Pete’s Dragon (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
November 27, 2016 by Dennis Amith
Disney’s “Pete’s Dragon” is a magical, adventurous, live-action family film that may be different from the 1977 live-action, animated musical, but this new story from director David Lowery and co-writer Toby Halbrook is entertaining and so much fun. I absolutely enjoyed it! “Pete’s Dragon” is recommended!
TITLE: Pete’s Dragon
FILM RELEASE: 2016
DURATION: 103 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, (2:39:1), English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 2.0 Description Audio, Spanish and French 5.1 Dolby Digital Language Tracks, Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish and French
RATED: PG (For Action, Peril and Brief Language)
RELEASE DATE: November 29, 2016
Directed by David Lowery
Based on the Story by Steon I. Miller and S.S. Field
Screenplay by David Lowery, Toby Halbrooks
Produced by James Whitaker
Co-Producer: Adam Borba
Associate Producer: Carthew Neal
Executive Producer: Barrie M. Osborne
Music by Daniel Hart
Cinematography by Bojan Bazelli
Edited by Lisa Zeno Churgin
Casting by Debra Zane
Production Design by Jade Healy
Art Direction by Ken Turner
Set Decoration by Simon Bright, Adam Willis
Costume Design by Amanda Neale
Bryce Dallas Howard as Grace
Robert Redford as Meacham
Oakes Fegley as Pete
Oona Laurence as Natalie
Wes Bentley as Jack
Karl Urban as Gavin
Isiah Whitlock Jr. as Sheriff Gene Dentler
Marcus Henderson as Woodrow
Aaron Jackson as Abner
Phil Grieve as Bobby
Steve Barr as Deputy Smalls
When a mysterious 10-year-old boy, Pete, turns up, claiming to live in the woods with a giant green dragon, it’s up to a forest ranger, Grace, and young Natalie to learn where the boy came from, where he belongs, and the truth about this magical dragon.
Back in 1977, a musical live-action animated film titled “Pete’s Dragon” was released in theaters.
The film would become a classic and as the original storyline was set in the 1900’s and revolved around a young orphan who fled from his abusive hillbilly foster family and had help from a huge dragon named Elliott, the 2016 Disney film is much different.
Directed by David Lowery (“Ain’t Them Bodies Saints”, “St. Nick”, “Pioneer”) and co-written with Toby Halbrooks (“Upstream Color”, “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints”, “Listen Up Philip”).
Disney would announce a remake back in 2013 and wanted to remake the film by title only and reinvent the story to become a Disney family film. Having the film set in the 1980s featuring a CGI dragon instead of the dragon being hand-drawn.
The film would star Bryce Dallas Howard (“Jurassic World”, “The Help”, “Black Mirror”), Robert Redford (“The Sting”, “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”, “All the President’s Men”), Oakes Fegley (“This is Where I Leave You”, “Children of the Moon”, “Fort Bliss”), Oona Laurence (“Southpaw”, “Bad Moms”, “Penny Dreadful”), Wes Bentley (“The Hunger Games”, “American Beauty”, “Interstellar”) and Karl Urban (“Dredd”, “Star Trek” films, “The Bourne Supremacy”).
Budgeted at $65 million, “Pete’s Dragon” would go on to earn $141.8 million in the box office and now “Pete’s Dragon” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Disney.
The film begins with Pete, a five-year-old boy at the time on a road trip with his parents. But as the parents swerve to avoid hitting a deer, the family goes over the cliff and Pete’s parents are killed and Pete survives.
As Pete is confronted by a pack of wolves, the wolves are scared when a huge green dragon comes to save him. Pete names the dragon “Elliot” after his favorite book.
Fastforward six years later, and we learn that Mr. Meacham (portrayed by Robert Redford) had once confronted a green dragon in the wood, but many of the people in town think his story is crazy.
While his story has become popular and children have come over to listen, Meacham’s daughter, Grace (portrayed by Bryce Dallas Howard), who works as a forest ranger, doesn’t believe in her father’s story.
While she goes to the forest, we see an 11-year-old Pete (portrayed by Oakes Fegley) who has lived in the forest all this time, observing Grace and Pete being surprised to see another human in the area.
One day, as a lumberjack crew has come to chop trees near where Pete and Elliot live, Natalie (portrayed by Oona Laurence), the daughter of Grace’s boyfriend, Jack (portrayed by Wes Bentley), has spotted Pete and goes out to the forest to follow him.
As Pete tries to run away from her and climb a tree, Natalie follows him up the tree and both managed to fall.
While both are OK, Grace, Jack and others managed to find the children and everyone is shocked to see Pete and wonder how long he has been living in the forest.
As Grace takes Pete in to stay with her, Jack and Natalie temporarily, Elliot goes looking for the boy in the forest. This leads to Jack’s brother, Gavin, a hunter and lumberjack to search the forest.
