Released 11/03/1977 Rated: G
I love this movie more than I probably should. It’s been a week and I still have these songs stuck in my head. It’s a fun musical about a boy and his dragon on the run from his abusive adopted family. They arrive in a quaint little town only for Elliott to start getting into mischief which in turn gets Pete into trouble. Nora, the lighthouse keeper, reaches out to the lonely boy she spots walking along the beach and befriends him. But between Elliott causing trouble, the Gogans looking for Pete, and Dr. Terminus trying to get his hands on the dragon, they’ve got their hands full.
So right up front it’s established just how abusive the Gogans are. Their opening song is divided into two parts. Of the family quartet, Mom and Pop’s portions of the song are them trying to entice Pete back home with images of being a kid and a family and being cared for whereas their older sons’ portions of the song are of how they intend to torture Pete. The Gogans purchased an orphan for manual labor on their farm–not to help on their farm, to straight up work the farm. They clearly have no love to Pete and even outright state it in a later song which just so happens to be titled Bill of Sale: “That boy is our property same as the family cow.” Mama Gogan tells her sons that they can’t afford to get another orphan and will have to start working the farm with their own two hands until they manage to find the boy. They don’t sound (or look) well-off, so how in the world do these two grown men not already lend a hand on the farm?
Dr. Terminus is a charlatan who ends up back in Passamaquoddy after presumably being chased out of the last town he stopped in to peddle his wares. Unable to correctly pronounce the name of the town, Terminus and his sidekick Hoagy begrudgingly lay anchor (literally) and are set to swindle the wary citizens once again. It isn’t until they learn of the presence of an actual dragon and how rich it could make them that Terminus becomes interested in sticking around and the two sing a song about dismembering Elliott…I wish I were making this up. Now, I’ve seen this movie a hundred times and I’ve sang this song along with it, it’s catchy, but there’s just something about actually comprehending the fact that your innocent childhood movie is anything but. He even sets a trap and intends to freakin’ harpoon Elliott. Just wow. You couldn’t put that in a kids’ movie today!
Now, I very well could be biased here, but I think this movie has held up better than I expected. Elliott as a cartoon doesn’t bother me. Sure, there are plenty of scenes where the combination of cartoon and actor doesn’t come off perfectly, but then there are just as many where it’s almost seamless. There’s definitely worse CGI out there.
I very much enjoyed revisiting this movie.
Released 08/12/2016 Rated: PG
This one not so much. They changed the story completely for the remake. Normally I’d say that’s not a bad thing; however, I’m pretty sure I just watched a live action version of The Good Dinosaur in a modern setting told from Spot’s perspective… except this version wasn’t as touching. Pete and his parents are driving through the woods in the middle of nowhere when there’s an accident and he’s left all alone. Elliott, presumably lost as well, finds him and they become a family. Deforestation creeps closer to their home which in turn brings the humans. They discover Pete alone in the woods as well as evidence of a big creature. Elliott wants Pete back, Pete just wants to go home, but some of the humans have gone hunting for the fabled dragon in the woods and the resulting fame that would come from his capture.
This movie took a little while to get going and even once it did I still didn’t find myself overly interested, which is a shame because there are a bunch of big names attached to this. None of the characters felt compelling or very distinct to me except for Elliott who, even still, felt a bit muted when compared to the personality of the original. Now, it’s also possible that I got hung up on how in the world this child survived for six years in the woods with just him and Elliott. I could maybe see it with the original Elliott, however here he’s more akin to a dog. There are multiple examples of this but when he took a moment to chase his own tail I was just like “Really?”
The third act got a bit intense, but unfortunately that’s about as much feeling as this movie got out of me. And then the ending happened and the unbelievability of it all distracted me again. Pete was five when he lost his parents and met Elliott. The two of them spend the next six years together isolated in the woods. I’m supposed to believe that Pete chooses to live with the humans over Elliott, the creature he’s lived with for more than half his life, after spending not even a full day back in civilization? Less than twenty-four hours ago Pete was mimicking the animals of the forest because he’s forgotten how to relate emotion through words and he’s scared, yet he immediately attaches himself to the handful of humans who took him in. Like, I get that they both have to go back to their own kind, but it just seems too convenient of a wrap up.
It’s not a bad movie, but I found it dull. Between the two of them, I’m gonna have to side with the original on this one.