A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Pete's Dragon combines animation with live action for what is generally a family friendly film. There are some problematic elements, especially with regards to alcohol. Extravagant drinking imagery pervades, especially with Mickey Rooney’s grandfatherly character. Other characters are repeatedly shown drinking or talking about drinking. Even Elliott the dragon himself imbibes of a flask. There are some fight scenes, though they are made up more of comical roughhousing than anything scary or violent. However, there are a few songs in which the villains joke about either cutting up Elliott for medicinal ingredients or abusing/killing young Pete, and there is a scene of a teacher hitting a student. Many of the adults, including Pete's abusive adoptive family are portrayed as buffoons, but overall, there are a number of positive takeaways from the story.
- Parents say
- Kids say
-four tramp-looking types pop up with scary faces and chase him thr... Continue reading
What's the story?
This Disney musical about a boy and his dragon centers on Pete, an orphan who has been sold to an abusive backwoods family. Pete is befriended by Elliott, a rotund, friendly, and often mischievous dragon. Together they run away to a small Maine town, where they meet Lampey the lighthouse keeper (Mickey Rooney) and his daughter Nora (Helen Reddy). Of course the bad backwoods family comes looking for Pete, and there is another complex subplot involving a quack doctor (Jim Dale) and his often-drunk sidekick (Red Buttons) who have their own plans for Elliott. There is a disastrous first day of school for Pete (in which his hands are hit with a stick by his teacher), many mishaps involving the mayor, and some wet cement that gets mucked up over and over again.
Is it any good?
The interaction of people and animation in PETE'S DRAGON is surprisingly good, but the movie itself falls rather flat. The biggest problem is the songs, which are utterly forgettable, which is not a great feature for a musical.
The story is a good one and there's a certain sweetness to the proceedings, but also a combination of predictability and noisy chaos that will make this better viewing for kids than for their parents. The message, about finding love and security in a crazy world, is a good one, and children will find this an entertaining and enjoyable viewing experience.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what they'd do with a dragon of their own. Would you want people to know about it or keep a secret? Does keeping Elliott a secret help or hurt Pete?
Does Pete's situation with the Gogons give an accurate portrayal of adoption? How does Pete create his own family?
Why does Dr. Terminus want Elliott? What are some real examples of endangered or extinct animals that are hunted for their medical (or perceived medical) advantages?
- In theaters: November 3, 1977
- On DVD or streaming: August 18, 2009
- Cast: Mickey Rooney, Sean Marshall, Shelley Winters
- Director: Don Chaffey
- Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs
- Run time: 128 minutes
- MPAA rating: G
- Last updated: April 21, 2021
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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