Pete's Dragon - Pete and his Dragon
Pete's Dragon - Pete and his Dragon © 2016 Disney
On June 7th at the El Capitan Theater in Hollywood, journalists were invited to see never-before-seen footage and the trailer for Disney’s Pete’s Dragon, which will opens nationwide on August 12th 2016.
A reimagining of the classic movie was written and directed by David Lowery, who showed us four scenes from the film, featuring Robert Redford, Bryce Dallas Howard, Karl Urban, Oakes Fegley and Oona Laurence.
The movie spotlights the relationship between a 10-year-old orphan named Pete (Oakes Fegley), who lives in the woods with his best friend who happens to be a dragon named Elliot.
In the original movie, Elliot was animated. In this updated version he is created by Weta Digital in New Zealand.
David Lowery introduced the film clips which included Robert Redford as Mr Meacham, mesmerizing a group of children with his tales of a fierce dragon that is supposed to live in the woods; Pete’s introducing Elliot to a startled Mr Meacham and his forest ranger daughter, Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard), and a stunningly beautiful sequence of Elliot flying over the forest.
After showing us the trailer, David, along with Bryce, answered a few questions from the journalists about the movie.
Pete's Dragon - Bryce Dallas Howard
Pete’s Dragon – Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard) © 2016 Disney

Bryce, what was it like watching the scenes and trailer?

Bryce: I had a chance to see the trailer a little while ago. What is most exciting for me is to see Elliot come alive and see everything that we wanted him to be.

When you were offered this movie, was it an immediate yes.

Bryce: No joke, it was an immediate yes. I chased this for quite a while and was very patient, and it worked out. Prior to reading the script I had heard that it was not a straight up remake, and that was the yes for me. I loved Pete’s Dragon, I have the book for my kids and I read it to them constantly. I think in loving it I didn’t want it to be a copycat thing. I feel we see a lot of those and some of them are great and some of them don’t work.

I’m a parent, and I want there to be beautiful films out there that have innocence and are timeless and have really beautiful values. I’m super proud to be a part of this.

Pete's Dragon - Bryce Dallas Howard and Robert Redford
Pete’s Dragon – Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Mr Meacham (Robert Redford) © 2016 Disney

David, the movie does seem to have a timeless quality to it, can you talk about that?

David: I just feel when you have a movie that has a fantastical concept in it, you are going to accept it more easily if it has the veil of time hanging over it. To set something in the past you’re a little more accepting of it, yeah, there might be magic there that you might have overlooked in your own past.

The movies I return to and I love the most don’t feel dated. I didn’t want this to feel contemporary, because I felt if someone pulled out an iPhone, all of a sudden you’re like, ‘That’s an iPhone 4, this must have been made in 2010.’ Then you put that up against a dragon and you get this weird disparity that doesn’t quite work.

We never put a title card that says this is what year it is, and part of the look of the film, and the production design that we did was we pulled some cars from the early eighties and some from the seventies, and congealed it into this cohesive whole that doesn’t have a literal day on it, but feels yesterday.

Pete's Dragon - Pete and his Dragon
Pete’s Dragon – Pete and his Dragon © 2016 Disney

Why did you film this in New Zealand?

David: We went to New Zealand because it’s set in a slightly more elevated, more magical version of the Pacific Northwest, and New Zealand has got plenty of magic on hand, we had the weather we needed and Weta Digital (that created Elliot) was there, which was very convenient.

I hear you shot it as practical as possible with less green screen, is that true?

David: For me, I just like things to be real, and I’m always going to gravitate towards that. So when we were planning this, (I thought), ‘If we’re to have a CG dragon, let’s make everything else real and have as little green screen as possible.’

Pete’s Dragon Trailer

This full trailer has just been released today

Pete’s Dragon Soundbytes

David was asked if he was daunted by working with Academy Award winning director Robert Redford – click here for his answer.

Bryce also chimed in about working with Redford and how the actor saved an animal while on location.

Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.