Pete's Dragon (Remastered) (1977)
Menu Animation & Audio
Short Film-Lighthouse Keeping
Short Film-Man, Monster and Mysteries
Featurette-Disney Family Album excerpt
Gallery-Concept Art; Behind The Scenes; Publicity
Game-Where's Elliott?: The Disappearing Dragon Game
|Year Of Production||1977|
|Running Time||123:26 (Case: 102)|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (84:00)||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Don Chaffey|
Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.66:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.75:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Pete's Dragon is one of Disney's forays into the world of mixing animation with real-life characters. It's the story of little orphan Pete (Sean Marshall), and Elliott - his large green flying friend and protector.
The film starts with Pete on the run from his cruel hillbilly foster family, the Gogans, who just use him for slave labour. He's helped in his escape by his oft-invisible chubby green dragon, and they both end up entering a little coastal fishing village trying to find a place to stay. Elliott's invisible antics immediately get Pete into a lot of trouble, and they end up hiding away in a cave beneath the local lighthouse.
This is where the kindly Nora (Helen Ruddy) and her father, Lampie (Mickey Rooney) come into the story, as lighthouse keeper Nora sees Pete and takes him up to the lighthouse to stay. Lampie, who's a bit of a drunk, saw Elliott in town and is the only one who believes that Pete's Dragon actually exists, so they all get on well and frequently burst into song together.
As things are looking up for Pete, the crooked snake-oil seller, Dr. Terminus (Jim Dale), roars into town with his travelling show (including Red Buttons as Hoagy - his sidekick). Upon finding out that a dragon is in the neighbourhood he decides to cash in on all the medicines he could make from dragon organs, and teams up with the Gogans (who are still searching for Pete) to capture Elliott.
This isn't one of Disney's classics and it was produced in an era when they seemed to have lost a bit of direction, but I still remember loving it as a kid and I'm sure it would be well received amongst youngsters even today.
Watching it now as an adult I found Pete to be plain annoying and wooden - both in his acting and his singing. Nora doesn't exactly generate much emotion, and Mickey Rooney's Lampie overacts his way through the film, but I think would be quite amusing to younger viewers. Jim Dale doesn't play his best role ever, but he does seem to relish hamming his way through as the deliciously evil Dr. Terminus, and is one of the highlights of the film. The most endearing and likeable character though is without a doubt Elliott, and it was a shame we didn't see more of him. I assume budget limited the amount of screentime they could give this animated character.
So, all-in-all a mixed bag, but with the positives outweighing the negatives in my opinion. Something I think you can easily leave the children with for a couple of hours.
I haven't seen the original version of this film on DVD, so I can't comment with great authority on how much of an improvement this remastered version is. Despite some early concerns though, it is a satisfactory transfer, which is more than other reviews have said about the initial DVD release.
The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.66:1, which is only slightly different to its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.75:1. It is 16x9 enhanced.
After the first daylight scene had me wondering how on earth this could be classified as a "remaster", the bulk of the transfer turned out to exhibit decent sharpness levels for a film of this age. After the opening night-time scene, the action that takes place in the orchard exhibits an awful lot of grain, and is really lacking in sharpness. One of the most obvious shots is at 11:27 where little grainy maggots are wriggling over the entire screen. Elliott throughout this whole scene also exhibits serious grain, but as the film continues the problem generally goes away, with only a few exceptions, such as 26:54 in the cave, and other scenes where Elliott is quite grainy. Besides this though, the sharpness is OK for a source this old, but still not as good as I would have expected.
There are a number of dark night-time scenes in the film, and in general the blacks are very good with no low-level noise noted. However, the shadow detail is not very good. For example, one of the cave scenes at 58:10 displays nice solid blacks, but very little detail in the shadows.
This film was shot in Technicolor, and hence the colours in this transfer are suitably saturated and rich. There was a little bit of bleeding in the reds of the apples around the 11:00 mark, but besides this I didn't notice any problems with colours. Apparently the original transfer had troubles in this area, especially with Elliott's colours, but this remastered transfer had his hues consistent throughout. I did notice a scene at 13:51 where his pink areas turned almost grey, but upon repeat viewings I believe this was the animators' attempt to show Elliott moving in and out of shadow, which just wasn't done too well. For an example of the rich, solid colours in this film take a look at the very red inside of Doc Terminus' caravan at 76:37.
Film to video artefacts are pleasantly notable by their absence. I didn't see any edge enhancement, aliasing, or telecine wobble. There were quite a number of little film artefacts (26:54), but nothing too serious.
