Disney's Pete's Dragon Soars as a Family Film

Growing up, I have fond memories of Disney movies. One that doesn't stand out from my 1977 movie-going mind would be Pete's Dragon. Disney is turning many of my childhood favorites into live action movies. It's something I love and it appeals to my children, making them great movies for the entire family.

This week, I visited Los Angeles, where I attended the World Premiere of Disney's Pete's Dragon at the historic El Capitan Theatre. I went with few expectations. After all, my memory couldn't recall anything beyond the green and pink animated dragon named Elliot. As I sat watching this new version, which shares with the original only the title, a dragon named Elliot and an orphan named Pete, I found my heart touched, my spirit lifted and my need for my family so much more than when I entered the theatre.

Directed by "Ain't Them Bodies Saints" David Lowery, Pete's Dragon suddenly breathes fire. This movie has a furry dragon, that though larger than life, has a cat-like playfulness, and a cast that makes the story one to remember.

The musical numbers have vanished, making the star the love between the boy and his gigantic, furry dragon take center stage. Elliot has an animated face that melts the heart, and will have you forgetting he's enormous. He looks soft and cuddly, perfect for young children. He can fade to invisible, but needs a running start to take flight.

Within the first five minutes, I was committed. Tears streamed down my face as I was introduced to Pete and the moment he became an orphan. In a smooth transition, we meet him again as a feral 10-year old (Oakes Fegley), in the woods, accompanied by his dragon Elliot. They are a family unit, looking out for each other as loggers encroach the woods where they call home.

As you'd expect creäture as large as Elliot, hidden in the woods all these years has become somewhat of a folk legend, no doubt started from Mr. Meacham's (Robert Redford) tales to the neighbor kids of his encounter with a dragon. Mr. Mecham's daughter, Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard) is a forest ranger and as her dad describes her, doesn't see much around her.

Grace meets Pete in the forest. As the story unfolds, he shares that his home includes his friend, Elliot, a dragon.

Before long, the events that happen like dominoes falling, have Elliot and Pete at risk to lose everything.

While I believe Pete's Dragon is a great family film, there is a scene where Gavin and his logging crew shoot Elliot with tranquilizer guns. It is a dramatic scene, though I feel the scene implied more than it actually showed. It is still something to consider.

In the end, I found Disney's Pete's Dragon a movie with soul. I thought it was well told, with likable characters and a theme of family and friendship that fills the soul and had me believing love can conquer all.

Pete's Dragon Synopsis:

A reimagining of Disney's cherished family film, "Pete's Dragon" is the adventure of an orphaned boy named Pete and his best friend Elliot, who just so happens to be a dragon. 

For years, old wood carver Mr. Meacham (Robert Redford) has delighted local children with his tales of the fierce dragon that resides deep in the woods of the Pacific Northwest. To his daughter, Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard), who works as a forest ranger, these stories are little more than tall tales...until she meets Pete (Oakes Fegley). Pete is a mysterious 10-year-old with no family and no home who claims to live in the woods with a giant, green dragon named Elliot. And from Pete's descriptions, Elliot seems remarkably similar to the dragon from Mr. Meacham's stories. With the help of Natalie (Oona Laurence), an 11-year-old girl whose father Jack (Wes Bentley) owns the local lumber mill, Grace sets out to determine where Pete came from, where he belongs, and the truth about this dragon. 

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Disney's Pete's Dragon opens in theaters everywhere August 12th.

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©2016 Julee Morrison, as first published on Mommy's Memorandum