Pete's Dragon is a Disney movie that holds nostalgia value for those who grew up on the 1977 feature; and like other Disney titles from the 20th Century, it's now getting remade on the big screen for a new generation. The film's cast already included Robert Redford, along with Oakes Fegley (Boardwalk Empire) and stage actor Oona Laurence; now, it seems that Bryce Dallas Howard (who returns to the big screen in Jurassic World in 2015) is preparing to join the acting roster.
Directed and co-written by David Lowery (Ain't Them Bodies Saints), Disney's new rendition of Pete's Dragon tells the story of Pete (Fegley), an orphan who for years has been raised in a vast and mysterious forest by the friendly dragon, Elliot, when their home turf is threatened by loggers. Laurence is playing the daughter of a local, kindly mill owner, while Redford portrays an old man who enjoys telling stories about dragons (even though no one believes they're true).
THR is reporting Howard to be in talks to join the Pete's Dragon cast, though her role in the film remains under wraps for the time being. Meanwhile, with production gearing up for a January 2015 start, the Mouse House has confirmed that the remake will be shot in New Zealand; below, we have the official statement from producer Jim Whitaker (Changeling, The Odd Life of Timothy Green).
“We were searching for a shooting location that captures the wonder and spirit of Pete’s Dragon. The New Zealand aesthetic beautifully matches what the screenplay requires, and we’re grateful to receive such tremendous support from the filmmaking community and industry in this country.”
Filming on Pete's Dragon will take primarily at Peter Jackson's Stone Street Studios in Wellington; the Disney project is going to be the first studio feature to shoot there since Jackson's wrapped his work on the Hobbit trilogy. Weta Digital will handle the digital effects in the live-action/CGI hybrid - which, unlike its predecessor, won't be a musical - and select portions of the movie will be shot in various locations around Wellington and Canterbury.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, as it were, begins filming in Australia around the same time that Lowery gets the cameras rolling on Pete's Dragon in New Zealand. The Mouse House has slated the next Pirates movie to reach theaters in Summer 2017 but since Pete's Dragon should be a relatively less extensive production (and isn't so big a tentpole title), it could well arrive in theaters as early as 2016 - maybe launching in October that year, as Disney's The Jungle Book will do in 2015.
On that note, Disney's recent live-action remakes/re-imaginings have performed exceptionally well at the box office; yet, critically, they've been viewed as more middle of the road - and at worst, as being miscalculated reinventions of cherished, older, Mouse House projects. Pete's Dragon feels a bit different, having an indie filmmaker at its helm; at the same time, though, its ingredients appear to resemble those used on such films as Alice in Wonderland (2010) and Maleficent.
In short, the Pete's Dragon remake ought to do well-enough, financially, but we'll see about it earning more universal acclaim than other recent Mouse House revisions...
We'll let you know when Pete's Dragon gets an official release date.