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The Little Dragons (also known as Karate Kids U.S.A. or simply Karate Kids) is a 1980 American action adventure film[1][2] about two young brothers who use their karate skills to rescue a friend after she is held captive for ransom. It was produced and directed by Curtis Hanson. It stars Charles Lane, Ann Sothern, Chris Petersen and Pat Petersen

The Little Dragons
The Little Dragons VHS cover.jpg
1984 VHS box cover
Directed byCurtis Hanson
Produced byTony Bill
(executive producer)
Robert S. Bremson
(executive producer)
Curtis Hanson
Hannah Hempstead
Ramiro Jaloma
(associate producer)
Written byHarvey Applebaum
Louis G. Atlee
Rudolph Borchert
Alan Ormsby
StarringCharles Lane
Ann Sothern
Chris Petersen
Pat Petersen
Sally Boyden
Rick Lenz
Sharon Clark
Joe Spinell
John Davis Chandler
Music byKen Lauber
CinematographyStephen M. Katz
Edited byRonald Sinclair
Eastwind Productions
Distributed byAurora Film Corporation
Release date
July 18, 1980
Running time
90 minutes
CountryUnited States



Brothers, Zack and Woody (portrayed by real-life brothers Chris and Pat Petersen) are young karate students who embark on a weekend camping trip with their grandfather J.J. (Charles Lane). Along the way they meet a new friend, Carol Forbinger (Sally Boyden) and her parents (Rick Lenz and Sharon Clark). When the Forbinger family encounters a tough-talking backwoods mother (Ann Sothern) and her two bumbling sons (Joe Spinell and John Davis Chandler) who decide to hold Carol captive believing they can collect a sizeable ransom, the "karate kids" must find a way to use their martial arts skills to rescue the Forbinger girl with a little help from their grandfather and some new friends they meet along the way.



Although most online sources list the film as being released in July 1980,[3][4][5] the Petersen brothers, Chris (born in 1963),[6] and Pat (born in 1966)[7] appear to be notably younger than in their various other roles during that same year. Indicated by their youthful appearance and hairstyles, the film appears to have been most likely filmed sometime between 1977 and 1978.[8]

Originally released in 1980 as "The Little Dragons", the film was later released on VHS by Active Home Video in 1984 under the same title, but with the new tag line: "The karate kids to the rescue!" in order to take advantage of the popularity of the hit film The Karate Kid released that same year.[9] The film was later re-released on VHS by Magnum Video in 1991, this time retitled as "Karate Kids U.S.A.".[10] Subsequent DVD releases in the U.K. and the U.S. used shortened versions of both titles, retitled simply as "Dragons"[11] and "Karate Kids" using the tag line: "Before the Karate Kid, there was The Karate Kids!";[12] however, the most recent 2009 Music Video Distributors DVD has been released under the film's original title, "The Little Dragons" this time with the tag line: "Meet the REAL Karate Kids...".[13]

Although intended to be a "family film", by the time of the first VHS release in 1984, some of the language used by the children in the film was deemed inappropriate for a young audience, and was "cleaned up" for the 1984 Active Home Video VHS release.[14] The Petersen brothers having grown too old to re-dub their childhood voices, the decision was made to simply remove the "offending" dialogue altogether, resulting in the actors' mouths moving, but without the audio.[14]


  1. ^ "The Little Dragons". Retrieved 1 September 2019.
  2. ^ "The Little Dragons (1979)". Retrieved 1 September 2019.
  3. ^ "The Little Dragons - IMDb". Retrieved 2011-03-22.
  4. ^ "The Little Dragons - AllMovie". Retrieved 2011-03-22.
  5. ^ "The Little Dragons - Yahoo! Movies". Retrieved 2011-03-22.
  6. ^ "Christopher P. Petersen - California Births". Family Tree Legends. Retrieved 2011-03-22.
  7. ^ "Patrick J. Petersen - California Births". Family Tree Legends. Retrieved 2011-03-22.
  8. ^ "'The Little Dragons' - Rotten Tomatoes". Retrieved 2011-03-22.
  9. ^ "'The Little Dragons' (VHS) 1984 Active Home Video". Retrieved 2011-03-22.
  10. ^ "'Karate Kids U.S.A.' (VHS) 1991 Magnum Video". Retrieved 2011-03-22.
  11. ^ "'Dragons' (DVD) U.K. PAL release". Retrieved 2011-03-22.
  12. ^ "'Karate Kids' (DVD) U.S. NTSC release". Retrieved 2011-03-22.
  13. ^ "'The Little Dragons' (DVD) 2009 Music Video Dist". Retrieved 2011-03-22.
  14. ^ a b "'The Little Dragons'". Active Home Video VHS. Released 1984. Check date values in: |date= (help); Missing or empty |url= (help)

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