When Gavin and a few lumberjacks find the hiding place and home of Pete and Elliot, Elliot growls and Gavin and the lumberjacks see the dragon on their own for the very first time and now are determined on catching it.
Meanwhile, Elliot tries to search for Pete and worries about where he may be.
As for Pete, he starts to get used to living with other humans despite being cautious around them. Meanwhile, Grace finds out from the sheriff that Pete is the child of a family who died in an accident six years earlier and will be sent to children’s services.
But before that can happen, Grace wants to know the truth of how Pete was able to survive. And Pete tells her that Elliot has taken care of him and gives a drawing of a green dragon.
Shocked by Pete’s story, Grace goes to her father about the news. And Grace, her father, Pete and Natalie want to go the woods to see where Pete has lived all this time, but they are unaware that Gavin and other lumberjacks are in the area, trying to hunt down Elliot.
“Pete’s Dragon” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio). With the film shot outdoors, the film looks very good in HD as closeups show great detail, skin tones look natural, while black levels are nice and deep. Outdoor scenes look lush and the CG was done very well. It’s no doubt a challenge to create a dragon, especially one that should be appealing to children and families, but despite the differences between the 2016 film and the 1977 animated musical, I was happy the film retained the green dragon and for the most part, CG looked fantastic. And similar to other Disney films, picture quality is fantastic!
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Pete’s Dragon” is presented in English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish and French 5.1 Dolby Digital Language Tracks. The lossless soundtrack is fantastic as the film features quite a bit of action, from Elliot flapping his dragon wings, Elliot crashing into things and releasing his flame to other action sequences of lumberjacks trying to shoot tranquilizer darts to many other sound effects, the film utilizes the surround channels and the LFE very well. Dialogue and music are crystal clear and for the most part, the lossless soundtrack is fantastic.
Subtitles are in English SDH, Spanish and French.
“Pete’s Dragon” comes with the following special features:
- Notes to Self: A Director’s Diary – (7:31) David Lowery’s notes from the film. Featuring behind-the-scenes footage and David Lowery reading his notes.
- Making Magic – (2:11) A featurette about the magic featured in Pete’s Dragon and the challenges of making the film to make it seem real.
- “Disappearing” Moments – (9:09) Deleted scenes from “Pete’s Dragon”.
- Bloopers – (1:28) Featuring outtakes from “Pete’s Dragon”.
- Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by director and co-writer David Lowery, co-writer Toby Halbrooks and actors Oakes Fegley and Oona Laurence.
- “Nobody Knows” Music Video by the Lumineers
- “Something Wild” Music Video by Lindsey Stirling Featuring Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness
- Welcome to New Zealand – (1:56) A short featurette about filming in New Zealand.
“Pete’s Dragon” comes with a slipcover and a Disney Movie Rewards code. Also, included is a DVD version of the film.
As a person who grew up with the original “Pete’s Dragon”, I have to say that Disney’s decision to have a new story that is more family friendly and to not recreate the original musical was a good decision.
For one, the musical live-action animated film was a product of its time and what director David Lowery and co-writer Toby Halbrook were able to create was a family live-action film that draws one’s attention to Pete and his relationship with the dragon, Elliot.
Using today’s modern technology to create the CG of the dragon and in essence, probably creating a much more effective, entertaining and enjoyable film compared to the older 1977 film storywise.
While not as mesmerizing and visually pleasing as the most recent Disney live-action adaptation of “The Jungle Book”, which showed a great bond between child and animals, “Pete’s Dragon” shows us a different side of a child/dragon living in a logging community and the threat are loggers who want to catch the dragon.
The child, Pete, is reintroduced to being around humans, seeing family and knowing that is where he belongs, but also knowing that in order to protect the dragon that raised him, he has to make a difficult decision.
Young Oakes Fegley did a great job of playing Pete, but the film earns credit on the acting of Bryce Dallas Howard as a forest ranger who tries to help Pete and it helps having Robert Redford in the film as well.
Great use of CG and for the most part, a good balance of action, I found “Pete’s Dragon” to be an entertaining live-action family film.
It’s important to emphasize to parents that this is a PG rated film because of the peril featured, as lumberjacks are trying to capture Elliot by all means necessary and in the beginning of the film, showing how a young boy lost his family. While there are no disturbing scenes, because of the featured action sequences, the perilous situations earned the film a PG rating. But I do feel the film is fine for children and as long as they watch with their parents, I do believe it’s an entertaining, not so scary, family film.
On Blu-ray, close-ups show amazing detail while the CG work for Elliot the dragon was well-done. The lossless soundtrack was also fantastic thanks to its numerous live-action sequences and the film features a good number of special features as well.
Overall, Disney’s “Pete’s Dragon” is a magical, adventurous, live-action family film that may be different from the 1977 live-action, animated musical, but this new story from director David Lowery and co-writer Toby Halbrook is entertaining and so much fun. I absolutely enjoyed it!
“Pete’s Dragon” is recommended!
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