Disney Moving Forward With Pete’s Dragon Remake

By March 20, 2013

I found out yesterday that Disney has given the go-ahead to remake one of my favorite Disney films on the PLANET, 1977’s Pete’s Dragon with filmmaker David Lowery (Ain’t Them Bodies Saints) writing the script.

According to Deadline, this amazingly fun live-action/animated film will no longer be the song-filled musical I’ve loved since the year it came out about an orphan named Pete and his dragon, Elliott; word is the film will be headed for the dramatic horizon sans singing.

David Lowery’s film Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, about an outlaw (Casey Affleck) who escapes from prison and traverses the Texas hills to be with his wife (Rooney Mara) and see his daughter for the first time was the talk of this year’s Sundance Film Festival but upon learning about Lowery’s involvement, the first thing that sprang to mind was “What the what?!”

Can he write a good story about an orphan and his dragon? Judging from his 2009 film, St. Nick, about a brother and sister on the run who’re doing what they can to survive the Texas winter in an abandoned country house, sure.

BUT (and this is a BIG but…) what made Pete’s Dragon great was, well, EVERYTHING. At this point, I’m having problems with this remake/reboot/retelling/WHATEVER for quite a few reasons.

Elliott The Dragon makes a swing for Pete (Sean Marshall) and Nora (Helen Reddy)

What made Pete’s Dragon great was not only the story itself but the cast, too; we’re talking Mickey Rooney, Jim Backus (Gilligan’s Island, voice of Mr Magoo in the classic cartoons), Shelley Winters (The Poseidon Adventure, Roseanne), Jim Dale, Red Buttons (The Poseidon Adventure, Roseanne), Jeff Conaway (Grease), Miss “I Am Woman” herself, Helen Reddy and most importantly, the man who brought Elliott the dragon to life (and made ME desperately want a dragon of my own), rubberfaced comedian Charlie Callas.

Check out this clip where Pete (Sean Marshall) and Elliott grabbing some eats in an apple orchard.

Pete’s Dragon film without Helen Reddy, either. Okay, I grew up in the 70’s and even as a girl, would sing her anthem non-stop along with my mother. Outside of 2-time Oscar winner Shelley Winters, Reddy was really the only other female in the principal cast, which made it all the sweeter because that meant I would get a couple of awesome tunes featuring her voice (which complimented ANYone she sang with; even sweeter, Reddy was (and still is) a pretty decent actor.

Not to mention the storylines within the film that include Pete’s evil, abusive hillbilly family, The Gogans (led by Winters) and a snake oil doctor by the name of Dr. Terminus (Jim Dale) and his sidekick, Hoagy (played by Oscar winner Red Buttons) who want harvest every part of Elliott for their “medicinal” elixirs and cure-alls.

Red Buttons (left) as Hoagy and Jim Dale as Doc Terminus

Now, Lowery COULD really do something with the Dr. Terminus storyline BUT will it be as fun as “Every Little Piece” or something more sinister?

As you can see, Doc Terminus is really kind of a Snidely Whiplash-kind of guy you can’t help but like just a little due to the fact that he and his minion can never seem to get the best of a little boy and his oversized dragon.

What Lowery’s gonna do with Pete’s Dragon is pure speculation at this point but I share the same feeling most of my colleagues have – it’s gonna go live-action/CG and have a sort of Where The Wild Things Are feel to it. And while I enjoyed Where The Wild Things Are, not having Elliott in hand-drawn animation form with the voice of Charlie Callas coming out of it doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in someone who’s spent 36 years loving the film just the way it is.

Especially without Helen Reddy singing a song that still makes me tear up.

Do yourselves a favor and rent this movie, then imagine it without all the elements that made it great…would you wanna see a stripped down version of this? I’m not sure I would but until I hear who’ll be directing, I’m not gonna rule anything out just yet.

p.s. If you have kids, don’t be surprised if they start asking you for a dragon after watching the film for the first time; I’m (none of your business) years-old and STILL want a dragon named Elliott.

Them’s some mighty big shoes to fill; best believe I’ma keep a close, CLOSE eye on this one.

Fun Fact: Jim Dale (Doc Terminus), is the voice behind ALL the Harry Potter audio books as well as the film trailers!

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Cricket Lee
Star Wars fangirl. Named Best Kisser by Time Magazine. CEO/Host: Girl Gamer; host of Gecken: GeekNation; writer: Dread Central. You'll have a crush on me soon. Vote Quimby. Twitter: @crixlee http://www.imdb.me/crixlee