So, Pete’s got a dragon, some townsfolk have their reservations about it, and all works out in the end, right? Well these thirteen things about Pete’s Dragon are anything but simple, so don’t just Passamaquoddy them by.
13. Originally intended as an installment of the The Magical World of Disney TV series circa 1957, it was shelved until 1975.
12. There were plans to move the lighthouse, specially constructed for the film, to the Disneyland theme park. Unfortunately, the building had deteriorated beyond repair before this could be done.
11. Animation director Don Bluth was told by the producers to create 900 feet of animation on a $1.8 million budget. When the producers were impressed with the first few scenes he completed, they updated their demand to 1800 feet of animation but neither increased the budget nor the production schedule. Bluth delivered the completed animation on time but was reprimanded for going $75,000 over budget.
10. Alcohol abuse is a key theme in the film’s plot. Helen Reddy, Mickey Rooney, and songwriter Al Kasha all had alcoholic fathers.
9. Animators Don Bluth, Gary Goldman, and John Pomeroy regularly worked 100 hours per week during production. When they applied for overtime pay, their superiors suggested that they instead receive one hour off for each hour of overtime they worked. At the end of production, all three men were owed six continuous weeks of time off. They used this time off to work on their private project, Banjo the Woodpile Cat.
8. This is Ken Anderson’s final film for Disney. Having spent much of his early life in East Asia, he based Elliott on the Chinese dragon trope; the ancient Chinese consider dragons good while Western cultures consider them evil.
7. The scene where Mickey Rooney and Red Buttons drunkenly walk to the cave to see Elliott turned into a massive ad-lib session, with each comedian trying to outdo the other with pratfalls and slapstick.
6. Originally, Elliott the dragon was not to be seen at all in the film and remain invisible throughout. However, members of the studio animation department gradually lobbied studio heads to increase the amount of visible screen time. At first it was decided he would be only seen at the end of the film, but ultimately the character’s screen time was increased to 22 minutes.
5. The story was set in the fictitious eastern seacoast town of Passamaquoddy. The movie set, however, was constructed on the west coast. This explains why the sun appears to be setting in the east in the scene early in the movie in which Nora exits the lighthouse after putting Pete to bed.
4. This was the very first film released on VHS by Disney’s home media outlet, Walt Disney Home Video. They HAD done releases on the Discovision, but this was the first program they released on their own, on the VHS/Betamax magnetic tape formats plus Laserdisc format at some point, and has the smallest stock number of every home media release the company put out.
3. A Ska-Punk version of the song “It’s Not Easy” was recorded by members of Reel Big Fish and Zolof The Rock & Roll Destroyer.
2. Don Hahn, who was assistant director to Don Bluth on this film, gained some experience working with a combination of live-action and animation before later going on to work on Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
1. One technique used in the movie involved compositing with a Sodium vapour process, whereby up to three scenes might be composited together – for example, a live foreground, a live background, and an animated middle ground containing Elliott.
Pete’s Dragon (1977)
G | 2h 8min | Animation, Adventure, Comedy | 3 November 1977 (USA)
An orphan boy and his magical dragon come to town with his abusive adoptive parents in pursuit.
Director: Don Chaffey
Writers: Malcolm Marmorstein (screenplay), Seton I. Miller (story)
Stars: Sean Marshall, Helen Reddy, Jim Dale