Last year's rumors of a Mary Poppins remake directed by Tim Burton turned out to be nothing more than a fairy tale cooked up by the internet, but the same cannot be said for the upcoming remake of the less well known, but nonetheless beloved by many, 1977 Disney musical movie Pete's Dragon. Set for a summer 2016 release, the new version of Pete's Dragon will star newcomer Oakes Fegley as Pete, a 10-year-old boy who is best friends with a dragon that can turn invisible.
The cast also includes Bryce Dallas Howard, Wes Bentley, Robert Redford and - following a last minute casting reshuffle - Karl Urban. Recent reports claimed that the new version of the film, directed by Ain't Them Bodies Saints filmmaker David Lowery, will "reinvent the core of the original family film," indicating that the central concept will be kept the same but the supporting characters and plot could likely change.
Disney has now announced that Pete's Dragon has begun principal photography in New Zealand, where filming will take place in the Wellington area, the Rotorua area, and finally the South Island communities of Tapanui and Invercargill. The statement revealed that Howard will be playing a park ranger called Grace who discovers Pete and his scaly friend Elliott, and that Redford will be playing her father. Bentley will play a local mill owner called Jack, Urban will play Jack's brother, Gavin, and newcomer Oona Laurence will play a little girl called Natalie who befriends Pete.
Though the characters' names and occupations are different from the original, there seem to be some obvious parallels. Howard's character is most likely an updated version of Nora, Helen Reddy's character in the original film, which means that Redford may be playing a version of Mickey Rooney's character.
Aside from Peter Jackson's most recent Middle-earth trilogy, there haven't been a lot of Hollywood movies that filmed over in New Zealand. The last such production from Disney was Bridge to Terabithia, which was filmed in Auckland and released in 2007. Film New Zealand and Film Wellington provided assistance to Disney in scouting and confirming the shooting locations for Pete's Dragon.
It's not just the live-action elements of the film that are going to be made in New Zealand; Weta Digital, the Wellington-based digital visual effects company that provided VFX for The Hobbit and the Planet of the Apes prequels, has been hired to animate Elliott. We're going to go ahead and assume that the 2D cartoon dragon is being dropped in favor of something a bit more sophisticated.
Pete’s Dragon will be in theaters on August 12th, 2016.
Source: Walt Disney Pictures