Pete's Dragon by Various Artists
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Marrying animation to live action had been experimented with in the '30s and '40s, perfected in the '60s for Mary Poppins
, and elevated to tour-de-force status on Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
, but Disney's 1976 feature Pete's Dragon
helped pioneer the use of the technique as feature-film vehicle. The song-score of Al Kasha and Joel Hirschorn occasionally rises to the level of the Sherman brothers, their daunting predecessors at the studio, but it also graced one of the last of the old-school Disney musical films. Indeed, it's likely the most consistent element of a much-troubled production (its animation was originally intended for a brief segment at the end, then steadily expanded after the fact). Indeed, there's an almost schizophrenic sense of the traditional Disney musical ethos occasionally clashing with the changing musical mores of the late '70s. The mature, Helen Reddy-performed ballad "Candle on the Water" won a Best Song Oscar®
, but other tunes like "Passamashloddy" and "Boo Bop Bopbop (I Love You Too)" sometimes feel like they could have been outtakes from any six previous Disney musicals. But if the studio's impossibly sunny, marvelously crafted song ethos of its '40s-'60s prime is what you're after, you'll find a familiar friend here. -Jerry McCulley