Pete’s Dragon is one of the many among the current trend of Disney movie remakes. The film follows the friendship between a lost little boy and the dragon he encounters in the woods. The longtime friends are separated when the little boy is taken back to civilization and drama ensues. You can check out Dave Giggs review for the general verdict on the picture itself- it’s a straightforward and simple heartfelt film, perhaps a little thin for older audiences but sure to enthrall children.
While the original 1977 film had a real little kid acting with a cartoon creature, this remake opts for a gorgeous CGI rendering of the eponymous dragon. Despite this, Pete’s Dragon is relatively modestly budgeted compared to other Disney remakes. Similarly, its bonus features are incredibly modest compared to the likes of The Jungle Book live action remake.
The Pete’s Dragon (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD) set is solid as far as the visual quality of the main movie goes, but if you buy this expecting to get an in depth-look into the making of the movie or even a good talk with the cast in the bonus features, you’ll be sadly disappointed. The special features included in this release are surprisingly short and without much substance. They’re not bad, but they’re a little less that what I typically expect from Disney releases.
The longest feature by far is the “Disappearing Moments” feature, which has a montage of “deleted, extended and alternate scenes” for the movie. It’s about nine minutes long and to be honest, it’s not terribly interesting. The reason each individual scene wasn’t broken up into separate videos like they usually art probably was because the scenes weren’t substantial enough to justify it. Like most deleted scenes, it’s pretty clear why the parts that were cut out were cut out-they’re just kind of dull. Pretty much the only moment worth noting was a gag where Natalie climbs down the side of the house in a daring escape, only for Pete to simply take the stairs.
The second-longest feature is “Notes to Self: Directors Diary”. It’s probably the most solid feature, as it gives a quick look at what went on behind the scenes of the film- showing the kids training for action sequences and the giant green balloon that was stand in for the dragon. A lot of the feature is literally the director reading from the diary he kept on the film- it’s an interesting look at the process, though his musings tend to be pretty unspecific and verge on generic. He tells you the movie is personal for him, but doesn’t tell you why, and so on. You do get a sense of his investment in the movie though and his passion.
Then there’s the “Making Magic” feature, which really should have been longer. The dragon is the lynchpin of the film and a good look at the work that went into creating the creature would have been interesting. But instead, the feature is just two minutes and is mostly a presentation of trivia spelled out in text, like how long Elliot the dragon’s wingspan is and the fact he’s a vegetarian. These quick factoids are good for the short attention spans of any kids watching, but movie buffs will likely want something more substantial.
The “Bloopers” featurette is especially weak. It’s about a minute long and mainly consists of the cast dancing around to goofy music. Seriously, it’s just that, some sneezes and couple flubbed lines.
The two-minute “New Zealand” featurette just shows off New Zealand’s gorgeous scenery while the crew talks about how great it is. I’m sure the New Zealand tourist industry appreciated it, especially since they got to tag their website and slogan to the end of the feature.
That’s it for special features- other than two music videos for songs in the movie : “Nobody Knows” by the Lumineers and “Something Wild” by Lindsey Sterling (featuring Andrew McMahon In the Wilderness). They’re both nice enough, but you can also easily find them online, as they’ve been released in other venues.
The audio commentary is probably the most impressive part of the DVD as it features the director, co-writer Tony Halbrooks and both the child starts of the movie: Oakes Fegly (Pete) and Oona Laurence (Natalie). That’s a nice variety of perspectives there and it keeps the conversation flowing. You get a little more insight into how the movie was made than in the insubstantial featurettes and the kids are cute even just to listen to.
All in all, I’d call this DVD “middle-of-the-road” as far as features go. They’re short, forgettable and a bit generic. It’s not a bad purchase by any mean if you enjoy the movie, but I wouldn’t buy this disc for features alone. For a DVD release, this is pretty standard, but Disney DVDs are typically fancier. The Digital HD version of the features was also pretty buggy and wouldn’t even play for me, though I’m not sure if that isn’t just a problem individual to me.
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