Pete’s Dragon appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.66:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Though some parts of the film looked pretty good, quite a few problems emerged along the way.
Sharpness varied. Close-ups looked fine, but wider shots tended to display different levels of fuzziness. Some were decent, while others appeared pretty flat. Overall, the flick showed adequate delineation at best. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering appeared, and edge enhancement remained minor.
Print flaws often cropped up due to the combination of animation and live action photography. Elliott himself seemed very grainy, and other shots in which he appeared also showed heavy amounts of grain along with specks, streaks and marks. When we didn’t see Elliott, the problems became less significant but not non-existent. I detected moderate instances of grit and speckles, though some scenes appeared acceptably clean and without defects.
Colors seemed similarly erratic, also apparently connected to the photographic style. When Elliott doesn’t appear, the images were stronger and occasionally showed nice hues, though they still could be somewhat flat. As for Elliott himself, however, the colors never quite seemed right. His green skin looked pale, and his purple hair and other attributes seemed too pink.
Black levels appeared fairly deep and rich, but shadow detail often came across as excessively thick. Some of this problem occurred due to “day for night” photography; that technique has made many a movie seem too dark, and Dragon is no exception. Even scenes that didn’t use day for night still weren’t great, though, as they tended to be rather dull and flat. Ultimately, this wasn’t a terrible transfer, but I thought it lacked enough pizzazz for a grade above a “C-“.
More consistent though still not great was the remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Pete’s Dragon. Not surprisingly, the audio stayed mainly in the forward spectrum. Stereo separation largely affected the music, which displayed nice breadth across the front speakers. I also heard minor localization of some ambient sounds; nothing blended together terrifically well, but the side channels displayed some mild effects. The surrounds were minor partners and they offered only general reinforcement of the music and effects; they contributed an acceptably nice atmosphere but didn’t really add much to the experience.
Audio quality was dated and unexceptional. Dialogue had the most problems, as speech often appeared flat and thin. The lines remained intelligible but they were generally dull.
Effects generally displayed similar qualities, but at least they sounded clean and fairly realistic, and they lacked much distortion. Music fared nicely, as the movie’s tunes came across as bright and bouncy. The score also displayed some modest bass, as did a few of Elliott’s more guttural vocalizations.
Dragon’s audio tended to lack impact because the track was mastered at a very low level. I needed to crank my receiver’s volume much higher than normal to get acceptable sound, and even then, the mix remained thin and lackluster. Given its age, the track was good enough for a “C”, but it disappointed.
How did the picture and audio of this 2009 “High-Flying Edition” of Pete’s Dragon compare to those of the original DVD? Unfortunately, I don’t own the old disc and I couldn’t find a copy to rent, so I was unable to directly contrast the two releases.
If you look at my review for the prior disc, you’ll find higher grades and more praise. Don’t take that to mean the 2000 DVD is superior to the 2009 release. In fact, I’d bet that both offer virtually identical visuals and audio but changes in my home theater set-up and my viewing standards have changed over that span. It’s a disappointment that the quality of the 2009 DVD doesn’t improve on its predecessor, though.
Pete’s Dragon doesn’t offer a packed special edition, but it does contribute a decent variety of extras. It mixes components from the original DVD and new material. I’ll mark old extras with an asterisk; if you fail to see a star, that means the supplement is exclusive to this set.
Brazzle Dazzle Effects: Behind Disney’s Movie Magic runs 25 minutes, 53 seconds as it presents comments from actor Sean Marshall. He narrates a look at how films have allowed humans and cartoons to interact over the decades before we see specifics about the Dragon shoot. Along with Marshall’s narration, we get some archival comments from Walt Disney, actress Virginia Davis, and Disney chairman emeritus Roy E. Disney.
It’s too bad we don’t hear from a wider variety of participants, but “Magic” offers a fun look at the flick anyway. I like the overview of effects evolution, and Marshall also gives us some good notes about working on the film. We find a nice take on the project in this tight, enjoyable piece.
Next comes a Deleted Storyboard Sequence. “Terminus and Hoagy Hunt Elliott” lasts two minutes, 27 seconds as it shows a story reel for a cut scene. The title describes the action, and the scene doesn’t add much to the experience.
