I SAW A DRAGON ON BLU-RAY... BUT NOT ALL THE FEATURES @ 22 October 2012 04:42 PM
1977's Pete's Dragon was the last musical fantasy produced entirely within the Disney studio system. Two years later, The Black Hole would not perform well enough a the box office to sustain movies made within the studio and outside production companies were brought in, much in the way all of Hollywood did.

The film is a time capsule of Walt Disney Productions in the '70's, with its distinctive house style. Even the sound quality is unique to the period.

Familiar actors round out the cast, led by pop singer Helen Reddy, whose understated, matter-of-fact performance seems to play better today than it may have seemed to some in the past. Harry Potter and Broadway fans will enjoy the vitality and versatility of the great Jim Dale, who won a Tony as Barnum after this movie (a very similar role indeed) and narrated the American audio versions of the Potter books.

Ambitious as Pete's Dragon was, it owed more to the wacky special effects comedies of its day than its two musical predecessors, Bedknobs and Broomsticks and Mary Poppins.

It's closest relation to the other two films is the musical direction led by Oscar winner Irwin Kostal, who returned to Disney for Pete's Dragon and again to re-score a digital version of Fantasia and the short cartoon, The Small One. Like Mary Poppins, Pete's Dragon opens with on very a magical-sounding string section, rising before the title.

Elliot the dragon took on a life of his own in the Disney Theme Parks as one of the favorite floats in the Main Street Electrical Parade. Surely there are those who think he originated in the parade and don't know the movie!

But Pete's Dragon is one of those enjoyable Disney staples that every family should enjoy together. If you haven't got a copy yet, now is the time. And if you want to see it as sharply and colorfully as possible, you'll want the "35th Anniversary Edition" Blu-ray.



The clarity may betray some of the period's special effects and matte shots, but you can see every speck of the once-grand Disney backlot and the lovely Golden Oak Ranch. The filmmakers really did a marvelous job at sustaining the feeling that this took place in a coastal Maine town, when in reality even the ocean was a trench of water augmented by matte paintings and inventive angles.

Please note, though, that the previously released 2009 "High Flying Edition" of Pete's Dragon had several bonus features that are missing on this new release.

2009 High Flying Edition Bonus Features:
- Brazzle Dazzle Effects: Behind Disney's Movie Magic
- Deleted Storyboard Sequence: Terminus & Hoagy Hunt Elliott
- Original Song Concept: Bo Bopbop Bop (I Love You, Too)
- Original Demo Recordings: "Brazzle Dazzle Day" (alternate
  song); "Every Little Piece" (alternate melody); "The Greatest
  Star of All" (deleted song for deleted character) - Promotional
  Record (Pop versions of the songs from a 7" record: It's Not
  Easy, Brazzle Dazzle Day, There's Room for Everyone,
  Candle on the Water
- Where's Elliott? Disappearing Dragon Game
- Pete's Dragon Art Galleries (Concept Art, Behind the Sccnes,
  Publicity)
- Trailers
- About Pete's Dragon (text)
- Disney Family Album excerpt: Ken Anderson
- The Plausible Impossible excerpt (dragons, dinosaurs,
  mythology)
- Donald Duck cartoon: Lighthouse Keeping

2010 "35th Anniversary Edition" DVD Bonus Features (both Blu-ray & DVD):
- Brazzle Dazzle Effects: Behind Disney's Movie Magic
- Deleted Storyboard Sequence: Terminus & Hoagy Hunt Elliott
- Original Song Concept: Bo Bopbop Bop (I Love You, Too)
- Trailers

A few more notes from my 2009 review of the "High Flying Edition":

"Brazzle Dazzle Effects: Behind Disney's Movie Magic"  makes it easier to understand that sodium screen process so often used in Disney films of the period -- a kind of yellow light behind the subject that somehow vanishes and allows two images to be combined. Maybe that yellow sheen is the reason that you could always spot a seam along the two separate images -- a problem solved by today's digital technology.

I'm keeping both versions, especially because of those musical extras. There are a selection of demo recordings and a handful of Kids of the Kingdom-style "pop versions" of the songs I had not heard before. "Brazzle Dazzle Day" had a different melody with mostly different lyrics. "Every Little Piece" had the same lyrics with an "If I Were a Rich Man"-like melody.  "it's Not Easy" had alternate lyrics that transformed it into a romantic love song. And there's even a deleted song called "The Greatest Star of All," clearly intended for Jim Dale's character, Terminus. These alone make the new DVD worth getting.

One feature that only appeared on the 2001 "Gold" DVD edition is the 25-minute 1973 live-action/animated documentary Man, Monsters and Mysteries, narrated by Sebastian Cabot with Sterling Holloway voicing the Loch Ness Monster (aka "Nessie").


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