I came across this movie by accident, browsing the DVDs at the library for something to watch over spring break with my younger son. I was looking for perhaps something I had watched on TV as a girl (I did also find a DVD of some old Casper the Friendly Ghost cartoons), to show him what I watched when I was his age. But when I saw Stanley’s Dragon, it sounded like a good choice for a boy who collects dragons, even if I hadn’t ever heard of the movie.
It’s a fun movie to watch. Compared to some other fantasy movies released around the same time (The Pagemaster, The Indian in the Cupboard, A Kid in King Arthur’s Court, Jumanji), it clearly didn’t have the same kind of resources available. The dragon isn’t actually bad – especially when it is newly hatched it looks pretty good. (As it grows in size it loses in believability, it’s movements becoming very limited and wooden.) And while the story doesn’t have the depth of those other movies, it’s enjoyable enough.
It reminds me somewhat of The Enormous Egg, one of my favorite children’s books. A boy finds an unusual egg, people are skeptical that anything will hatch from it, and what does come out is a very unusual creature. The boy has to figure out how to take care of this creature, and when word gets around there are huge crowds of people who want to see it. As it gets bigger it’s harder to take care of, and it causes trouble. Other people want to take it away, and there’s the possibility it will die.
In other ways, it’s quite different. Stanley is actually a college student, and he gets help not from a scientist but from a young woman who happens to be a newspaper reporter. (Of course, the dragon being a mythological creature, getting help from any scientists could be a bit difficult.) There’s a bit of humor based on cultural differences (Stanley is American, studying chemistry in England), Stanley’s poor housekeeping habits, and a few eccentric characters.
But the themes of friendship and freedom, even if not developed as well here, are pretty universal. And if my son’s impatience at having to pause the movie a few times (to let the dog out, get something for Dad, etc.) is any indication of his enjoyment of it, it was a hit with him.