Starting with Alice in Wonderland back in 2010, Disney has gone on a conquest to re-imagine their animated classics. 2016 alone saw one and a half attempts at this – The Jungle Book and Alice Through the Looking Glass. That’s right, I’ll only call Alice a half attempt, because I’m not sure if the sequel of a re-imagining should count as a whole. This is just getting messy. That leads me to Disney’s other re-imagined movie for 2016, Pete’s Dragon, which is a new take on the 1977 movie of the same name that blended live action and animation. The 1977 film is beloved by many, despite being a pretty atrocious film, yet the remake was a critical success that didn’t flop, but didn’t quite connect with audiences like these other Disney re-imaginings. For a full review on the movie, check out my original review for Pete’s Dragon to see why I recommended seeing the film.
Now, let’s look at the reasons why you should bring Pete’s Dragon home for the holidays.
For those still not familiar with the story, Pete’s Dragon tells the tale of Pete (Oakes Fegley), a boy who has been stranded in the Pacific Northwest wilderness for six years, and Elliot, the mythical dragon that has watched over and protected Pete. After Pete is discovered by a park ranger (Bryce Dallas Howard), he is introduced to civilization and struggles between wanting to return to Elliot, as well as protect him, or staying with his new “family.” The movie is wildly different from the original and really shouldn’t be compared (unless you are admitting that the remake is totally better). The cast isn’t given a lot to work with, but still put on a fine performance, and every scene with Elliot ranges from heartwarming to hilarious. It really is just a great family-friendly, live action movie that is worth giving a shot in a world that is getting nearly overrun by CG animated movies.
Pete’s Dragon isn’t necessarily light on special features on this Blu-ray release, but I feel like they could’ve put more of an effort into some extra offerings. Still, there are a couple features worth watching, so let’s go over the ones that stood out above the rest.
- Notes to Self: A Director’s Diary – This short features the director, David Lowery, narrating the personal diary that he kept through the making of the movie. Essentially, it serves as the behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film. It is on the short side and it does skip out a lot what happened during filming, but there are definitely some cool bits in there that show what it was like being in New Zealand and creating this magical movie.
- Making Magic – This features shares more facts about how they designed Elliot in this film. It really is an extension to the Director’s Diary feature and offers a few new facts, but mostly rehashes things you learned before.
- Welcome to New Zealand – I won’t beat around the bush – this is just a few minutes-long commercial on why you should visit New Zealand. Nothing more, nothing less. However, part of why I love Pete’s Dragon is due to the locations they chose to film at, and to see more behind-the-scenes of why they went to New Zealand isn’t a problem.
There are still more bonus features on the disc that didn’t quite hit. The Audio Commentary had a lot of potential. Director David Lowery, co-writer Toby Halbrooks, and actors Oakes Fegley (Pete) and Oona Laurence (Natalie) are all present for the discussion on the movie, but the kids end up being more of a nuisance than an insight. Much of their commentary is solely focused around pointing out people they remember from making the movie, when doubles were used in their place, or even their dialogue. Meanwhile, Lowery and Halbrooks actually have some fun facts and interesting input to help expand the movie, but then eventually get talked over. The commentary had a lot of potential, but maybe should’ve been split up between two separate tracks – a director/writer one where you could learn those neat tidbits like Elliot’s movements and mannerisms came from a blending of Lowery’s cats and popular YouTube videos of animals, and a cast track.
Instead of featuring deleted scenes, “Disappearing” Moments is a montage of “lost” and extended scenes. The scenes are all blended together and lose a lot of the value, because they are turned into a short film that doesn’t make a lot of sense. The Bloopers feature is exactly what you expect, a lot of moments from the movie that shows the actors breaking character, which rarely is funny to those who weren’t there during the making. Finally, two Music Videos are showcased, which is okay, but in a world where most people consume music videos on YouTube, it doesn’t really scream out as a must-see feature, especially if you don’t like the two songs (“Nobody Know” by The Lumineers and “Something Wild” by Lindsey Stirling featuring Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness) being highlighted.
If you didn’t make it to theaters, but you’re still interested in giving Pete’s Dragon a shot, I definitely recommend picking this up on Blu-ray. Really, it costs less than the theater outing and the movie looks and sounds beautiful on Blu-ray – especially those sweeping wide shots of the New Zealand wilderness. The movie has a ton of heart and that Disney spirit seen in the live action Disney movies from the 1950s through the ’70s. Even if the bonus features don’t deliver, the movie itself will and is SO much better than some of Disney’s other re-imaginings – I’m looking at you, Maleficent and Alice in Wonderland.
Pete’s Dragon is available on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD on November 29, 2016.