After reading the initial reviews for the 35th Anniversary Release of Pete’s Dragon on Blu-ray, I was just going to stick with the Gold Collection DVD purchased years ago. Then, Target had it on sale again and I could not resist. So, I decided to partake in an experiment of sorts to see if the movie still holds up to my memories, and if it was worth the $15 I paid to upgrade to Blu-ray. I’ve long held the position that I was not going to upgrade my DVD library (nearing 1000 movies) to Blu-ray after previously upgrading my VHS library in the late 90’s, early 2000’s. However, Disney seems to have found a way to change my mind with their Diamond Collection and Anniversary Editions. I love watching a movie in high definition accompanied with a a strong surround mix. Plus, I’m a sucker for the bonus features and, for my favorite movies, the commentary tracks.
Before we sat down to watch the movie, I listened to the Pete’s Dragon soundtrack with my daughter while I brought down boxes of Christmas decorations from the attic. I told her we were going to watch the movie later in the afternoon she seemed excited. She really only knows Elliot and Pete from the Main Street Electrical Parade which we last saw in October. The music is not new to her. I frequently play the soundtrack, just as I did this day, plus a couple songs are featured on the loops playing in the hallways on the Disney ships. The music is catchy, she was humming the tunes while waiting for me to make the popcorn and start the movie as the main menu is not that exciting.
First, I did not remember it being that long of a movie. The packaging, as well as the disc shows the run time as 88 minutes. In reality, it is over 2 hours. I can see why some of you may have pulled out your hair.
The story follows young Pete (Sean Marshall) and his best friend, Elliott, who just happens to be an invisible green dragon. Pete stumbles upon Passamaquoddy while running away from his “rightful owners“, the Gogan’s. That’s right –
the Gogan’s have a bill of sale showing they paid $50 plus fifty cents in legal fees for Pete. Who could blame Pete? The Gogan’s treated him like property, not as a member of the family. Pete is welcomed in by the lighthouse keepers, Nora (Helen Reddy) and Lampie (Mickey Rooney). Elliot makes his home in a cave on the shoreline. Elliot gets a bad name in town due to the accidents Elliot makes as a result of his size. The movie follows a familiar plot of good versus evil with Muppets-like impromptu song and dance numbers sprinkled in.
I have to say I still enjoyed every minute of this film. Not once did I look at the clock or get sidetracked by an alert from my phone. My daughter also sat through the entire movie, which in her case means she liked the movie too. I’ve found that is she does not like a movie she will find something else to do (as was evident when I dug into the bonus features).
The picture quality was exceptional for this release compared to the Gold Collection DVD; albeit the scenes with Elliot did leave some room to be desired. Elliot had moments of near perfection, but for the most part ranged from mediocre to terrible. If this movie was made today, Elliot would be pixel perfect, and resemble Rex from Toy Story. It is important to keep in mind that this movie was made in the late 1970’s, so I let this slide.
I was a bit disappointed with the 5.1 DTS-MA mix. I love watching a movie with a well mixed audio track. The songs sounded fine, but from time to time, the dialog seemed flat. I do not think I heard much from the rear speakers, if any at all. In the beginning of the movie, I cycled through my receivers audio settings to make sure it was not in some obscure mode. The movie was originally recorded in Dolby Stereo, so there is only so much one can expect from a 5.1 mix. In no way did this take away from the movie.
The bonus features were carried over from the the previous High-Flying DVD release. There are unrestored trailers which really point out how well the video is in this Blu-ray release.
The main extra is a 25 minute video, Brazzle Dazzle Effects narrated by Sean Marshall. The feature looks back on the evolution of integrating live-action and animation at Disney. At the time, these techniques were cutting edge. Hands down this was my favorite bonus feature.
A storyboard sequence gives us a glimpse of a deleted scene where Dr Terminus and Hoagy attempt to hunting Elliot.
Rounding out the extras is a demo recoding from 1976 of Boo Bop Bopbop Bop (I Love You Too) with storyboard sketches.
I went looking for a commentary track, but it does not exist. This is a bit of a disappointment, as I would have enjoyed the added information. A 35th Anniversary seems like it would be a worthwhile milestone release to bring the cast and some crew together for a commentary track. Mickey Rooney is still acting at the young age of 92, and I’m sure he would have provided some great antidotes about his time on the set.
The original road show release ran for 134 minutes. I would have loved to see the cut footage as a set of deleted scenes or even a playback mode to insert those scenes back into the movie.
Gold Collection DVD vs High-Flying Edition DVD vs Blu-ray
I can only directly compare the Blu-ray release to the Gold Collection DVD. I would say it was worth the upgrade on two fronts; 1) the improved picture quality, and 2) the Brazzle Dazzle Effects bonus feature. There were a few shorts that were included on the Gold Collection DVD that were not included in the latest release.
The Blu-ray release used almost the same set of bonus content as the High-Flying edition. Reading the tech specs, the High-Flying edition appears to have some additional demo recordings and pop renditions of four songs not brought forward. Aside from 1080p, the High-Flying edition seems to have the best feature set of the 3 releases. The Blu-ray release is definitely not a complete collection of all previous bonus features. Most of the time when I upgrade, I pass along my DVD. This is one of those times I will keep the older DVD in my library.
I was a fan of Disney via the movies, then later in the life the parks, and obviously Disney Cruise Line. At the end of the day, the movies and soundtracks have been and will continue to be the foundation of my relationship with Disney. Pete’s Dragon, along with Swiss Family Robinson, and Bedknobs and Broomsticks were three of my favorite Disney movies growing up. I have nostalgic memories for each movie and I’m going to enjoy these movies regardless. If you’ve never seen the movie at the very least rent Pete’s Dragon, or check to see if it is on demand in your stateroom during your next cruise and give it a chance. Who knows you may end up liking it and add the Blu-ray to your collection.
Overall, for me, there are more lollypops than raindrops in this release.