'Pete's Dragon' Has A Complex History

The new movie Pete's Dragon tells the utterly enchanting story of a young boy who survived in the woods for six years with help of— you guessed it— a dragon. The film, in theaters Aug. 12, is already being praised for its performances, cinematography, and fantasy-driven narrative. The plot feels like it would be at home in Grimm's Fairy Tales, but its roots are more complicated. Although Pete's Dragon isn't based on a book, its story isn't fresh out of filmmakers' imaginations, either.

Fans will be quick to inform you that the new movie is not based on a work of literature, but is in fact a reboot of the 1977 Disney film of the same name. The original movie (which was a musical live action film where only the dragon was animated) was not as well-received as many other Disney movies, but is a favorite among many folks who grew up watching it. The acting and writing may have been over the top, but the sweet story has charmed viewers for almost forty years. There is still the question, though, of where the idea for the 1977 version of Pete's Dragon came from. And it's a story that started several decades before the film's release.

The original Pete's Dragon was based on an unpublished short story from writers Seton I. Miller and S.S. Field in the first half of the twentieth century. Walt Disney purchased the rights to the story in 1957 with the intention of using it for his anthology television series, but those plans never came to fruition. The piece sat unused for some time after Disney's death, until in 1975 the studio dug up the story with the idea of turning it into a feature film. Screenwriter Malcolm Marmorstein was hired to adapt the work into a script, and thus began the two-year process of creating the movie that would become Pete's Dragon.

Interestingly, although there wasn't a book called Pete's Dragon before the film's release, there are now multiple books based on the story. A Little Golden Book version of Pete's Dragon was released after the 1977 film, and now several new books have been published in anticipation of the reboot. Pete's Dragon Junior Novel was published in June by Disney Book Group and includes 8 pages of photos from the new movie. Also available is Pete's Dragon: The Lost Years, which covers the period during which Pete and his dragon Elliot lived in the woods together. Finally, for super-fans there is the book Elliot Gets Lost, which is a book that Pete owns in the movie.

So even though Pete's Dragon wasn't originally based on a book, you can still get a literary taste of the story now. And you can appreciate the narrative's 60+ year journey culminating with the release of the new movie.

Images: Walt Disney Studios (2)