When the already massive “World of Disney” store at Disney Springs expanded to become even larger in late 2015, this not only brought more floor space for merchandise but also room to include even more references to Disney’s animated characters. As with some of the original rooms of the popular shop, the ceiling of the new section is covered with murals, one of which includes someone that should be familiar to fans of “The Main Street Electrical Parade.” Looking down on the shoppers is the smiling face of Elliot, the lovable title character of the 1977 version of “Pete’s Dragon.”
While Disney had previous experience having cartoon characters interacting with real actors in earlier projects including “Song of the South” and “Mary Poppins,” inserting an enormous animated dragon into a live action musical still proved to be no easy feat. With the studio’s remaining members of Walt Disney’s legendary “Nine Old Men” hard at work on “The Rescuers,” which was also released in 1977, the difficult task of bringing Elliot to the big screen was given to animation director Don Bluth. While better known today for his career outside of Disney, directing such animated features as “The Secret of NIMH,” “An American Tail” “The Land Before Time,” and “Anastasia,” Bluth’s charming work on the original “Pete’s Dragon” still holds a special place in the heart of many Disney fans.