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Pete's Dragon Blu-Ray

Pete's Dragon: 35th Anniversary Edition

Published October 18, 2012

By Albert Gutierrez

Bonus Features:

When Pete's Dragon first arrived on DVD in 2001, the disc contained a fair amount of bonus features, most of which were repeated on its 2009 re-release, itself brandishing several exclusive features. Sadly, this 2012 Blu-Ray (and its enclosed DVD) retains only a few features, drawn from the previous DVD releases.

The longest, and most valuable, is Brazzle Dazzle Effects: Behind Disney's Movie Magic (25:25). This documentary, produced for the 2009 DVD, is narrated by an unseen Sean Marshall (Pete). The first fifteen minutes of the program looks at the evolution of Disney's other projects that mixed live-action with animation. It's a great overview, covering the usual bases like Alice in Cartoonland, The Three Caballeros, Song of the South, and Mary Poppins, along with short interviews with Virginia Davis (Alice), Roy E. Disney, and even Walt himself (from a CBC interview done in the early 1960's). The second half of the feature is an exclusive focus on the making of Pete's Dragon, including some footage from the film's premiere. Marshall's narration is filled with a lot of love and appreciation for that memorable summer in 1976. He spotlights various cast and crew, my favorite story he shared was how Mickey Rooney and Red Buttons spent so long improvising a short scene that the first take ran nearly twenty minutes. This documentary is truly the highlight of the disc, even if we don't see how moptop Marshall looks today - er, looked in 2009.

Story sketches and a temp audio track make up a deleted sequence: Terminus & Hoagy Hunt Elliot (2:27), also from the 2009 DVD. This is one of Dr. Terminus's attempts at capturing Elliot, as they discuss it without realizing that Elliot has been following them. It's amusing, but I can see why it was cut from the film. The last holdover from the 2009 DVD is the original version of "Boo Bop BopBop Bop (I Love You, Too)" (2:36). This demo track is set to early storyboards for the scene. Hearing the demo version rather than the final film lets us see/hear the scene at its earliest form.

Finally, two trailers (2:30) are presented, carried over from the 2001 and 2009 DVDs, where they were billed as the domestic and international trailer, even though they are neither. The "domestic" trailer talks about Elliot being back, which pinpoints it as the trailer for the film's 1984 theatrical re-release. The "international" trailer is obviously not from international releases. Based on the VHS release dates, as well as the style of the trailer, I would guess this is from the 1991 VHS re-release.

A sampling of features you won't find on the new Blu-Ray.

Unfortunately, if this is your first time purchasing Pete's Dragon and you're interested in bonus features, you're missing out on plenty from the 2001 and 2009 DVDs.

Exclusive to the 2001 DVD is a 1973 theatrical featurette, Man, Monsters, and Mysteries (25:12). Narrated by Sebastian Cabot (best known for narrating the "Winnie the Pooh" shorts), this program looked at man's fascination with legendary and fictional creatures, spending most time on the enigmatic Loch Ness monster of Scotland. Also available on the 2001 DVD, and later carried over to the 2009 DVD was a 57-still scrapbook, 5 informative text stills, an interactive "Where's Elliot?" set-top game, and three video features: an excerpt from the "Disneyland" episode "The Plausible Impossible" (3:38), the Donald Duck short "Lighthouse Keeping" (6:44), and a "Disney Family Album" excerpt that interviews Ken Anderson, creator of Elliot (2:22).

The 2009 DVD also included several audio features, namely demo versions of three songs and "pop" versions of four songs. The demos were for "Brazzle Dazzle Day" (2:36), "Every Little Piece" (2:36), and "The Greatest Star Of All" (2:36), which would have been sung by Ferdinand, a deleted circus villain. The "pop" versions covered "Brazzle Dazzle Day" again (3:13), as well as decidedly-70's versions of "There's Room For Everyone" (3:13), "It's Not Easy" (3:13), and "Candle on the Water" (2:58). And on an aesthetic note, of the three releases, the 2009 DVD had the best menus, with animated clips of Elliott always hiding and re-appearing.

If you can find either of the previous DVDs (preferably the more-packed 2009 release), I'd recommend picking it up to gain these features (simply swap it out with the DVD in the combo pack and re-gift that to a family member or friend). I don't understand why Disney would decide not to include them on the Blu-Ray; there's more than enough room for this standard-definition material. In addition, the theatrical shorts "Lighthouse Keeping" and "Man, Monsters and Mysteries" could have been upgraded to HD presentations on this release, as could any trailers Disney has from the original theatrical release.

Final Words:

Although the film should be foremost on your mind when considering a purchase, the absence of bonus features from previous editions does diminish the added value of this disc. However, it's the Blu-Ray's technical presentation that really shines, and makes viewing feel fresh and renewed. I'd recommend a purchase based solely on its upgrade in video quality. Even though I dislike double-dipping, I sincerely hope Disney re-visits the film again later, with the re-instated bonus features and maybe some new ones. Also, as great as the transfer is now, a new digital scan and re-composition of the effects shots would greatly enhance viewing.

Overall, the film is a perfect example of what 1970's Disney was. Family friendly, earnest attempts to emulate the Walt era, with its own strengths, but ultimately, it does not feel quite like "What Walt Would Do." However, we shouldn't condemn a film for that. These are still well-made films, with strong performances, and amazing (if overdone) songs. It's one of my favorite from the "Walt's Legacy" era (the period between Walt's death in 1966 and the company's corporate shake-up in 1984), with a winning performance by much of the cast, and remarkable animation for Elliott.

Film: 3.75 out of 5 Mickey Heads

Video: 4.5 out of 5 Mickey Heads

Audio: 4 out of 5 Mickey Heads

Bonus Features: 3 out of 5 Mickey Heads

Average: 3.8125 out of 5 Mickey Heads


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