Follow TV Tropes


Film / Pete's Dragon (2016)

Go To

A remake of the 1977 Disney film Pete's Dragon, continuing Disney's trend of rebooting much of their fantasy catalog in live-action, released in the summer of 2016. Now a CGI character, Elliott (voiced by John Kassir) is a cryptozoological oddity of the Pacific Northwest being studied by Mr. Meacham (Robert Redford) and his park ranger daughter Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard). New evidence of the dragon's existence comes to light when a feral child named Pete (Oakes Fegley) emerges from the woods, having spent six years living with the beast.

The movie was directed by David Lowery. After the cut was shown to Disney, they immediately signed him on to direct the upcoming live action version of Peter Pan despite the movie not being screened by the public yet.


  • Adults Are Useless: Played with.
    • The town doctor and Grace are having a conversation about how Pete is and what to do with him. During this time he wakes up, figures out the window locks and escapes. Natalie is the only one who notices.
    • When Gavin captures Elliot, none of the adults who have seen how harmless he is make any serious move to convince Gavin to stop or set the dragon free; the kids have to sneak in and do it.
    • Eventually averted in Meacham, who is pro-Elliot and helps Pete and Natalie get him away from Gavin.
  • All Animals Are Dogs: Being based on domestic mammals, Elliot acts very much like a dog with wings and fire breath. Even his name is taken from the name of a dog in a children's book.
  • All Myths Are True: Mr. Meacham (Robert Redford's character) has for years told stories to children about a fire-breathing dragon who lives in the forest, though he was prone to embellishment to make the dragon sound more fearsome. Pete reveals that these stories are actually true.
  • And Then What?: After Gavin and his team succesfully capture Elliott, Meacham asks him face to face what he intends to do with the dragon now that he has him. Gavin is unable to answer since evidently he didn't plan that far ahead.
  • Anti-Villain: Gavin isn't a bad person, only misguided in what he believes to be the right course of action.
  • Arc Words: "The bravest boy I've ever met." These words are spoken to Pete three times: Once by his birth mother, once by Grace, and once by her father who adds Pete to the tall tales he tells.
  • Beware the Silly Ones: While Elliot looks more realistic he still gives off an air of a goofball animal at timesnote  and is honestly perfectly harmless. Until you decide to become a threat to Pete.
    • At the end, after being tranquilized and captured, and then being chased by the rest of the town, thinking they're a threat to him and his friends, Elliot gets angry. He runs on top of the bridge they're crossing and uses his fire breath for the first time. It knocks a hole in the bridge, weakening it enough to cause it to break in half.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Pete and Elliot, after some discussion, sadly and reluctantly agree they have to separate for Elliot's safety. Their home was destroyed by Gavin's team capturing Elliot. And now the entire town knows the dragon exists. So Elliot leaves Pete with Grace's family and takes off... but sometime later, Jack and Grace have taken the folk song about dragons that everyone knows and treated the "go North" lyrics as instructions so the family, which now includes Pete, can find and visit Elliot and the family he was separated from but has now reunited with.
  • Book Ends: The film begins and ends with parents driving on a winding road in the woods, with Pete in the back seat...and lovingly looking back at him (and Natalie in the closing scenes).
  • Breath Weapon: Elliot's fire breath. It's given a slightly interesting treatment narratively; for most of the film we're led to think it's something Meacham invented to spice up the stories he tells the town kids, as the tale we hear paints Elliot as much more aggressive than he really is. Then we see during the climax that yes, he can breathe fire, and it's terrifyingly effective.
  • Catlike Dragons: Elliott has physical and behavioral similarities to cats.
  • Cassandra Truth: Meacham has been telling people about the Millhaven Dragon for years, so long that it's a town legend. Gavin stumbles across Elliot and the first thing he does is to rush home to tell his brother Jack that Meacham wasn't making it up.
  • Central Theme: The Power of Love and Family.
  • Cool Old Guy: Mr. Meacham. He's a woodcarver of some skill, and the children love the tall tales he spins. Even though he and his daughter don't agree on his fanciful stories, they obviously still love each other a lot.
  • Covered in Gunge: Elliott's sneezes.
    • Pete gets a downplayed example. The dragon sneezes on him but it's a light mist. Pete still complains and playfully scolds Elliot.
