The early buzz on Disney’s remake of Pete’s Dragon has described the film as being an unusually thoughtful, deliberately-paced feature compared to most children’s films released during the summer month. Many a kid-friendly film relies on slapstick and constant momentum to hold its target audience’s attention – which, to be clear, doesn’t immediately make it a bad film (see, for example, this year’s well-received The Secret Life of Pets).
While the U.S. trailers for Pete’s Dragon have leaned heavier on action and movement, it’s clear that audience can expect something closer to Spike Jonze’ Where the Wild Things Are feature than, say, one of the Minions movies or even Finding Dory. The newly-released UK trailer for Pete’s Dragon (see above) casts the film in its most unusual-looking light yet.
The original 1977 Pete’s Dragon was a curious feature even by classic Disney standards: a big-scale musical comedy driven by elaborate song and dance numbers and comedy setpieces involving an often-invisible animated dragon protecting an orphan and a lighthouse keeper from backwoods criminals (and an unscrupulous medicine man) in a New England seaside town. The new film keeps the title and “boy meets dragon” setup, but relocates the story to the Pacific Northwest and a tone that looks to have more in common with E.T. than that of its predecessor.
The new UK trailer dials back on plot details in favor of establishing the moody, somber tone that seems to be indicative of the film overall; driving home the idea of the new Elliott the Dragon as less a comic-relief imaginary friend and more of an imposing, mythic creature (seemingly inspired by North American “cryptids” like Bigfoot and The Jersey Devil). This Elliott could easily appear frightening to those who encounter him in circumstances different from Pete (Oakes Fegley): a feral child said to have been the dragon’s companion in the woods for several years.
While the UK trailer is light on plot, it teases a handful of sequences that shine a light on the film’s narrative; such as reactions to a drawing Pete makes of Elliot, suggesting the idea of a Dragon living in the woods isn’t entirely alien to the locals. There’s also a renewed focus on Karl Urban as the apparent villain of the piece; a logging company executive and hunting/firearms enthusiast whose obvious eagerness to go gunning for Elliot indicates that the film’s storyline may include environmental and animal-rights themes (alongside all the expected Disney whimsy).
The Summer 2016 box office has thus far proven tough to crack for films that don’t feature superheroes or cartoon animals, and Disney and Steven Spielberg’s The BFG – a similar attempt at a thoughtful, gently-plotted breed of family film – came up short back in July. Whether or not Pete’s Dragon will meet the same fate remains to be seen.
Pete’s Dragon opens in U.S. theaters on August 12th, 2016.
Source: Disney UK