For years, old wood carver Mr. Meacham (Robert Redford) has delighted local children with his tales of the fierce dragon that resides deep in the woods of the Pacific Northwest. To his daughter, Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard), who works as a forest ranger, these stories are little more than tall tales…until she meets Pete (Oakes Fegley). Pete is a mysterious 10-year-old with no family and no home who claims to live in the woods with a giant, green dragon named Elliot. And from Pete’s descriptions, Elliot seems remarkably similar to the dragon from Mr. Meacham’s stories. With the help of Natalie (Oona Laurence), an 11-year-old girl whose father Jack (Wes Bentley) owns the local lumber mill, Grace sets out to determine where Pete came from, where he belongs, and the truth about this dragon. Disney’s “Pete’s Dragon” opens in U.S. theaters on August 12, 2016.
Having a child being raised in the woods by a creature that no one else can see still makes it feel like a family friendly “Mama”. Unlike the original, Pete comes off like a younger Tarzan and depending on how well “Tarzan” does this weekend, that could be a very unwelcome comparison. The original also had several different plot threads and was a musical while being set in the early 1900s. This new “Pete’s Dragon” looks like it has been oversimplified. The new story is set in the 1980s or as recent as you can get without involving cellphones and the internet. Pete’s abusive foster parents have been dropped although it’s unclear whether they’ll find his real parents in the end or he’ll stay with Grace similar to the original tale. There is also no medicine showman to be the villain because he wants Elliot for his medicinal properties. Instead, Jack’s brother, Gavin (Karl Urban), feels its unsafe to have a dragon roaming the woods.
Elliot requires some repeated exposure to appreciate him more. The original 2D creation could smile and talk as well as any Disney animated character. This one’s level of character expression is still unclear. It’s not even proven in the trailer that he can talk. In the original, Pete being able to translate Elliot’s talking was important. Then again, he was more of a dragon version of Mary Poppins in the original; flying off to help the next child in need. At least Elliot’s ability to turn invisible was preserved. However, the addition of fur to the 2016 C.G.I. character might end up being the most creative part of the whole film. At first, the fur seems weird like a large green furry pig but after watching the trailer a few more times, it feels more normal. Elliot comes off as one of James P. Sullivan’s green haired cousins who got lost on the wrong side of a door. It should also make the new merchandise easier to tell apart from the original merchandise especially without the pink that the old one had. The original Elliot still leads the Main Street Electrical Parade at various Disney parks and is featured on pins and more.
Pete’s Dragon opens in U.S. theaters on August 12, 2016.
Disney hasn’t released the final cinematic poster.