    • Gavin gets the example played straight, and is drenched from head to toe in viscous, wet dragon snot.
  • Dragon Rider: Pete rides around on Elliot's back a few times, as do Grace and Jack in the climax. It's treated more as getting a lift from a friend than exerting any control over him, however.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: Averted. There are numerous serious crashes in the film, especially near the climax, and absolutely no vehicles catch fire or explode, even when they logically should like Jack's pickup being at or near ground zero for Elliot's breath weapon. Note that the fire is hot enough to burn asphalt.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The town where the human characters live is called Millhaven. It is the home of ...a lumber mill.
  • Expy: Two sheriff characters seen in the trailer bear an uncanny resemblance to Sheriff Blubbs and Deputy Durland from Gravity Falls.
  • Fantastic Sapient Species: Elliot. He is smart enough to understand English when spoken by Pete or other humans, and he's smart enough to communicate with humans through gestures, body language and the use of props. Probably the only reason he can't talk is because his throat is adapted to doing something other than talkingnote .
  • Fiery Redhead: Played with. Gavin and his lumber crew imply to each other that Grace being a redhead is why Jack tends to side with her against him — that his brother can't withstand her hot temper. The truth is, although Grace is a very level-headed woman and even when emotional, tends to be very mild about how she shows it.
  • Friend to All Children:
    • Elliot doesn't bother with his invisibility when searching for Pete, so more than one child lays eyes on him. Not one seems remotely frightened. All of them smile and wave at him.
    • When Natalie gets to meet Elliot, she immediately lays on hands and pets him like a giant puppy.
  • Good Versus Good: Elliot's adopted family is a loving family. Gavin, the closest thing this movie has to an antagonist still goes out of his way to protect children and is a very devoted uncle even though he and his brother don't always get along.
  • Happily Adopted: Shares this with the original.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: A played with example. Pete bonds with Grace most out of all the people in Millhaven.
  • Idiot Ball: A whole bunch of people handle one early on, starting with Gavin yanking Pete out of a tree so he hits his head hard enough to be unconscious. Then when Pete runs away from the hospital, a bunch of people chase after him, and Grace grabs him after cornering him in a dead end alley. Hey, guess what it means to be chased, cornered, and grabbed in the wild? And then a whole bunch of people gather around to gawk at the kid who's terrified out of his mind.
  • Instant Sedation: Averted as Elliot takes several shots of tranq darts from Gavin and his friends and yet manages to thrash about for several minutes before finally falling sleep. Then, even after he wakes up, he's still far too groggy and sedated for several more minutes to even walk, let alone fly, and has to be carted away to the woods in the back of a truck.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Gavin. Even though he wants to get rich and famous at any cost, he leaps to protect children and is very devoted to his brother, even though they don't really get along.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: On several occasions, but Pete and Elliot are at the top of the list. Elliot clues Gavin in by accidentally toppling a tree near the logging site, and although Pete's requests for Elliot to fly away were tactically sound, the fact that Elliot was pumped full of tranquilizers at the time only served to make the situation worse when his attempts to do just that failed.
  • Not-So-Imaginary Friend: Played with. When Natalie explains the concept of "imaginary friends" to Pete, he figures that Elliot isn't imaginary, so maybe Natalie is. She takes some offense to this logic. Then Grace sees the crayon drawing Pete did and finds it unsettlingly familiar to drawings done by her father of the Millhaven Dragon.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Unlike his original incarnation, the new Elliot's design is more based in the world of real mammals, including dogs and cats, with his scales swapped for green fur and his pink hair gone. Regardless, he can still fly and breathe fire. Also, the original's ability to turn invisible is now a form of camouflage; if he moves, he's visible, and can be picked out by a careful observer even if he holds still.
  • Papa Dragon: You best not threaten Pete in front of his Fire-Breathing best friend.
  • Parental Abandonment:
  • Puppy Love: Played with concerning Pete and Natalie.
  • Plucky Girl:
