Review: ‘The Reluctant Dragon’

Ever a trail-hewer, Walt Disney has once more created a film entirely different from anything before. The film, in its essentials, is a trip through the Disney plant - interspersed with cartoon shorts to insure the picture's appeal. Aside from the introductory sequences in Disney's Fantasia, this is the first film to combine cartoons and humans on a large scale.

Ever a trail-hewer, Walt Disney has once more created a film entirely different from anything before. The film, in its essentials, is a trip through the Disney plant – interspersed with cartoon shorts to insure the picture’s appeal. Aside from the introductory sequences in Disney’s Fantasia, this is the first film to combine cartoons and humans on a large scale.

Pic opens with Robert Benchley’s wife (Nana Bryant) reading Kenneth Grahame’s famed fairy tale, The Reluctant Dragon. She rags Benchley into calling on Disney to sell it to him. Even after he is admitted to the studio, Benchley ‘escapes’ from his guide (Buddy Pepper) so that he won’t have to face Disney.

His ‘escape’ takes him into strange doors and strange rooms. In his stumbling through the plant, Benchley (and the audience) sees some eight operations in the making of cartoons, plus three full shorts and hunks of a number of other Disney features in work, notably Bambi.

Cartoons [directed by Hamilton Luske] include Baby Weems, How to Ride a Horse and The Reluctant Dragon. Many of the performers in the live action portions are Disney employees doing their actual jobs, although virtually all of the speaking parts are handled by professionals.

Beginning of the film is in black and white. It cleverly shifts into Technicolor [photographed by Winton Hoch] when Benchley gets to the camera room where the color work is done. Direction keeps the live action zipping along. If there’s any slowness, it’s in the cartoon division.

The Reluctant Dragon

Production

Walt Disney. Director Alfred Werker, Hamilton Luske; Producer Walt Disney; Screenplay Ted Sears, Al Perkins, Larry Clemmons, Bill Cottrell, Harry Clork; Camera Bert Glennon, Winton Hoch; Editor Paul Weatherwax; Music Frank Churchill, Larry Morey; Art Director Gordon Wiles

Crew

(Color) Extract of a review from 1941. Running time: 73 MIN.

With

Robert Benchley Frances Gifford Buddy Pepper Nana Bryant Claud Allister Barnett Parker
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