More unused material comes to us via an Original Song Concept. “Boo Bop Bopbop Bop (I Love You Too)” goes for two minutes, 35 seconds as it offers a pop/rock version of the tune. It sounds more like something from an Monkees album than the even more sickly-sweet movie version. We see storyboards along with the audio.
Under Original Demo Recordings, we find early versions of three tunes. We discover “Brazzle Dazzle Day (Alternate Song)”, “Every Little Piece (Alternate Melody)” and “The Greatest Star of All (Deleted Song for Deleted Character)”. Given my negative attitude toward the movie, it doesn’t surprise me that I don’t care for these. Still, fans will enjoy the chance to hear preliminary takes on these numbers, especially since “Star” features material that doesn’t appear in the film.
More music shows up under Promotional Record. It presents “pop” versions of four Dragon songs: “It’s Not Easy”, “Brazzle Dazzle Day”, “There’s Room for Everyone” and “Candle on the Water”. They’re just as bad as the renditions in the final flick. All sound curiously behind the times, as they seem like they’d have fit in better with a movie made in 1969. Anyway, I’m sure fans will like this historical curiosity.
After this we find *Where’s Elliott? The Disappearing Dragon Game. Here you respond to verbal puzzles to locate the dragon from a few possible locations. Get four correct and you receive a “special video treat”. Unfortunately, it’s not very special; it just briefly discusses the history of dragons and actually repeats some material found in other extras.
*Pete’s Dragon Art Galleries provides three different areas: “Concept Art” (17 images), “Behind the Scenes” (26), and “Publicity” (14). These stills are presented in thumbnail galleries that can be easily accessed for larger views. They’re nothing special but I thought they were well-presented and fairly interesting.
With *Disney Family Album, we get an excerpt from a 1982 TV show. This two-minute and 22-second clip quickly discusses the career of Ken Anderson, the animator who led the work on Elliott. It’s too brief but I thought it offered a nice enough look at the subject.
Another TV snippet comes from *The Plausible Impossible, a 1956 episode of the Disney show. This excerpt lasts for three minutes and 36 seconds as it discusses the origins or mythological beasts, with a particular focus on - surprise! - dragons. It’s a fun clip that merits a look.
Dragon includes one classic Disney cartoon. We get a Donald Duck short called *Lighthouse Keeping. This six-minute and 42-second piece shows Donald as he battles a pelican to keep the lighthouse lit. It’s not one of Donald’s better efforts but I thought it was fairly entertaining.
*Trailers offers two different ads. We get the “International” promo and also the “Theatrical” version. The use for the former is unclear, but it seems to be from after the movie’s initial release, since it refers to the film as a “classic”; even Disney aren’t arrogant enough to call something a classic on its initial issue! Lastly, the DVD provides text *About Pete’s Dragon. This feature includes five screens of basic production notes about the movie.
The disc offers a series of ads at its start. Here we find promos for the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, The Princess and the Frog, Hannah Montana: The Movie and Blu-ray Disc. These also appear in the Sneak Peeks area along with clips for Disney Movie Rewards, Up, D23, Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure and Earth.
Does this 2009 edition of Dragon lose anything from the original DVD? Yup: it drops “Man, Monsters, and Mysteries”, a 25-minute and 15-second program from 1977. It wasn’t a great show, but its absence comes as a disappointment.
As a movie, Pete’s Dragon is a dud. In addition to an annoying cast, it offers a dull and predictable tale that features virtually no spark or energy. The DVD provides flawed picture and sound plus a nice little complement of extras. However, the weak quality of the feature can’t be overcome; this one’s for Disney die-hards only.
You’ll need to be a super Dragon die-hard to double-dip on this set. I don’t believe that the 2009 DVD improves on the picture or audio of the earlier disc. It adds a few nice new extras that’ll appeal to serious fans, but these aren’t significant enough to warrant a new purchase for anyone who doesn’t totally adore the film. Maybe a Blu-ray Dragon will provide an quality presentation of the flick, but the 2009 SE doesn’t appear to improve on its predecessor.