Five Dragons from Disney History
As many of you may already know, on May 11 the magnificent Maleficent parade float caught fire during the Festival of Fantasy parade. Thankfully, quick thinking and well-trained Cast Members swiftly extinguished the flames and no one was injured, but sadly the float was severely damaged, and time will tell if it will return to the Magic Kingdom. We will collectively cross our fingers that the steampunk-inspired float will return someday in one form or another, and we wanted to salute all of the Cast Members and emergency personnel who kept everything under control. We thought it appropriate to pay tribute to the majesty and beauty of the Maleficent float by looking back at some of our other favorite Disney dragons (and hope that Maleficent will return soon).
1. The Reluctant Dragon
In 1941, Disney released “The Reluctant Dragon” starring Robert Benchley. The film mixed live action with animation and followed actor Robert Benchley as he wandered about the Disney Studio, hoping to convince the company to adapt Kenneth Graham’s 1898 children’s story “The Reluctant Dragon” into a film. When Benchley finally finds Walt Disney, the two screen a film that Disney has been working on, which it turns out is “The Reluctant Dragon.” The short film tells the story of a friendly dragon who stages a fake battle with a poetry loving knight errant named Sir Giles.
“Two tiny wings, eyes big and yellow, horns of a steer, but a lovable fellow. From head to tail, he’s royal purple pigment, and there, voila, you’ve got a Figment.” With those immortal words, the world was introduced to this lovable creature by the Dreamfinder at the Imagination pavilion. Figment has become the very symbol of whimsy and imagination, and at times could lay a strong claim as being the mascot of Epcot. But that’s not to say he didn’t have a mischievous side. Want proof? Wander over to the right of the Imagination pavilion’s entrance…all the way over to the Cast Member entrance to the back stage area. If you peek around the corner, you’ll see that the rascally dragon wrote his name in the wet cement! No wonder Dr. Channing doesn’t trust him to be alone!
3. Madam Mim
Mad Madam Mim is only slightly dragon. A crazy old witch in the 1963 film “The Sword in the Stone”, Mim transforms herself into a dragon while engaged in a wizard’s duel with Merlin.
Elliot is a friendly, invisible dragon living in Passamaquoddy in the 1977 film “Pete’s Dragon.” Elliot befriends a young boy named Pete who is on the run from an abusive foster family.
Elliot also played a prominent role in the Main Street Electrical Parade, which has run intermittently in the park since 1977. Elliot appeared as an enormous dragon made of lights with Elliot perched on his neck. The float periodically released puffs of smoke from its nostrils.
Disney revisited the story of Pete’s Dragon with a 2016 film. The new version told the story of a young boy raised by a dragon after a car wreck separates him from his family.
Eddie Murphy provided the voice for the lovably inept Mushu from Disney’s 1998 film “Mulan.” A disgraced guardian of the Fa family, Mushu journeyed with Mulan as she went off to war in her father’s place. Along the way, he attempts to train and instruct her.
The idea for a dragon sidekick was initially planned as part of a Scottish themed Disney film, but found its way into Mulan when the Scottish film fell through. In addition, the actor first slated to provide Mushu’s voice was Academy Award winner Joe Pesci.