There are 2 subtitle tracks on this disc; English and English for the hearing impaired. I sampled both streams and found them to be pretty much spot-on. These can be very handy for working out what some of the songs are actually saying.
This is an RSDL disc, with the layer change taking place at 84:00. It's in the middle of a scene, but is during a static shot anyway, so it just looks like Pete is pausing for a bit longer than he actually is. It is not really disruptive.
The audio track on this transfer is classified as a 5.1 mix, but in effect it's really more like a 3.0 track for all intents and purposes.
There is only the one track on this disc; an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack.
There are a few problems with understanding the dialogue, most notably a few scenes where Red Buttons and Mickey Rooney are drunk, and some of their exaggerated slurring can be quite hard to pick up. Also, because some of the songs are sung so fast, it can be hard to make out the lyrics at times.
Due to the fact that this film has a large number of musical numbers, there's obviously a lot of ADR been done. Some of this hasn't been done 100% and we get problems with lips being out of sync. There are a few really obvious examples of this, with the worst being one of Jim Dale's fast-paced songs at 47.21. Other examples can be seen at 21:18 and 65:57.
Music (by Joel Hirschhorn and Al Kasha) is a large part of the film since it has so many songs and musical numbers throughout. Although it certainly wasn't bad, as these types of films go it lacked a certain something that makes a classic comic-musical. Some of the large-scale numbers are reminiscent of films such as Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, but without having such catchy or clever tunes. Having said that though, some of the songs in this film were nominated for Oscars in 1977, and I have to confess that I did certainly remember a number of them from my childhood. So I'm sure as far as children are concerned, the cheery, lively mood to them all will go down well.
Surround presence is absolutely minimal. Besides adding to the music occasionally (which does sound good), I only noticed about 3 or 4 instances of the rear speakers kicking in; Elliott's flames at 11:24 and the storm scenes starting around the 106:30 mark being the most obvious. It really is a front-heavy track, but then in all fairness there isn't a whole lot of on-screen action that would benefit from surrounds (subtle or otherwise).
I wasn't expecting to hear anything from the subwoofer, so was surprised when it did kick in a couple of times. The subwoofer adds to the bass in the occasional piece of music, and actually comes to life for a few of the sound effects at 62:18, 73:34 and 113:25. It can hardly be called a bass-heavy track though.
|Surround Channel Use|
The menus are 16x9 enhanced, and the main menu has looping music and animations of Elliott appearing and disappearing.
This Donald Duck cartoon from 1946 has obviously been chosen for inclusion due to the lighthouse theme. It involves Donald getting himself into trouble as usual, and having an altercation with a seabird that wants the lighthouse light extinguished. It is presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio and is not bad quality in the image and sound departments.
This 1973 Disney "documentary" is actually quite a decent little extra that I'm sure the kids will enjoy. It covers the mystery of the Loch Ness Monster, and the attempts by people to prove his/her existence. I can only assume that its relationship to the main feature is the fact that Nessie is an "invisible monster", like Elliott. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1.
An all-too-short segment from a 1982 Disney Family Album, covering the man behind Elliott's animation; Ken Anderson. It ends very abruptly just as your interest is starting to get piqued.
A selection of photos covering the following areas:
A very simplistic move and click game where the player is required to find Elliott in a scene, after being given a clue. One annoying feature of this game is that when you pick incorrectly (which I only did for testing purposes of course... ahem), the screen reloads with a few seconds delay. I'm sure this extra will keep some very young children amused for a short time, but its value ends there. Oh, and you get a special "surprise" if you find Elliott enough times - not exactly something to write home about, though.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;
The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;
I'd say it's probably a tie with this disc; the Region 1 version appears to have the same transfer as our version (NTSC issues aside), and a few more little extras. However as usual, the R4 version is the cheaper option.
A less-than-classic entry in the Walt Disney vaults, but still good clean entertainment for the kids. This wasn't Disney's best era, but even a bad Disney film is one you know you can safely leave your children with.
The video is acceptable, but with a few hiccups along the way.
The audio is adequate, but makes little use of the 5.1 format.
The extras are actually a pleasant surprise for a DVD obviously targeted at children, with a decent half-hour documentary (albeit not relating to the film) and a Donald Duck cartoon being the highlights.
|DVD||Omni 3600, using RGB output|
|Display||Sony 1252QM CRT Projector, 250cm custom built 16x9 matte screen. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver.|
|Amplification||Onkyo TX-DS797- THX Select|
|Speakers||Accusound ES-55 Speaker set, Welling WS12 Subwoofer|