The Reluctant Dragon
By Brian Costello,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Excellent glimpse into how animation was made in the '40s.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
This movie offers a revealing glimpse into how Disney's animated films were made in the 1940s.
Although there are no overtly positive messages, the movie does show the talent and dedication required to create an animated feature.
Positive Role Models
Robert follows through on the idea of turning a children's story into an animated feature.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
This movie shows people smoking cigarettes, which was accurate for the time.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Reluctant Dragon is a delightful "behind-the scenes" look from 1941 at how Disney's animated features were made back then. The only thing for parents to even remotely be concerned about is that people are shown smoking cigarettes, which was accurate for the time period. Other than that, this movie offers a fascinating glimpse into all the different aspects that went into every facet of an animated film, from the sketches to the animation itself, from the sound effects to the characters' voices. For parents and children interested in animation, this is the perfect movie to see how animated films were made decades before computers got involved.
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Where to Watch
Based on 1 parent review
A Great classic
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What's the Story?
While lounging around the pool, the humorist Robert Benchley listens to his wife read aloud the children's story "The Reluctant Dragon." She asks Benchley to pitch the idea of turning the story into an animated feature to Walt Disney. This leads to Benchley getting a guided tour "behind the scenes" into how animated features are made. He witnesses everything from preliminary sketches to sound effects, from orchestras providing the background music to the performers recording the voices of the animated characters. The result is a charming evocation of how animated features were made decades before computers were brought into the mix.
Is It Any Good?
Long before Pixar and computer animation entered the picture, this charming evocation of a long-gone time showed how animated features were made, back in 1941. In spite of some of its general datedness, the film should prove fascinating to families and potentially inspiring to kids interested in learning the art of animation.
Sketches and storyboards, Technicolor and sound effects, editing and character voices -- all these and more are explored as the humorist Robert Benchley leads us from department to department. It's a nonstop glimpse into the endless creativity of the "golden years" of Disney animation and a delightful education for both parents and kids.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the history of animation. How have the animation processes shown in this movie changed over time, and what are some elements that have remained the same?
If you could create your own animated feature, how would you do it? What would be the first steps in the process?
If this movie were made today, how would it be different?
- In theaters: June 20, 1941
- On DVD or streaming: May 12, 2009
- Cast: Buddy Pepper, Frances Gifford, Robert Benchley
- Director: Alfred L. Werker
- Studio: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
- Genre: Classic
- Topics: History
- Run time: 73 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: February 17, 2023
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