“The Reluctant Dragon” is a really cool behind the scenes look into the production of animated features at Walt Disney Studios. It lost money at the box office (likely a result of a Disney animators' strike and the disappointment that it was not an animated feature), but it is still an important film because it preserves the hustle and bustle of the studio during the Golden Age of Hollywood. The studio’s various movie-making operations are tied together by a fictional story of comedian Robert Benchley trying to pitch a film to Walt. On his journey, he encounters everything from the artists and storyboard designers to the sound effects crew and the voice of Donald Duck. It's amazing to see Clarence Nash in action, and even more baffling to watch as Florence Gill produces the sounds of Clara Cluck. I particularly like the demonstration of the multiplane camera that creates the lifelike depth in Disney films and the sonovox that was used to create the voice of Casey Jr. in “Dumbo.” This documentary-like feature keeps us engaged through a few animated shorts that are incorporated into the story as we learn about the production process. The shorts include "Baby Weems," Goofy's "How to Ride A Horse," and "The Reluctant Dragon." I love the story of this flute-playing, picnic-sharing, poetry-reciting dragon. He is the antithesis of dragon stereotypes and it creates great comedic moments. The primary purpose of the film is to create an understanding and appreciation for the animation process, but it’s nice that we get to see the fruits of the studio’s labors through this fun short at the end. “The Reluctant Dragon” isn't really a movie for kids but it's a thrilling behind-the-scenes experience for movie nerds.
[Pictured: The dragon breaks all of the dragon stereotypes and the results are hilarious]