In New England in the early 20th century, Pete (Sean Marshall) is a nine-year-old orphan escaping from his brutal adoptive parents, the Gogans, with his only friend, a dragon named Elliott.
They successfully escape to the (fictitious) eastern seacoast town of Passamaquoddy, Maine, and live with Nora (Helen Reddy), a lighthouse keeper, and her father, Lampie (Mickey Rooney).
Pete’s fierce foster mother, Lena Gogan (Shelley Winters) comes a-looking while Elliott is sought for medicinal purposes by the corrupt Doc Terminus (Jim Dale).
The trouble with the film is that the cast keeps bursting into song at every opportunity, whether relevant to the plot or not. And the songs, on the whole, are not likely to create a stir in the charts.
What saves the film is the animated dragon. He’s clumsy, not terribly attractive, isn’t very brave, yet whenever he appears the movie suddenly comes alive and reminds viewers of the magic and sheer joy that Disney’s animators used to produce.
Another saving grace is the film’s final 40-minutes when the action really starts as Doc Terminus and Lena join forces to capture both Elliott and Pete. Only then does it become fast, furious and funny.