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THE PLOT THUS FAR
This lighthearted story follows the adventures of a brave young boy who, emboldened by tales of brave knights, decides to pursue the horrible dragon that is terrifying the villagers. But what he discovers is a surprisingly friendly dragon that is more interested in reciting poetry and making music than devouring fair damsels. With the boy be able to stop the local hero before he challenges the dragon to a fiery battle?
WHAT WE THOUGHT
Up until 1941, Walt Disney’s animation studio was steadily gaining momentum but still hadn’t cemented itself as a dominant Hollywood and pop culture fixation. As such, despite three successful feature films (Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, and Fantasia) and a slew of groundbreaking shorts (such as the Alice series and the seminal Steamboat Willie cartoon), Disney risked significant losses in profit throughout the World War II years as time marched on. This seemed to come to a head after the release of Fantasia, and the studio needed a cost-effective solution to boost its revenue. It was then that, in a stroke of genius, Walt had the idea for The Reluctant Dragon – a film that banked on Disney’s own popularity by inviting audiences on a vicarious studio tour, offering glimpses at present and future projects. The production values were considerably lower than for their feature length animated films, and by giving people a taste of what was to come Disney also masterfully turned their easy money-grab into a marketing tool. It worked marvellously.
Utilizing what limited animated resources they could afford, the creative team behind the film took a series of otherwise non-related short pieces and strung them together with a loose narrative plot that for the first time blended live-action with animation. The Reluctant Dragon follows real-life comedian Robert Benchley (playing himself) as he arranges a meeting with Walt at the studio to pitch a new cartoon based on his book, The Reluctant Dragon. Along the way his attention is diverted by the many goings-on of the animation studio, and with much ‘shilly-shallying’ we are treated to a staged behind-the-scenes look at the process undertaken by the Disney team in bringing animated works to life.
The DVD is a decent disc showing off classic Disney animation. But, it sports no special features. What you end up getting is the main feature plus three shorts, all of which have been available on previous Walt Disney Treasures releases. The sad thing is that most of these releases are now Out of Print. So, this is your chance to experience some classic animation at a realistic price. Therefore, I recommend it for a purchase.