As children we all have that one movie that we could watch over and over again. For my son, it’s the original 1984 GHOSTBUSTERS. But for me… it’s a Disney classic… BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. However, the original 1977 PETE’S DRAGON was definitely in my top five. I loved watching the fun mix of live action and animation, while singing the songs from the whimsical musical. When Disney announced they would re-imagine PETE’S DRAGON for their live action slate, I wasn’t sure what to expect. As time went on and I saw the trailer and clips, my curiosity grew into pure excitement. On Monday night I was finally able to screen the movie, and I was not the least bit disappointed! WOW. What. A. Film.
First let me chat a little bit about the reimagining of PETE’S DRAGON, which centers around the adventure of an orphaned boy named Pete and his best friend Elliot the dragon. The film stars Bryce Dallas Howard, Oakes Fegley, Wes Bentley, Karl Urban, Oona Laurence, Isiah Whitlock, Jr. and Oscar® winner Robert Redford. The film, which is directed by David Lowery, is written by Lowery and Toby Halbrooks based on a screenplay by Malcolm Marmorstein. The film is produced by Jim Whitaker, with Barrie M. Osborne serving as executive producer.
As the film opens, you learn that for years, old wood carver Mr. Meacham (Redford) has told the tale of his encounter with a fierce dragon that resides deep in the woods to local children. However his daughter, Grace (Howard), who works as a forest ranger, believes these stories to be nothing but tall tales. That is until she meets Pete (Fegley), a 10-year-old who claims to live in the woods with “Elliot”. But who is Elliot? From Pete’s descriptions, Elliot just like the dragon from Mr. Meacham’s stories. With the help of Natalie (Laurence), an 11-year-old girl whose father Jack (Bentley) owns the local lumber mill (and is romantically involved with Grace), the Meachams set out to find the truth about Pete and Elliot.
Now let me chat about a few aspects of the film that stuck out to me and that I thoroughly enjoyed…
A Boy and His Dragon?
The friendship between Pete and Elliot is one of pure love. It very much reminded me of the classic relationship with a boy and his dog. Elliot’s demeanor is very much that of a playful pup, running and playing in the woods with Pete.
Watching the film though, it is clear that Elliot’s personality is intentionally portrayed like a dog. When Pete first meets Elliot, he has in hand his prized possession, the children’s book “Elliot Gets Lost.” This picture book was actually created for the movie by the film’s creative team, and written by Lowery and Halbrooks themselves.
In the book, Elliot the puppy is separated from his boy and family, and is lost in the forest. With Elliot the dragon’s puppy like nature, you can easily understand why young Pete sees the dragon as his “dog” and names him Elliot.
As the film progresses, you can see the special bond between Pete and Elliot. It’s very similar to the one my own son has with his beagle Mojo.
Pete and Elliot see each other as family, and the film goes to show that you don’t need to be blood related to be family. You can create your own family through friendship and love for one another. Which brings me to another aspect of the film…
Finding Your Family
I’ll give you fair warning… bring some tissues. As I mentioned before, I’m usually not one to cry at the movies. However, this film GOT ME. I could say that watching Pete’s adventurous spirit made me miss my own little boy… but the movie does hit you right in the heart. The emotional message of “finding your family” brought tears to my eyes, but in a good way! As a mother, I admire the way that Grace nurtures and protects Pete after they meet.
I love how the film touches on what it takes to be a family. It expresses how family can be brought together through true connections, and also from the most unlikely place! (Like from your local forest ranger or a giant green dragon…)
The film takes place in the forest of the Pacific Northwest. There is almost a folksy, calming, serene sound to the score. Living in the hustle and bustle of the DC area, calm and serene is not a part of my every day life. To take a break from the city, my friends and I often venture out on hikes and tubing in the rivers of West Virginia. While this is normally not the type of music I listen to in my every life… the score really fits the film. Listening to the music it immediately while watching this film, it took me back to those relaxing days when I could go out and experience nature and the river.
While attending the press trip, we received the film’s soundtrack, which includes three original songs written for the film. The original score was composed by Daniel Hart (“Tumbledown,” “Comet”). The end credit track “Something Wild” by electronic violinist Lindsey Stirling features Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, who both performed on the film’s score as well.
If you are unfamiliar with Daniel Hart, he is a multi-instrumental composer and performer. He has toured for over a decade with bands from The Polyphonic Spree to St. Vincent to even his own projects.
To learn more about the music soundtrack, check out this featurette of Hart and Stirling discussing the music…
Another song on the soundtrack is “Nobody Knows” which was written by co-screenwriter Halbrooks with Andrew Tinker. Grammy®-nominated band The Lumineers performs the song for the film. To give you more taste of the soundtrack, check out the song below…
Now those familiar with the original 1977 PETE’S DRAGON, you may remember the song “Candle On the Water.” Well that song makes an appearance in this film too. Critically-acclaimed Okkervil River, fronted by singer-songwriter Will Sheff, perform a newly-recorded version of the classic song.
Overall this film exceeded my expectations. There may be some intense scenes for very young viewers, as you do see how Pete’s parents perish in a car accident. However I still see this film as a wonderful family movie. I can’t wait to take my son to see the film this weekend. Sorry GHOSTBUSTERS, but I think by the time the credits roll, my son will have a new favorite movie to enjoy over and over again.
Pete’s Dragon Trailer
Be sure to connect with the PETE’S DRAGON on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr. Don’t forget to check out our Elliott the Dragon Craft, plus coloring sheets and educational activity pack.
PETE’S DRAGON arrives in theaters THIS FRIDAY, August 12!
Want to learn more on my most recent adventure in LA? We can connect on head on over to Twitter (@AshBG) and on Instagram (@ashb4211). As you browse my social media feed, simply look for the hashtags #PetesDragonEvent, #JungleBookBluray, #QueenOfKatwe, and #Moana.
I received the following information as a blogger via Walt Disney Publications. While I’attended an expense paid trip by Disney to Los Angeles, all opinions are 100% my own.
I want to see this movie and your review solidified my choice. Oaakes Fegley is from my area which is an added bonus. I especially appreciated the review of the music!
Five Marigolds says
Thanks for posting this thoughtful review. It’s great to have this feedback before viewing movies with my kids.
Jacqui Odell says
This sounds like such a great movie!! My son is really wanting to see it!
Marcie W. says
I was not really familiar with the story behind Pete’s Dragon but it sounds lovely. I am anxious to hear all of the original music as well since I always appreciate a good soundtrack.
Rachel Mouton says
I loved this movie so much! I was so happy to share it with my children today <3