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Pete's Dragon (1977) BD [Blu-ray] [Region Free]
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When an orphan named Pete and his best friend Elliott--an invisible dragon--wander into the seaside village of Passamaquoddy, the townspeople think he is behind the hilarious "accidents" that keep happening. But after a daring rescue, everyone starts to believe in Pete's fire-breathing buddy. Get ready for the magical adventure filled with friendship, fun and heart-warming songs, including the 1977 Academy Award Best Song nominee, "Candle On The Water".
- Brazzle Dazzle Effects: Behind Disney’s Movie Magic
- Deleted Storyboard Sequence: “Terminus & Hoagy Hunt Elliott”
- Original Song Concept: “Boo Bop Bopbop Bop (I Love You, Too)”
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Anyway, now that's over with, onto the movie. I like it. It has a great storyline, great characters, good songs, and one of the most loveable dragons in movie history! As for the actors, for the most part they do a good job (especially the late Mickey Rooney as Lampie, Jim Dale as Doc. Terminus and Helen Reddy as Nora).
Elliot (the dragon) is so loveable and so funny, you just can't help smiling whenever he's around, even when he's causing havoc in Passamaquoddy. I was a little unsure about buying the blu-ray instead of the DVD, as I thought that Elliot might not have aged well (being a traditionally animated character in a live action movie that's now in a HD format), but he looked as good as he ever has done. I once read a review of the movie (not on Amazon) that said that Elliot's colour was always changing hue, which to them was distracting. This is true, but if you look closer, you can see that it changes whenever Elliot moves into or out of the light.
Even though he's one of the villains, I can't help but love Doc. Terminus, as he's so funny (and he gets to sing one of Disney's best villain songs EVER). It's clear that Jim Dale had a lot of fun with this role - he takes a character who could have been a classically Disney villain i.e. evil personified, and make him human, but still evil at times. Also, Red Buttons as Hoagy makes a great villain's sidekick/foil.
Now onto the blu-ray. The movie looks really good on blu-ray. I do wish, however, that there were more special features - there's a "making of" featurette, trailers, the original version of "I love you too" and the storyboard for a deleted scene, so there's about the same as you'd expect on an average DVD release, not a blu-ray.
All in all, I think it's worth it.
It's the kind of thing that the Mary Poppins team of director Robert Stevenson and composers the Sherman Brothers could have pulled off, but it doesn't quite work - all the potential elements are there but many of the songs aren't quite good enough, the choreography not quite there, some of the performances a tad off-key and the look of the film at times more like TV than film. Of the cast only Jim Dale really sells any of his numbers as a travelling medicine man who's a cross between P.T. Barnum and J. Worthington Foulfellow, and is at least rewarded with the film's only real showstopper, Every Little Piece. Elsewhere, director Don Chaffey doesn't always seem comfortable with the musical numbers. He's fine with the more intimate ones but during the big numbers he doesn't always seem too sure where to put the camera to best showcase them.
One of the last things Don Bluth animated at Disney before leading many of the other animators who worked on the film out to form their own company to produce The Secret of NIMH, the paunchy Elliot feels more like a character from one of Bluth's lesser films than a classic Disney creation. Based partially on Wallace Beery with a more overtly loveably stupid persona, he's not always as well integrated into the live-action as earlier Disney animated crossover characters either, leaving the feeling that somewhere along the way someone decided that it was good enough for a kid's film when you suspect had Disney been running the show himself he'd have pushed harder to get it right (that said, even he had trouble recapturing the Poppins magic with films like The Happiest Millionaire). Not that that's a problem limited to the animation. At times it feels like they're aiming down at the family market too much with none of the smartness that would widen the appeal of later animated features to adults as well, which can make parts of it awkward watching for anyone approaching puberty let alone those having passed it. It picks up as it goes and has some good moments but never really gels as much more than a guilty pleasure or a bit of nostalgia for those who saw it as kids.
A box-office hit but far from the Mary Poppins-style blockbuster they were hoping for, the film had a chequered release history. Premiering at 134 minutes it was constantly trimmed down, initially to 121 minutes for its general release in the US, but by the time it was released overseas it had lost 27 minutes including, inexplicably, the Oscar-nominated song Candle on the Water which served as a lynchpin for the film's score, while some TV prints were slashed to 91 minutes (Disney would do the same thing with their international release of Popeye a few years later, trimming the film by half an hour and losing several songs en route).
Luckily, the `High Flying' DVD edition is the longest surviving version (though still missing some six minutes) and comes with a heftier package of extras than is listed on the packaging - among them a deleted storyboard sequence, a 25-minute documentary about the development of integrating animation and live action, brief profile of animator Ken Anderson, demo versions of four songs, pop promo re-recordings of four others, art galleries and a reissue trailer (though the 1973 short Man, Monsters and Mysteries featuring an animated Loch Ness Monster that was on the first US DVD of the shorter version of the film has been dropped).
Disney's 35th anniversary US Blu-ray edition loses most of the extras, keeping only the deleted scene, storyboard promo, the 25-minute animation documentary and a couple of trailers - but is the 129-minute version and is region-free. However, in another backward step, Disney's international Bluray release available in the UK is the cut 106-minute version, which seems particularly nonsensical when a restored master exists.
Anyhoo, I was raised on this film too and the songs are great and the storyline is fab too. What with a stellar cast and a great big green dragon - you just can't go wrong. Elliott the dragon is pretty cute too.
I'm not sure why, like the other films in this ilk (Mary Poppins, Bedknobs and Broomsticks etc) this one gets passed over. I would recommend it if you enjoy these kind of Disney films and not the boring full animation kind.
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