Story

Pete’s Dragon is the remake of the 1977 animated movie of the same name.

Pete (Levi Alexander) is driving through a forest with his mum and dad when a deer jumps in front of them, causing their car to swerve and roll over. Pete is left alone in the dark, scary forest and doesn’t know where to go. Suddenly snarling wolves encircle him, but then something even scarier appears and sends the wolves running. It’s a giant dragon, which Pete thinks is going to eat him. But the dragon lifts Pete up and flies off with him.

Six years pass and loggers have moved into the forest. The logging company is headed by Jack (Wes Bentley), whose wife, Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard), is a park ranger and protector of the forest. Pete (Oakes Fegley) is now 10 years old and lives in the forest. He watches Grace from afar. One day Jack and Grace’s daughter, Natalie (Oona Laurence), comes with them into the forest and finds Pete. Naturally Jack and Grace want to take Pete back to civilisation but Pete doesn’t want to leave his dragon friend, Elliot, who has been caring for him since they met.

No-one believes Pete’s story about the dragon but when Elliot comes to find Pete they realise that the dragon is real. The loggers go on a mission to find and capture Elliot. Jack’s brother Gavin (Karl Urban) thinks it will bring him fame and fortune, so he’s particularly desperate to find the dragon.

Themes

Fantasy and the supernatural; death of parents and being an orphan; predatory animal behaviour; characters in peril

Violence

Pete’s Dragon has some violence. For example:

  • Wolves surround Pete. They snarl and bare their teeth.
  • Grace’s father Meacham tells some children a story about how he once saw a dragon in a forest. With a penknife and piece of wood, he demonstrates how he stabbed the dragon in the foot.
  • A grizzly bear stands on its hind legs and growls at Pete.
  • One of the loggers pulls Pete from a tree and causes him to fall heavily on the ground, knocking him out.
  • Loggers chase the dragon with a rifle.
  • Elliot appears in front of the loggers, who run away scared. One of them falls and gets hurt. Elliot lifts up the car they’re in and Gavin starts to shoot at him. Elliot grabs the rifle and bends it in half. He then spews a liquid substance all over Gavin.
  • On the next expedition the loggers are more prepared. Gavin shoots a tranquiliser dart into Elliot and the men manage to capture him with ropes. Elliot tries to fight back but he eventually falls to the ground. The men chain up Elliot on the back of a semitrailer, take him into town, and lock him in a shed.
  • Meacham, Natalie and Pete manage to free Elliot and drive him away. Gavin chases them in a van. Gavin parks across a bridge to prevent them passing, but Meacham’s brakes fail and he smashes through the van and continues over the bridge. Elliot breathes fire onto the bridge which causes it to break up, but unfortunately Jack and Grace are also on the bridge and are in danger. Elliot tries to save them, but they all fall into the ravine and it looks like they’ve perished. This is a particularly intense scene.

Content that may disturb children

Under 5
In addition to the violent scenes mentioned above, Pete’s Dragon has some scenes that could scare or disturb children under five years. For example:

  • The opening scene where Pete is driving with his mum and dad and the car crashes is quite upsetting. The car is on its roof and Pete is outside the car, crying. His dead parents aren’t shown.
  • The scene of Pete alone in the woods is scary. It has frightening sounds and dramatic music.
  • The wolves surrounding Pete are very scary. They snarl and bare their teeth.
  • The dragon appears at first to be very scary – it’s huge with large fangs. Pete asks the dragon, ‘Are you going to eat me?’
  • The large bear standing on its back legs and growling at Pete is very scary.
  • Natalie climbs a tree while chasing Pete and a branch breaks. Pete tries to catch her but they both fall to the ground. 

From 5-8
In addition to the violent scenes and scary visual images mentioned above, Pete’s Dragon has some scenes that could scare or disturb children in this age group. For example:

  • Pete jumps off a cliff but he’s playing with Elliot, who comes to catch him.
  • Elliot can become invisible when he wants to. Several times he drifts in and out of the picture.
  • After Pete has been taken from the forest unconscious, he wakes up in a hospital bed. He has been dreaming of his mother. Pete escapes from the hospital and runs through the streets. Not being used to traffic, he very nearly gets hit by cars several times.
  • Grace talks to Pete about how her mother died when she was just a girl.
  • Elliot watches Pete with Grace, Jack and Natalie, through a window. He is obviously sad and returns to the forest alone.
  • The scene where Elliot is captured by the loggers is quite upsetting.
  • The scene where the bridge collapses is also quite distressing because it looks like Jack and Grace have died.

From 8-13
Some children in this age group could also be disturbed by the scenes mentioned above.

Over 13
Nothing of concern

Sexual references

None of concern

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

None of concern

Nudity and sexual activity

None of concern

Product placement

There is no product placement of concern in the movie itself, but it’s likely that associated merchandise is being marketed to children.

Coarse language

None of concern

Ideas to discuss with your children

Pete’s Dragon is a Disney fantasy about a young boy brought up in the forest by a dragon. It is a great movie for most of the family, but some of the scenes are quite scary and might be too intense for younger viewers. We don’t recommend it for children under 8 years, and we do recommend parental guidance for children aged 8-10 years.

The main messages from this movie are to never stop believing in magic and to find the place where you belong.

Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include bravery, friendship, family, loyalty and trust.

You might also want to talk with your children about the effects of logging on the environment and how an important resource like wood can be grown sustainably.