I've heard about different cuts of Pete's Dragon. Is this one as complete as its fans would want it?
I didn't get to see Family Band for years after it came out, but liked it, though not as much as I did Millionaire and Bedknobs, which again, i saw as a kid. Even as an adult I feel Bedknobs (though I would have preferred the Sherman's vaudeville sequence to the soccer game) is a better film than Dragon. There has been talk of a Bedknobs stage version for years.
Has anyone else wondered why this one came out on Blu before Bedknobs?


I suspect it's just a better seller.  I think "Pete's Dragon" does pretty well on home video.  I never got e-mails attacking my "Bedknobs" review! Posted Image


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#15 of 55 OFFLINE   SilverWook

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Posted October 11 2012 - 04:21 PM

There are a handful of Disney productions that totally lack appeal for me. This is one of them! Others are "The Happiest Millionaire" and "The One and Only Original Family Band". We are all different in our tastes, and our original viewing of films often establish how we will feel about them for the rest of our lives (even the so-called great ones we initially disliked and cannot find ourselves willing to reassess many years later). "Pete's Dragon", for all its merchandising at the time of release, lacked charm, whimsy or interest for me as a young adult. I had no children through whose eyes I might have been able to see it, so I understand how it can be a family favorite for many. Wish I could feel that way about it.

Was there much merchandise outside the theme parks? I haunted toy aisles almost weekly in 1977, but never saw anything of Elliot the dragon. I would love to own a cel of the big green guy, but they command quite a lot to this day.

#16 of 55 OFFLINE   NY2LA

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Posted October 11 2012 - 05:10 PM

I suspect it's just a better seller.  I think "Pete's Dragon" does pretty well on home video.  I never got e-mails attacking my "Bedknobs" review! :D

I've never seen your Bedknobs review. The opinions of others about a movie itself have had no bearing whatsoever on my decision to buy movies I've already seen, and I don't buy a movie unless I already know I want it. What influences me is how the movie is mastered, authored, presented, and what extras are there. I'd be surprised if Pete's Dragon ranked below Bedknobs on ANY list.

#17 of 55 OFFLINE   NY2LA

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Posted October 11 2012 - 05:17 PM

Was there much merchandise outside the theme parks? I haunted toy aisles almost weekly in 1977, but never saw anything of Elliot the dragon. I would love to own a cel of the big green guy, but they command quite a lot to this day.

This was after warehouses filled with unsold plush Pushmi-Pullyu toys, and before Star Wars merch took off and turned the tide. Aside from maybe the usual coloring books, kids story books and soundtrack album that came out on any kid-related title, there wasn't a lot of merchandising for Pete's Dragon.

#18 of 55 OFFLINE   Ethan Riley

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Posted October 12 2012 - 05:12 AM

Was there much merchandise outside the theme parks? I haunted toy aisles almost weekly in 1977, but never saw anything of Elliot the dragon. I would love to own a cel of the big green guy, but they command quite a lot to this day.

Of couse you didn't see much of Elliot the Dragon.... he's invisible!
 

 


#19 of 55 OFFLINE   Mark Oates

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Posted October 12 2012 - 05:33 AM

I always thought Elliot bore a remarkable resemblance to Dame Margaret Rutherford...
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#20 of 55 OFFLINE   SilverWook

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Posted October 12 2012 - 11:12 AM

Of couse you didn't see much of Elliot the Dragon.... he's invisible!

Touche'! ;) I have seen some Elliot merchandise in the Disney stores in recent years though.





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