Last month we got to sit down for some roundtables with the cast of Pete’s Dragon, Disney’s latest film about a boy and his mysterious (and furry!) forest friend.
Among the things the cast and crew pointed out were that the perception of children’s movies, especially those with fairy-tale stories, is changing. Unlike many modern children’s media, Pete’s Dragon follows classic fairy-tale lines, even going so far as to show viewers scary scenes that almost today feel unfit for young audiences.
Bryce Dallas Howard, however, pointed out to us that the scary elements of the film do more than point back to classic tales. “Disney has this history of making movies where their central characters are young people who are faced with the worst possible situation, and yet are able to move through it and not just survive, but find themselves because of that,” she said. “And, you know, in the case of Pete’s Dragon, this is a movie about what it takes to find your family when you think you’ve lost your family. And so I think that these stories actually play a role in our society that is of service to children.”
Robert Redford, a man with an extensive background in film, agreed when the press asked him about the necessity of showing children fear and emotion in the film. “I think it’s necessary,” he said, “simply because the world is bigger and darker than they know when they are little.”
Ultimately director David Lowery drove the point home by highlighting the fact that modern entertainment cannot overtake classic storytelling. “My hope, and we’ll find out if this is true or not, is that in spite of the extreme media literacy of current generation of film audiences, particularly children, that a good story, well-told, with characters and emotions that engage them, will ultimately still have a place.”
The roundtables included a talk with two actors who don’t just watch movies, but rather star in movies themselves: Oakes Fegley and Oona Laurence.
When asked about lessons they’d learned as actors, both emphasized the importance of humility. “I guess the main idea that I’ve gotten from a lot of people is, you know, stay humble,” said Laurence. “Because once you start acting, like oh, well since I’m in movies, I get to act all cool and stuff, I mean I’m better than everyone. I mean it just ruins the whole point of acting. You’re supposed to send out a message and stuff, and films teach people.”
Oakes agreed: “I mean you can’t just think that you’re gonna be successful, and you never should think that’s how you got there. And you should always think that you’ve worked very hard to get to the place you are, and I’m really, really happy that I’m able to do this.”
The depth of emotion that these young actors feel for their craft is well-reflected in the emotion of Pete’s Dragon. The film definitely transports its audience back to classic fairy tales – those unafraid to show both joy and fear. The hopes of the cast and crew, however, are that the film is able to show children a picture of reality through fantasy, and in my opinion the film does that very well.
Take yourself back to a time when fairy tales came to life and watch Pete’s Dragon, in theaters this Friday, August 12.