Australian Council on Children and the Media

Pete's Dragon

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Short takes

Not recommended under 8; parental guidance recommended 8 to 10 (Violence; Scary scenes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Pete's Dragon
  • a review of Pete's Dragon completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 8 September 2016.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 8 Not recommended due to violence and scary scenes
Children aged 8 to 10 Parental guidance recommended due to violence and scary scenes
Children 10 and over OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Pete's Dragon
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild violence
Length 103 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Pete’s Dragon is the remake by Disney of the 1977 animated film 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 and scary forest not knowing where to go. Suddenly a pack of snarling wolves encircles him but then something even scarier appears and sends the wolves running. A giant dragon looms out of the forest and Pete thinks it’s 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), now ten years old and still living in the forest, watches Grace from afar. One day Jack and Grace’s daughter Natalie (Oona Laurence) comes with them into the forest and, while exploring, 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.

Of course no one believes Pete’s story of the dragon but when Elliot comes to find him they find out that the dragon is, indeed, real. The loggers go on a mission to find and capture Elliot and Jack’s brother Gavin (Karl Urban), who thinks it will bring him fame and fortune, is particularly desperate to find the dragon.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

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

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • Wolves surround Pete snarling and baring their teeth.
  • Grace’s father Meacham tells a group of children a story of how he’d seen a dragon in a forest. He demonstrates with a penknife how he stabbed the dragon in the foot by stabbing into a piece of wood.
  • 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 take Elliot into town, chained up on the back of a semi-trailer and lock him in a shed.
  • Meacham, Natalie and Pete manage to free Pete and drive him away. Gavin chases them in a van. Gavin parks across a bridge to prevent them passing, but Meachem’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 appears as though they have all perished. This is a particularly intense scene.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • The opening scene where Pete is driving with his mum and dad and the car crashes is quite upsetting. The car is seen on its roof and Pete is outside the car, crying. His dead parents are not shown however.
  • The scene of Pete on his own in the woods is scary, with frightening sounds and dramatic music.
  • The wolves surrounding Pete are very scary, snarling and baring their teeth.
  • The dragon appears at first to be very scary – it is huge with large fangs. Pete asks the dragon ‘are you going to eat me?’
  • The bear that threatens Pete is very large and scary.
  • Natalie climbs a tree chasing Pete and a limb breaks. Pete tries to catch her but they both fall to the ground. They are not badly hurt.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • Pete jumps off a cliff but he is really 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 Mum. 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 Mum 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 at it appears that Jack and Grace have died.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

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

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Nothing of concern

Product placement

Nothing of concern in the film but some tie-in merchandise.

Sexual references

Nothing of concern

Nudity and sexual activity

Nothing of concern

Use of substances

Nothing of concern

Coarse language

Nothing of concern

In a nutshell

Pete’s Dragon is a Disney fantasy drama 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 may be too intense for younger viewers. It is not recommended for viewers under 8, with parental guidance recommended for the 8 to 10 age group.

The main messages from this movie are to never stop believing in magic, and the importance of belonging.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • bravery
  • friendship
  • the importance of family
  • loyalty and trust

Parents may also wish to discuss the effects of logging on the environment and how an important resource like wood can be grown sustainably.

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