It’s Not Easy: A Pete’s Dragon Remake

As I sat in a darkened auditorium east of Lake Washington this morning, trailers of coming attractions filled the screen. Before the glory of Pixar’s Finding Dory would begin I was somewhat astonished at the boorish quality of the upcoming films. One trailer in particular that was rather bothersome was that of Disney’s next rehash remake of Pete’s Dragon.

Disney’s Pete’s Dragon (1977) • Mickey Rooney, Helen Reddy & Sean Marshall

Originally released in 1977, Pete’s Dragon told the story of an orphan boy named Pete, who escaped from his abusive foster family, to soon befriend an invisible dragon that would unite him to a lonesome lighthouse keeper and his daughter, in a quaint Maine ocean town. The release continued on the studio’s “liveaction meets animation” successes of “Mary Poppins” and “Bedknobs and Broomsticks.” Being a child of the eighties and everything that the Disney channel and VHS rental tapes could offer — Pete’s Dragon was a favorite and made its way into our living room many times. A scene early in the film when the villanous Gogan clan jumps out from behind trees, had me absolutely terrified and hiding behind the couch. This was borderline childhood horror movie content for me. Yet, as the story would unfold, and our little hero Pete would meet up with Nora, Lampy and Elliott, that intial fear turned to smiles as the film would; spoiler alert: have a happy ending with cinematic wide shots of a beautiful coastal lighthouse.

As our family would make visits to the pacific northwests vast amounts of coastline — a lighthouse would always stand out as a focal point for me. I’m sure I spent vast amounts of imaginative moments pretending I had my own dragon at hand to fight off villians and plan out plenty of mischeif to be shared — that is the essence of childhood, and I think the original film captured that beautifully. So it would be no surprise that an effort to recapitalize on this storyline would hit me in the wrong spot — kind of like how we desperately need a remake of Jumanji — but that’s a whole other post. This Hollywood desire to remake and rehash stories seems to have no end in sight, but it makes you wonder who is throwing out the potential titles and if they end up successful in keeping their jobs.

Pete’s Dragon (2016) Teaser Trailer

It is evident in Disney’s approach that most of the original concept has been thrown out the window, and the bare essential theme of a boy and a dragon mixed with special effects will bring home some Summer box office magic. They have certainly retained some top tier talent with Robert Redford, Bryce Dallas Howard and Wes Bently leading the way, yet I’m afraid that I might need a few serious cocktails before I could take this seriously. The good thing Disney has going for it is that most loyalists, such as myself, are in their late twenties and older, and so the general audience currently targeted for this film will have no idea of what the original had already accomplished thirty-nine years ago. And yes. It is super freaky to write out “thirty-nine!” Where is time going?

Original Theatrical poster for Pete’s Dragon (1977)

Between the great songs of Brazzle Dazzle Day, Candle on The Water, It’s Not Easy, and There’s Room For Everyone, its hard to imagine a film capturing this story without some of these wonderful music cues for a new generation. I think now more than ever our culture, maybe Donald Trump especially, could use a movie with a message of treating an outsider with kindness and allowing him to co-exist, and even be brought into the fold — a message brought out in the song There’s Room For Everyone:

The good news is that any Pete’s Dragon remake deniers, such as myself, still have the original to reference as time moves forward, and maybe this new version outside of its initial marketing efforts will offer something new, unique, and maybe profound to a new audience. I took to iMovie to briefly edit up an “alternate” teaser trailer of which I might approve. So just like a kid running along the beaches of Oregon chasing after an invisible dragon, I’ve used my imagintion once again to envision a remake still intact with Irwin Coastal’s magical score and Helen Reddy’s beautiful voice.

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