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Weekend Earworms: The Memorable Music of PETE’S DRAGON

Weekend Earworms: The Memorable Music of PETE’S DRAGON

An estimated 92% of us experience earworms. Despite the annoying times we can’t get a chorus or a hook of an overplayed pop song out of our heads, getting a really good earworm stuck can be one of the best things, ever. We here at Nerdist are dead set on bringing you those types of songs—even if only for the weekend. So shove this into your grey matter!

The reboot of Pete’s Dragon opened this weekend and my gut reaction was to watch the old one as an act of defiance since I loved it so very much as a child. After doing so, I realized I probably should have left it in my memory because, well, it’s not as good I remember it. However, as far as I’m concerned, the music is still iconic (albeit worrisome) for reasons we’ll get into soon. It seems that this time I welcome the remake since the old version is pretty damn horrifying at times.

I’ll always love the 1977 version of Pete’s Dragon, but my overly critical adult self just can’t help but ruin things for me sometimes.

“Happiest Home In These Hills” is performed minutes into the movie and lays the groundwork for why Pete is on the lam with Elliot. He’s run away from his foster family/owners, the Gogans, and they’re in hot pursuit to reclaim their property. Some criticisms bring up how strange it is that there are Appalachian hill-people on the east coast of Maine or that they’re the only characters in the entire film to have somewhat redneck-ish drawls. That’s easily answered with the fact that the Appalachian mountains do reach Maine and, as David Cross once pointed out, that voice is absolutely everywhere.  What concerns me about this upbeat tune is the Gogan’s motivation to find their adoptive son/slave. Throughout the movie we’re told that they want/need him back in order to work their farm but this song makes it clear they are intent on killing and eating him. In a movie made for children. Also, for a movie set in the early 1900s, Disney didn’t find much of an issue in having people own another person. Speaking of…

Oh boy. Where to begin? There’s a lot to unpack with “Bill of Sale” and I have to say I’m a bit ashamed that this is always the song that comes to mind when I think of the movie. Let’s set aside the fact that the entire town generally doesn’t find issue with adults arguing over ownership of a person and focus on two things in particular. First, the Gogans have paperwork signed by, I’m assuming, a judge. Earlier in the movie they mention legal fees paid to a lawyer so in this movie they actually own Pete through some sort of legal means. The fact that the Gogans, who aren’t rich, powerful, or influential like normal Disney villains, are threatening legal action means they’re somehow on the right side of the law in this movie universe.

Secondly, they say they’ve only owned Pete for a year. Where was he before that? He’s from an “orphan home” that sends him back to the Gogans when he runs away, so is that who sold him? He’s old enough to have formed some permanent memories but he’s a blank slate before the Gogans. Nora and Lampie take him in (and claim to love him) almost immediately and never once bring up where he’s from or anything from the time before the Gogans. He doesn’t even seem to be that emotionally scarred by anything in his past. Do we even know he’s actually an orphan? We only hear this from Pete. It might all be a lie. Did someone say “poorly thought-out theory”?

Alright, while “Brazzle Dazzle Day” is the sort of song you’d expect a ’70s Disney flick to have, the action is what we need to talk about. Pete arrives in Passamaquoddy with his tales of woe about how he ran away from the Gogans because they put him to work. So what’s one of the first things he happily does with Nora and Lampie? Manual labor.

My guess is that Pete and Elliot are con artists and we’re seeing their last adventure together where things got sloppy and they both blame each other.

For the most part, Pete and Elliot seem to be able to take care of themselves. Pete walks confidently through town and has no issue speaking his mind to adults. He’s got an attitude problem and shows little to no respect for the property of others, as evidenced with the apple orchard at the beginning of the film and his hitting a fence with a stick in plain view of its owner. Elliot, on the other hand, acts as Pete’s “enforcer” by retaliating (usually in violent ways) whenever Pete is slighted by someone. The two rarely show remorse for anything they do and when caught, most of the carnage is blamed on Elliot. That’s not to say that they aren’t smart, as Pete is able to manipulate his way into Nora’s life moments into meeting her by pretending to be shy and damaged.

Everything we know about Pete and his Dragon is from what he tells Nora and she foolishly takes him at his word. The Gogan’s contract probably isn’t even for ownership at all; but rather a settlement for whatever Pete and Elliot did to them. They never actually saw Elliot before Passamaquoddy, so it’s safe to assume his antics were seen as magic and could have driven them all mad and cause the homicidal thoughts. It’s likely Pete was caught when Elliot wasn’t around and the local authorities forced him to work for the Gogans to make things right. When Elliot comes back, he and Pete set off to screw over another community. However, Pete blames Elliot for his abusive time with the Gogans and sets him up to be captured.

Over the course of the film Elliot becomes tired of being attacked due to Pete’s negligence/revenge and sets things in motion to go it alone. He sets out to create a situation in which he can leave and Pete cannot. Elliot finds Paul, helps clear the slate with the other antagonists, makes sure the lighthouse is working, and saves the mayor from being crushed. Elliot exposed himself knowing that the town would never forget the boy and his dragon and would likely want them both to stay.

In the end, Pete tells everyone that Elliot is off to find another child in need, but why should we believe that? Elliot most likely told Pete to stick it where the lighthouse don’t shine for almost getting him killed and flew off knowing Pete’s in too deep now and there’s now no way the town would ever let him leave.

Or maybe I just need to stop watching the movies I loved as a kid because they’ll all get weird theories like this applied to them.

What are your favorite songs from Pete’s Dragon? Are you excited about the new one? Did you know one of the Gogans was Kenickie in Grease? Let’s discuss in the comments below!

Image: Disney


Blake Rodgers writes for Nerdist from Chicago, IL where he lives happily with his Guinness World Record for High Fives. You can be his pal by following him on Twitter (@TheBlakeRodgers)

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