The Reluctant Dragon



Excellent glimpse into how animation was made in the '40s.
  • Review Date: December 17, 2013
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Classic
  • Release Year: 1941
  • Running Time: 73 minutes

What parents need to know

Educational value

This movie offers a revealing glimpse into how Disney's animated films were made in the 1940s.

Positive messages

Although there are no overtly positive messages, the movie does show the talent and dedication required to create an animated feature.

Positive role models
Not applicable
Violence & scariness
Not applicable
Sexy stuff
Not applicable
Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

This movie shows people smoking cigarettes, which was accurate for the time.

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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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, THE RELUCTANT DRAGON showed how animated features were made, back in 1941. The result is a charming evocation of a long-gone time, which, in spite of some of its general datedness, 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.

Families can talk 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?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:June 20, 1941
DVD release date:May 12, 2009
Cast:Buddy Pepper, Frances Gifford, Robert Benchley
Director:Alfred L. Werker
Studio:Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Run time:73 minutes
MPAA rating:NR

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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