    • Grace. She is a little too strait-laced to really disrupt Gavin and the loggers' activities in the forest, even though they're cutting where they're not supposed to. So she fights back in small ways. She spray paints away their markings for which trees to cut when she finds endangered wildlife living there. She takes the keys out of the bulldozer and throws them a short distance away. Finally, she takes Gavin's keys off him and throws them a short distance away.
    • Natalie. She starts out as an obviously bookish child who is actually annoyed at being late for school. But once she sees Pete, she chases him into the forest and fearlessly climbs his tree, only going back to Damsel in Distress traits when the branches give way under her greater weight and she begins to fall.
  • Rage Breaking Point: After losing Pete, being captured and then being pursued by a bunch of police trucks, Elliot finally loses his patience, and to defend himself and Pete he sets fire to the bridge.
  • Raised by Wolves: Pete was verbal and literate when he got lost in the woods, and Elliot obviously understands English, so Pete could still be verbal when found multiple years later. But he howls when upset, and shows the rest of the typical "feral child" traits.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Subverted. Meacham mentions that the dragon he met had "eyes red as hellfire", but he was only embellishing to make the story more entertaining for kids. Elliot's eyes are actually more golden.
  • Savage Wolves: Pete is briefly surrounded by a pack of wolves after getting lost - until Elliot's thunderous footsteps send them running.
  • Setting Update: While the original takes place during the early 1900s, the remake starts in 1977, the release year of the original film, before continuing six years later in 1983.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • The developers worked to capture Elliot's clumsiness by watching "hours upon hours" of funny animal videos.
    • Elliot's pink hair was removed in his redesign because it doesn't blend in with foliage of the movie's photorealistic environment.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: While chasing Meacham and the kids as they haul away Elliot in a flatbed, Gavin tries to block their path to the bridge while placing his own truck across the road. The flatbed plows right through Gavin's truck like in an action film...only to then immediately break down and stall seconds later from the damage it sustained.
  • Tender Tears: Anytime Pete or Grace is crying. It's implied near the end that Elliot is also capable of crying, but only in moments of great emotion.
  • They Would Cut You Up: The reason Pete agrees to separate from Elliot and send him away: Now that Gavin has revealed Elliot's existence to the whole town, humans would never stop looking for him even after he made his escape and proved himself dangerous to humans when provoked.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Granted Gavin was pumped up on adrenaline, and wasn't thinking clearly, but his plan to cut off Meecham was doomed to failure even if the flatbed Meecham was driving still had its brakes.
  • Villain Ball: Gavin is the villain because the movie needed conflict. He didn't seem to hold any ill will toward Elliot specifically — at least not until Elliot sneezes on him and bends his gun into uselessness; perhaps spurred on by hurt feelings when his brother Jack didn't believe him. Gavin's main motivation is that he seems to believe he needs a claim to fame to put the tiny mill town on the map. If cutting down the forest faster than is wise to encourage development won't do it, maybe catching the town's legendary dragon will.
  • Visible Invisibility: Elliot shows as more magically well camouflaged than truly invisible in many case.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: While he is motivated by fame and a desire for glory, Gavin does genuinely want to help his town and sees capturing Elliot as doing it.
  • A Wizard Did It: How did Pete, who we only see eating mushrooms before he's re-introduced to human food, spend six years in the forest but show no signs of malnourishment? Magic. It's handwaved by the fact that the audience knows Elliot can camouflage to the point of invisibility, and invoked by Meacham describing his encounter with Elliot as magic that changed the way he sees the world. There is also the fact that Pete is shown catching a rabbit by hand, so it's possible Pete got by through hunting small game. The bigger question should be what does Elliot eat? Seeing as the dragon hasn't been shown hunting even once, though Word of God is that he's a vegetarian.
    • He is notably short for a child of his age. Reduced height is a common effect of malnutrition during youth.
  • You Don't Look Like You: Elliot's redesign is a radical departure from his old look, but some aspects of that design, such as his big jaw, are still present.