Disney already has a handful of critical/commercial smash hits under its belt in 2016 (Zootopia, The Jungle Book, Captain America: Civil War), but its sequel Alice Through the Looking Glass was a costly misfire (on all fronts) in May, and the studio’s newly-released The BFG has earned good reviews, but just opened quite softly at the U.S. box office. That’s all to say: it remains to be seen where the Mouse House’s impending Pete’s Dragon re-telling falls on that scale, in terms of both the movie’s box office turnout and the reception that it earns from critics and general audiences alike.
The original Pete’s Dragon (as was released in 1977) is a decidedly whimsical live-action musical that features 2D animated elements – specifically, the dragon Elliot. By comparison, the 2016 version of Pete’s Dragon – directed by David Lowery from a script that he co-penned with his frequent collaborator Toby Halbrooks (Ain’t Them Bodies Saints) – is shaping up to be more of a fairy tale adventure (with a CGI Elliot), judging by the trailers released for the film thus far. Nevertheless, there will be at least some music in the new Pete’s Dragon, as illustrated by a new TV trailer for the movie.
In the latest preview released for Pete’s Dragon (see above), Young Pete (Oakes Fegley) sings a song about how “Deep in the forest there dragons will be” – something he knows for a fact, having survived in the forest for the past several years with the help of his dragon buddy, Elliot. Things forever change for the orphaned boy and his furry, flying, friend after they encounter a kindly forest ranger named Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard), only to attract the attention of other people (such as Karl Urban’s character) – who, unlike Grace, are quick to assume the worst once they discover that Elliot is, in fact, not just a figment of Pete’s imagination.
Pete’s Dragon seems promising thus far, with the film’s trailer footage have prompted comparisons to the sort of family-friendly adventures that Steven Spielberg either directed and/or released under his Amblin Entertainment banner, back in the 1980s – and most recently, with The BFG. Disney has also continuously name-dropped The Jungle Book (2016) throughout its marketing for the film (including, in the new TV trailer), further bolstering the idea that Pete’s Dragon could be a worthwhile adventure for the whole family on the level with that critically-acclaimed movie (as was directed by Jon Favreau).
That being said, Pete’s Dragon doesn’t have quite the iconic status as other fairy tales (Cinderella, The Jungle Book, and so forth) that Disney has re-told as live-action/CGI films over the past 5-6 years – and for some, the film may seem a little too similar to Jungle Book, which could affect its box office turnout. The general outlook towards Pete’s Dragon right now seems to be optimistic all the same; so, even if it doesn’t fly quite as high as some of Disney other offerings this year, the movie is still shaping up to be another overall “win” for the Mouse House in 2016.
Pete’s Dragon opens in U.S. theaters on August 12th, 2016.