25 user 19 critic

The Reluctant Dragon (1941)

Approved | | Animation, Comedy, Family | 20 June 1941 (USA)
1:30 | Clip
Humorist Robert Benchley learns about the animation process at Walt Disney Studios while trying to find the great man himself to pitch him the idea of making a cartoon about a shy dragon.


Kenneth Grahame (based on the story by), Ted Sears (screenplay) | 9 more credits »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Robert Benchley ... Robert Benchley
Frances Gifford ... Doris (Studio Artist)
Buddy Pepper Buddy Pepper ... Humphrey (Studio Guide)
Nana Bryant ... Mrs. Benchley
Claud Allister ... Sir Giles (segment "The Reluctant Dragon") (voice)
Barnett Parker ... The Dragon (segment "The Reluctant Dragon") (voice)
Billy Lee ... The Boy (segment "The Reluctant Dragon") (voice)
Florence Gill Florence Gill ... Florence Gill / Clara Cluck
Clarence Nash Clarence Nash ... Clarence Nash / Donald Duck
Norman Ferguson Norman Ferguson ... Norm Ferguson (as Norm Ferguson)
Ward Kimball ... Ward Kimball
Jim Luske Jim Luske ... Jimmy - Baby Weems Model (as Jimmy Luske)
Alan Ladd ... Al - Baby Weems Storyboard Artist
Truman Woodworth Truman Woodworth ... Truman Woodworth
Hamilton MacFadden ... Hamilton MacFadden (as Hamilton Mac Fadden)


Humorist Robert Benchley attempts to find Walt Disney to ask him to adapt a short story about a gentle dragon who would rather recite poetry than be ferocious. Along the way, he is given a tour of Walt Disney Studios, and learns about the animation process. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


A NEW WORLD OF WALT DISNEY WONDERS! (original print media ad - all caps) See more »


Approved | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


During the sound effects segment they show a clip of "Casey Junior" which later appeared, in a much shorter version, in Dumbo (1941). See more »


[first lines]
Mrs. Benchley: [Reading] "So they set off up the hill, arm in arm, the knight, the dragon, and the boy. The lights in the little village began to go out one by one."
[Is interrupted by a toy rifle going off]
Mrs. Benchley: "But there were stars and a late moon as they climbed the downs together."
[Toy rifle again]
Mrs. Benchley: Robert, please.
[Pan to Robert Benchley lying on a raft in the pool, with the toy rifle]
Robert Benchley: Go on, I can hear in any position.
[Shoots a dart at a duck decoy in the pool]
Mrs. Benchley: [Continues reading] "And as they turned ...
See more »

Crazy Credits

The animation credits include caricatures and signatures of the crew. See more »

Alternate Versions

Typically releases of this film have the sequences How to Ride A Horse and the title featurette as separate films with the live action footage excised. See more »


Spoofed in Greetings Bait (1943) See more »


Casey Jr.
Music by Frank Churchill
See more »

User Reviews

Disney Cabinet Curio
12 May 2008 | by nycruise-1See all my reviews

After filming the live-action sequences of "Fantasia" and hurting for a "feature release" following the financial fiascos of the aforementioned feature, presumably Disney rushed this into production (with most of it live-action, it not only cost less than a fully-animated counterpart of equal length, it took much less time to complete).

It purports to tell the story of how Disney animated cartoons are made, but, courtesy of a disclaimer at the beginning of the movie, it turns out to be more fiction than fact.

Various processes - like sound recording, paint-mixing, cell-photographing, multi-planing, etc - are all upended for the sake of humor (in one instance, a complete cel of Donald Duck comes to life, in another instance, the sound effects crew creates an "unplanned" cacophony by knocking over all the equipment).

More to the point is that the sequences are not just staged, but they employ professional actors (such as Alan Ladd!) portraying Disney animators and other staff (although in certain instances, actual animators such as Woolie Reitherman and Ward Kimball make appearances).

The "Baby Weems" sequence is often commended by many for being innovative and the forerunner of the UPA-style that would dominant the art of animation in the 1950s, but the fact is that "Weems" is nothing more than a sleek, streamlined version of a "leica reel" (a film which combines the pre-recorded soundtrack with the animators' storyboard sketches, as a way of assessing how story pacing and timing are before *before* any time and effort are spent creating fully-animated sequences). The story is cute, the drawings are more fully- rendered than they would be in a genuine Leica reel so they are nice to see, but "innovative"? I don't think so.

The Goofy "How-to" sequence is okay (I never cared for the "How-To" series, but I know a similarly-themed version in "Saludos Amigos" with Goofy trying to be a Gaucho is funnier).

The title short - "The Reluctant Dragon" - is cute and funny. I don't think it rates as a classic, but because it is such a rarely-viewed piece it needs to be watched by all Disney-philes.

Considering its historic value, this movie is hardly a waste of time. It's just not one that deserves repeated viewings.

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Official Sites:

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Release Date:

20 June 1941 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

A Day at Disneys See more »


Box Office

Gross USA:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)


Black and White (Sepiatone)| Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

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