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The Reluctant Dragon

A Disney Tale: The Reluctant Dragon is an odd beast.  The original film was a mix of live action and animation and apparently revolved around a man called Robert Benchley attempting to sell the rights to 'The Reluctant Dragon' to Disney, and in doing so taking a tour of the studios.  Eventually, he finds that Disney have already made a cartoon of The Reluctant Dragon which he watches before returning home.

What I'm reviewing is the animation section, The Reluctant Dragon, itself.  This has been released in various forms often under the banner of 'Mini-Classics', minus any of the live action elements from the original film.  It tells the tale of a young boy, an aged knight and a reluctant dragon fooling the local populous into thinking that the knight and the dragon are having a battle, therefore maintaining the reputation of both parties.

Disney Hero: Their are two heroes in The Reluctant Dragon; the 'Boy' and Sir Giles.  The 'Boy' leads the story and first meets the dragon and when Sir Giles comes to defeat the dragon on behalf of the village, it is the Boy who helps to intervene.

Disney Villain: There is not really a villain to this piece.  The dragon turns out to be, as the title suggests, reluctant to fight.  He prefers poetry and art to fighting.  Once Sir Giles, a rather reluctant knight himself, realises this, they spend most of their time having tea and dancing (whilst pretending to the villagers they are in the midst of a terrible battle). 

Disney Sidekick: The Reluctant Dragon doesn't really have a traditional 'sidekick'.  In a way, both the 'Boy' and the Dragon both fulfill some of this archetypes usual functions; providing a conscience; being loveable etc.

Disney Creatures: Sir Giles has a horse and of course there is the dragon himself.  A rather cute blue creation, the dragon apparently caused problems for Disney when he had to be completely redrawn and animated due to the Hays Code, a moral code which had to be followed by all movie makers.  And what was the immoral aspect of the original dragon?  He had a navel!  He had to be completely reanimated to remove his belly button!

Disney Magic: Aside from the mythical creature of the dragon, there isn't any magic on display.  

Disney Land: The setting for this short seems to be medieval.  Which country is left vague.  It could be anywhere in Europe.  One podcast I listened to compared Sir Giles's appearance to Don Quixote but I don't think Spain is the most likely place.  The dragon legend would suggest links to St George, the patron saint of England (although George himself was from Lydda).  I think the most likely setting is either England or somewhere like Germany.

Disney Songs: The Reluctant Dragon doesn't contain any songs but it does have the Dragon and St Giles spouting poetry.

Disney Finale: As a short, The Reluctant Dragon is entertaining if inconsequential.  The Dragon himself is a fun creation and one which does seem to have entered the Disney canon as a slightly bigger figure than characters from other shorts (I have seem him featured across various posters and other merchandise and publicity relating to Disney.  The funniest parts are where the Dragon and Sir Giles are pretending to fight and are, in fact, dancing, or taking tea or whatever other genteel activity they are engaging in.  The dust clouds they create to hide their actual activities are cartoon cliche, but it's all good fun.  The Dragon's eventual 'death' is a triumph of over-acting, and his 'rehabilitation' at the end of the film is heartwarming and very 'Disney'.


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