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The Tale of Two Dragons

I was about 6 years old when the original Pete’s Dragon came out in the theaters.  So I’m sure it was one of the first Disney films that I saw back in the day.  I loved the original as a child and my favorite part of the Electrical Parade at Disneyland was when Elliot the Dragon was added .   I couldn’t wait to watch him disappear and reappear again during the parade.   So when this remake was announced I was curious and a little cautious.   As I mentioned in a previous blog the first teaser trailer for the new version didn’t really capture my imagination.   But once a longer trailer was released and then the Disneyland Parks sneak peek…..I was all in.     I still ended up missing it in the theaters.  (life gets in the way sometimes),  but I was excited to finally see it once it came out on DVD.

I thought I’d do this review a little different –because I like to mix things up so I decided to compare this version with the original.    They are very different versions of the same  basic story.   Both versions enjoyable in their own ways.

Pete’s Dragon 1977  8+ out of 10

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The original Pete’s Dragon was a silly musical comedy starring live action mixed with a 2-D animated Dragon.  When I saw this movie as a kid I instantly fell in love with Elliot the Dragon.   This animated Green Dragon was kinda of like Goofy with wings.  He didn’t talk –but Pete could understand him and he was fiercely loyal to Pete.   They did such a great job with Elliot the Dragon that you couldn’t help but feel every emotion that the animators created with his facial expressions.    The movie had a fun slapstick style silliness to it that I loved as a child.  The songs were fun and the action was very much in the same style as many Disney films of the late 60’s and early to mid 70’s.      The plot of the original was actually more complex than the remake.  It featured Pete’s nasty foster parents who basically used Pete as their slave labor trying to get Pete back as Elliot protected him

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and a scam artist Salesman that sells potions trying to capture the Dragon to chop him up and use him in his potions.

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The music and the comedy of this film were memorable to me and I’m sure that has an influence on how I feel about this silly Disney musical.   Pete eventually ends up with a nice new family in the end and Elliot moves on to help another kid in need  (Like a Dragon version of Mary Poppins).  The original movie had a great cast that included Mickey Rooney and the town drunk that first sees the Dragon and sings my favorite song in the movie at the local tavern.  If you haven’t seen it in a while it is definitely worth revisiting.

Pete’s Dragon 2016  8 out of 10

The remake of Pete’s Dragon was very different from the original with the exception of the Dragon himself.   CGI Elliot is just as lovable and amazing as the original.   Obviously special effects have come a long, long way since 1977 and this new Elliot is a visual delight, but still captures the same emotions as the original.

This remake isn’t a musical or a  slapstick comedy.   Instead it is a throwback to the early 1980’s style heartwarming films like ET.   The movie captures your heart from the opening scene where Pete’s parents die in a car crash and Pete wanders into the forest and is befriended by a Dragon.

The foundation of the film in both versions is the friendship of Pete and Elliot, which is perfectly captured in this touching film.  Pete is discovered in the forest by a park ranger played by Bryce Dallas Howard (whose father played by Robert Redford had an encounter with the Dragon years ago).   Just like the original Pete finds a new family  –but not before having to help rescue Elliot who gets captured by a group of local Lumberjacks.    The new version has a simpler story-but is no less touching then the original.   The movie features a dramatic action sequence where Pete and his new friends rescue Elliot.   The movie does an interesting job of mixing in some songs that add to the film.   The final scenes in the movie are really satisfying.

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Both films are excellent films.  I would personally give the slight edge to the original (probably based on nostalgia)  but you can’t go wrong with either film for a family movie night.