Movies Galore takes a look at Pete’s Dragon from Disney’s Director Don Chaffey and Don Bluth from 1977!

Written by David Strege

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Directed by Don Chaffey and Don Bluth who was left uncredited without the consent of either directors which is typical of Movie Mogols in 1977, written by Malcolm Marmostein, this film was one of the adaptations of Disney mixing cartoons with live action that has become a beloved classic by many as it’s the story of Pete and his magical Dragon Elliot.

We are introduced to Pete as he is running through the woods from some bad looking rednecks who apparently use Pete for slave labor where ever they live but Pete’s Best freind is with him A green Dragon with purple hair…

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Now to me Disney has used Dragons before in The Reluctanct Dragon short from 1941 and Sword in the Stone from 1963 but this Dragon is not your normal ordinary Dragon.

Now while Pete is running from the Gogans and Elliot helping they come across a crossroads with a sign leading them to the seaside town of Passamaquoddy where Pete Runs into Nora  which is where Elliot is seen by Lampie (Mickie Rooney) Nora’s father where he begins to tell everyone that he’s seen a monster in fact a Dragon.  Nora and Lampie run the Lighthouse in town and Nora is pretty much waiting for her husband to come home from the sea…

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Ultimately Pete starts living with Nora (Helen Reddy a popular folk singer of the time) where because it’s Disney this version of Pete’s Dragon was more like a musical with popular Show tunes such as “It’s not Easy”, “Candle on the Water” nominated for an academy award but loosing to… “You Light Up My Life” from the same film…

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A tracking salesman comes to town selling medicines from France supposedly by the name of Dr. Terminus who keeps not mispronouncing the towns name but is present in town to hear the ramblings of Lampie and his so called dragon sighting…

Pete on the other hand is made to go to school and cleaned up when only to be waylaid by the Gogans whom Lena Gogan Runs with an iron Heel (Shelley Winters) who claim to have bought the boy from a couple but Nora fights tooth and nail and hides Pete at the lighthouse.

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One sequence I will remember was in the bar with Helen ready as Nora where she gets up on bear barrels and dances while they are rolling to me this was different and unique a blend of how choreography could be displayed much like later with the school children.

At the time this film was heavily criticized upon… one critic Thomas J. Harris in Children’s Live-Action Musical Films: A Critical Survey and Filmography called it to having a Marypoppinish Ending and complained about the fact that there wasn’t really a back story another Leonard Malton? Called it boring and supposed a child could be pleased by the Dragon and “the animated title character so endearing that it almost compensates for the live actors uncomfortable Mugging.”

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To be fair and honest though I think Elliot as a drawing was somewhat corny it was certainly a unique story to me enough to be rememberable and enjoyable to watch as I feel it is in its own right it’s own film, it’s own tale and original in its effects with what they had to work with at the time.

I believe that the critics had this one wrong and believe it holds up to the test of time as a classic!

Starring Helen Reddy as Nora, Jim Dale as
Dr. Terminus, Mickey Rooney as Lampie, Red Buttons as Hoagy, Shelley Winters as
Lena Gogan, Sean Marshall as Pete, Jane Kean as Miss Taylor, Jim Backus as The Mayor, Charles Tyner as Merle, Gary Morgan as Grover, Jeff Conaway as Willie, Cal Bartlett as Paul, Charlie Callas as Elliott (voice), Walter Barnes as Captain, Al Checco as Fisherman #1, Henry Slate as
Fisherman #2, Jack Collins as Fisherman #3, Robert Easton as Store Proprietor, Roger Price as Man with Visor, Robert Foulk as Old Sea Captain, Ben Wrigley as
Egg Man, Joe Ross as Cement Man, Rocky Bonifield as Townspeople / Dancer (uncredited), Patrick Dennis-Leigh as
Elderly Townsman (uncredited), Kim Diamond as Dancer / Townsperson (uncredited), Debra Dilley as
Towns Girl (uncredited), Debbie Fresh as
Child / Dancer / Singer (uncredited), Rusty Gilligan As Child / Dancer / Singer (uncredited), George Golden as White-haired Councilman (uncredited), Ken Renard As African-American Townsman (uncredited), Dinah Anne Rogers as
Townsperson (uncredited), Dee Giffin Scott as Towns Girl (uncredited), Johnny Silver as Small Townsman (uncredited), Dennis Stewart as Fisherman (uncredited), Arthur Tovey as White-haired Townsman (uncredited).

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