US live-action/Animated Movie (1977). Disney. Pr Jerome Courtland, Ron Miller. Dir Don Chaffey. Spfx Art Cruickshank, Danny Lee, Eustace Lycett. Fx anim Dorse A Lanpher. Anim art dir Ken Anderson. Anim dir Don Bluth. Screenplay Malcolm Marmorstein. Starring Cal Bartlett (Paul), Red Buttons (Hoagy), Jim Dale (Dr Terminus), Sean Marshall (Pete), Helen Reddy (Nora), Micky Rooney (Lampie), Charles Tyner (Merle), Shelley Winters (Lena Gogan). 129 mins (cut to 106 mins). Colour.
Sold (for complex reasons) into a Maine backwoods family, the Gogans, the boy Pete flees with his Invisible Companion, a bumblingly genial (Toon) Dragon, Elliott. Taken in by lighthouse keeper Lampie and daughter Nora, Pete settles down to being blamed for all the mishaps caused by the generally disbelieved-in Elliott's clumsiness. After various adventures, the Invisible Companion is proven to exist and saves the day; he then flies off because another little boy needs him.
This ending has, of course, shades of Mary Poppins (1964), and PD's connection with its Disney predecessor was to make it much more disliked than might otherwise have been the case, for PD was originally launched by Disney's publicists with the promise that it was the new Poppins – a stratagem that had already failed disastrously for Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971), another good live-action/animated movie. PD, in some ways a children's rehash of Harvey (1950), does have problems with its muddled and somewhat clichéd script (even after desperate cutting and re-editing), but it has many good moments. [JG]