According to the lore of Pete's Dragon, most people can't see Elliot (the titular dragon). So far, that's held true; posters and the film's teaser trailer have only provided the briefest of glimpses of the friendly green dragon. The mystery surrounding Elliot has finally been lifted, however, as a first look at the dragon's design in the new film was recently revealed. Fans of the original may find the new look a bit jarring, since there are some major departures from the look of the 1977 version.
The first image gives fans a look at both Pete and Elliot together (possibly for the first time). The look of Elliot has almost completely changed, however. Gone are the various shades of pink and the goofy facial expressions, replaced instead with green and gray fur over pretty much his entire body. A few parts of the original design remain, such as Elliot's large lower jaw, but it's obvious that the filmmakers are going for a much more realistic take on the creature than what was found in the original animation-and-live-action hybrid.
According to director David Lowery, they did explore other options closer to the original version of Elliot before settling on the design that will hit the screen. The pink coloring didn't blend well with the surrounding woods, however, and conflicted with the general look that they were going with in the film.
"We explored pink, just to see what would happen... From the get-go, the aesthetic was always to make everything feel as handmade as possible, including effects, to really have it feel like a blur between a very grounded realistic world and a world in which a big green dragon that can turn invisible can exist.”
As seen in the first image from EW, a lot of Elliot's new design was drawn from nature, and animators at Weta reportedly spent hours looking at funny animal videos on YouTube to find inspiration for their creation. According to production designer Jade Healy, "There’s one video of a giant panda tumbling in his cave, and we looked at that again and again as our Elliott — this big animal who just doesn’t know what to do with his body." Other animals that influenced Elliot's design include the Australian flying fox and a polar bear. His roar is a composite as well, described as being somewhere in the vicinity of "lion, tiger and elephant."
The new look of Elliot will likely take some getting used to, especially for fans who grew up loving the original film. It may be worth giving it a shot, though, as the more natural take on Elliot does sound kind of entertaining. His personality is even influenced by the animal kingdom, as Lowery explained that "So much of Elliott’s behavior, when I gave direction, would just be based on this thing my cat did that morning when he was first waking up."
Elliot has turned out much differently than many fans were expecting, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. If he had looked too much like the original version, it might have been harder to separate the two and give the new film a chance to stand on its own two (or four?) feet. At least they kept the title the same, as "Pete's Panda-Flying-Fox-Polar-Bear-Lion-Tiger-Elephant-Cat" would have been a mouthful in the ticket line.
Disney's Pete's Dragon is slated for release on August 12, 2016.