Disney’s Pete’s Dragon, which opened in theaters on August 12, is not your mama’s Pete’s Dragon. This is Disney reimagining the movie for a new generation. That’s not to say that if you loved Elliott as a child you won’t feel the magic of childhood that only comes with an imaginary dragon. Pete’s Dragon will remind you how wonderful it is to run free in the woods and soar on your imagination.
And now that you’re all grown up, there’s a bonus in it just for you: no singing. Ok, so maybe that’s just for me. I was really thankful this version was not a musical.
The new Pete’s Dragon is in many ways a movie that is sure to delight little boys. Yes, girls will enjoy it as well, but this is a welcome and much-needed change for little boys.
After losing his parents (of course, they have to kill the parents right off the bat. This is, after all, a Disney flick) Pete is found by a green furry mammoth-sized dragon. He names him Elliott, after the puppy in his favorite book. Elliott instantly becomes Pete’s family as well as his protector.
Although the computer animation is superb, as you would expect from a Disney film, what I found particularly good about this movie was the treatment of boyhood.
It’s no secret that boyhood has been all but decimated in our culture. Pete’s Dragon manages to rekindle that flame of boyish adventure again. Pete builds a magnificent tree house. He climbs to the treetop and gives out a boisterous howl of conquest. And although his appearance, with his dirty face and unwashed hair, shows he doesn’t have a mother to care for him, for the most part, he’s happy being a boy.
The real treasure for adults in this film is the sparkle in Robert Redford’s eyes as he recalls the dragon of his youth. The backstory on him is that when he was just a boy he saw a dragon deep in the woods. The magic of that encounter touched him and left him with the boyish belief in magical dragons—the perfect companion for a boy’s imagination. Now, in his daughter’s eyes, he is an old man who tells tall tales.
Pete is told, first by his mother, and then again by the forest ranger who finds him, “You are the bravest boy I’ve ever known.” These are words every boy needs to hear.
In John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart: Discovering The Secret of a Man’s Soul, he explains that what every boy wants is the answer to the questions: Am I strong enough? Am I brave enough? Do I have what it takes to be a man?
While a movie filled with computer-generated images of a boy riding his dragon will not answer those questions for your little boy, I hope it will at least spark his imagination enough to inspire him to answer his call to be adventurous.
Boys who let their imaginations soar will learn to ride their dreams into manhood.