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Pete's Dragon is a 1977 American live-action animated musical fantasy comedy film directed by Don Chaffey, produced by Jerome Courtland and Ron Miller, and written by Malcolm Marmorstein. It is based on an unpublished short story of the same name, written by classical Hollywood writer Seton I. Miller. It stars Helen Reddy, Jim Dale, Mickey Rooney, Red Buttons, Jeff Conaway, Shelley Winters, and Charlie Callas. It revolves around an orphaned boy raised by an abusive hillbilly family who is friends with a dragon named Elliott.

Upon release, the film was a moderate success, grossing $39 million over a $10 million budget. Its reviews were mixed. The song "Candle on the Water" received an Academy Award nomination, but lost to "You Light Up My Life" from the film of the same name. Reddy's recording (with a different arrangement than the one her character sings in the film) was released as a single by Capitol Records, reaching #27 on the Adult Contemporary charts. Pete's Dragon also received a nomination for Original Song Score and Its Adaptation or Adaptation Score, losing to A Little Night Music.

Plot

In the early 1900s, Pete flees his abusive hillbilly foster family, the Gogans, with help from Elliott who can make himself invisible.

Pete and Elliott visit Passamaquoddy, where the unseen Elliott's clumsiness causes Pete to be labeled a source of ill luck.

Lampie stumbles out of a tavern and encounters Pete. Elliott makes himself visible and a terrified Lampie runs into the saloon to warn the townsfolk. In a seaside cave, Pete scolds Elliott for causing trouble. Just as they make up, Nora appears saying due to the ongoing tides from the sea, it is unsafe for Pete to stay, then offers him food and shelter at the lighthouse, which Pete accepts.

Pete tells Nora of the abuse he suffers at the hands of the Gogans and, as Nora offers to let him stay the night at the lighthouse, they strike up a friendship. Pete learns the story of Paul, whose ship was reported lost at sea the previous year. Pete promises to ask Elliott about Paul, and Nora accepts, believing Elliott to be an imaginary friend.

The next morning, Dr. Terminus and Hoagy arrive and win over the gullible townspeople who are initially angered by their return. The day after that, the local fishermen complain about the scarcity of fish and believe Pete is the cause. Nora tells them the fishing grounds shift and Pete should be welcomed in town. Nora takes him to school, where he is punished unfairly by Miss Taylor as a result of Elliott's antics. An enraged Elliott smashes into the schoolhouse, leaving his shape in the wall, as Pete runs off.

Dr. Terminus makes Pete an offer for Elliott, which he refuses. Believing he needs to stop running from the Gogans, Nora and Lampie offer to let Pete live with them permanently, which he accepts. When the Gogans arrive in town and demand Pete back, Nora refuses to hand him over. As the Gogans attempt to chase them in a small boat, Elliott "torpedoes" their boat, saving Pete.

Dr. Terminus teams up with the Gogans to capture both Pete and Elliott. Terminus also convinces the superstitious locals helping him capture the dragon will solve their problems. That evening, a storm begins to blow.

At sea, a sailing ship is approaching Passamaquoddy with Paul on board. Dr. Terminus lures Pete to the boathouse, while Hoagy does the same to Elliott. Once there, the invisible Elliott is caught in a net, but frees himself and saves Pete, then confronts the Gogans. Lena Gogan yells at Elliott, claiming Pete is their property and waves her Bill of Sale at Elliott, who torches it. Now completely defenseless, the Gogans flee after Elliott frightens them away. Just as Pete and Elliot laugh, Dr. Terminus makes one more effort to harpoon Elliott, but his leg is caught in the rope and he is sent catapulting through the ceiling and screams as he goes through the roof, ending up dangling upside down near a utility pole. In a last-ditch effort, the helpless Dr. Terminus tries to offer buying Elliott's "spare parts", to which he declines and proceeds to destroy Dr. Terminus' traveling wagon, ending his scamming business.

Elliott then saves the Mayor, Miss Taylor, and the members of the Town Board from a falling utility pole, revealing himself to the grateful townsfolk. Back at the lighthouse, the lamp has been extinguished by a storm-driven rogue wave. Elliott returns and tries to light it with his own fire. As he does, Nora sees that he is real. The light is ignited and the ship is saved.

The next morning, the Mayor and the townsfolk praise Elliott for his help, and Nora reunites with Paul, who was the sole survivor of a shipwreck at Cape Hatteras and suffered amnesia. Now that Pete has a loving family, Elliott tells him he must move on to help another kid in trouble, and is sad the two must part. Pete comforts Elliott by telling him if anyone can help that kid, then he can. Elliott flies away as Pete and his new family wave good-bye to him. The film ends with Pete reminding Elliott once again he is supposed to be invisible.

Cast

  • Sean Marshall as Pete, an orphan boy whom the Gogans have purchased and treat like a slave.
  • Helen Reddy as Nora, Lampie's headstrong but kind daughter who later adopts Pete.
  • Jim Dale as Dr. Terminus, a scheming quack and showman.
  • Mickey Rooney as Lampie, Passamaquoddy's lighthouse keeper and Nora's father.
  • Red Buttons as Hoagy, Dr. Terminus' sidekick.
  • Shelley Winters as Lena Gogan, the matriarch of the Gogan family.
  • Jane Kean as Miss Taylor, a strict schoolteacher who reluctantly takes Pete as a student at Nora's suggestion.
  • Jim Backus as the Mayor of Passamaquoddy, the unnamed cigar-smoking mayor.
  • Charles Tyner as Merle Gogan, Lena's husband and the patriarch of the Gogan family.
  • Gary Morgan and Jeff Conaway as Grover and Willie Gogan, Lena and Merle's sons.
  • Jonathan Freeman as Paul, a sailor who has disappeared at sea and Nora's fiancé
  • Charlie Callas as the voice of Elliott, a dragon that saves Pete from the Gogans.
  • Walter Barnes as the Captain of the ship on which Paul returns home.

Al Checco, Henry Slate, and Jack Collins appear in the film as local fishermen. Robert Easton plays a store proprietor in Passamaquoddy, and Roger Price is seen as a man with a visor. Robert Foulk plays an old sea captain. Ben Wrigley is the egg vendor that Elliott accidentally knocks into the Mayor and Joe Ross plays the cement man whose cement was stepped in by Elliott. Dinah Anne Rogers has an uncredited role as one of the townspeople, as does Dennis Stewart, who plays a fisherman, and Debbie Fresh is also uncredited as a "Child/Dancer/Singer".

Musical numbers

  1. "The Happiest Home in These Hills" – Lena, Merle, Grover, Willie
  2. "Boo Bop Bop Bop Bop (I Love You, Too)" – Pete, Elliott
  3. "I Saw a Dragon" – Lampie, Nora, Townsmen
  4. "It's Not Easy" – Nora, Pete
  5. "Passamaquoddy" – Dr. Terminus, Hoagy, Townsfolk
  6. "Candle on the Water" – Nora
  7. "There's Room for Everyone" – Nora, Pete, Children
  8. "Every Little Piece" – Hoagy, Dr. Terminus
  9. "Brazzle Dazzle Day" – Nora, Lampie, Pete
  10. "Bill of Sale" – Nora, Lena, Merle, Grover, Willie
  11. "I Saw a Dragon (Reprise)" – Townsmen
  12. "Brazzle Dazzle Day (Reprise)" – Pete, Nora, Lampie, Paul
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