Disney are on a role with their current remakes of classic films. We have already seen new versions of Cinderella, The Jungle Book, and Sleeping Beauty through the eyes of villain Maleficent. Future remakes include Beauty and the Beast, a sequel to Mary Poppins, The Lion King, Mulan, The Little Mermaid, and Tim Burton-directed Dumbo.
A largely ignored Disney remake of 2016 is Pete’s Dragon; a re-telling of the 1977 musical of the same name. The 2016 version is not a musical, but as with the original it has a live-action cast alongside an animated, but very humanised dragon.
Set in the early 1980s, we follow the discovery of young Pete (Oakes Fegley) living in a forest with a dragon named Elliot. Park ranger Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard) lives with her father (Robert Redford), and is dating lumber mill owner Jack (Wes Bentley). His daughter Natalie (Oona Laurence) discovers Pete whilst he is hiding in the forest with Elliot.
This remake of Pete’s Dragon is a visually stunning film, and gives a modern update on the original story. We learn more about the background of Pete, and how he came to be alone in the forest for so many years, and also how Elliot got his name. With New Zealand as a filming location, the forests and surrounding areas are beautifully portrayed on screen by cinematographer Bojan Bazelli.
The cast manage to bring to life a charming story for audiences, without overdoing it with too much sweetness. The closeness between Pete and Elliot works very well on screen, as does the bond formed between Grace and Pete. Redford is nothing like the drunken portrayal from Mickey Rooney in the original version, and instead is a voice of reason during his little screen time.
Disney appear to be pleased with the work of director David Lowery, who co-wrote the screenplay with Toby Halbrooks, as they have been recruited to write and direct a remake of another Disney classic, Peter Pan.
Pete’s Dragon is most defiantly a family film, although very young children may not be as enthralled, and perhaps find the emotional storyline a little boring at times. However, if you are a fan of the original film, or simply desire to watch a Disney production which can be enjoyed by an older audience – which Disney often deliver on – then Pete’s Dragon is certainly an entertaining and charming choice of viewing.
Pete’s Dragon is available on DVD and Blu-ray now.