I'm not ashamed to admit that I spent 60 percent of this film trying not to cry into my 3D glasses lenses. It's so sad and it's so sweet! Disney are the kings of pulling at the heart strings. They don't hold back with their orphans (Pete played by Oakes Fegley); their talented actors (Bryce Dallas Howard, Robert Redford, Karl Urban); their thoughtful music score (note however, that it is not a musical!); their lost dog picture book allegories (꒰๑•̥﹏•̥๑꒱); or their lost dragons!
Elliot the dragon is an especially quality piece of CGI from Weta Digital, and he was clearly perfectly thought out to appeal to kids. I'd certainly buy a stuffed Elliot, and I wouldn't be surprised if I saw him in Disneyland stores on my next visit! Think...enormous, green, fluffy dog, with all the cute doggy mannerisms.
I'm a little too young to remember the original Pete's Dragon (1977) with any clarity, so this charming remake was entirely new to me, and likely will be to most children. Although elements of the animated dragon remain (clumsiness, traditional neck spines, a vivid green shade), new Elliot is the perfect cuddly protector. I haven't seen so many small children so quietly enthralled in a long time.
More than anything, this film evoked nostalgia and memories in me! Every moment of lush New Zealand greenery was a reminder of my own childhood, which consisted on occasion of playing for hours on end, nearly completely alone, in the New Zealand bush. Although my young dragon years were spent trespassing in private bushland behind Blackpool Beach on Waiheke Island, the lush foliage of the filming locations, particularly the Rotorua Redwoods Forest, will feel familiar to many bushwhacking kids and adults.
As a child it certainly seemed as if a taniwha could rise at any moment from the underground streams that ran through the bush, and in Disney's Pete's Dragon, this thrill finally becomes real!
Disney's Pete's Dragon opens in New Zealand cinemas on Thursday 15 September, 2016.
Our thanks to Disney for providing tickets to an advanced screening for our reviewer.