In Walt Disney Studios newest film arriving August 12th, a new generation will be introduced to a young boy named Pete and his pet dragon, Elliott, in Pete's Dragon! While many will recall the 1977 life action/animated musical of the same title, Director, David Lowery, has expertly conceived an entire new style of a movie with his telling of the tale.
Behind the Wings of the New Pete's Dragon
“I sort of felt that if we were to make a good movie about a boy and a dragon, and the boy's name was Pete, then the beats to the story wouldn't be that different.” Lowery explained on a recent Friday afternoon in Beverly Hills; “You know, it's not a movie that's gonna just rock the narrative world when it comes to the stories of children and animal or magical friends, or whatever the case may be. Those stories usually follow a pretty familiar path, and I didn't feel the need to reinvent that. And so I felt that you'd have a little bit of the original in that regard.”
Filming in New Zealand for ”74 massively exhausting days” as Lowery put it, He, along with the all-star cast (Robert Redford, Bryce Dallas Howard, and rising stars Oakes Fegley and Oona Laurence) shared just how magical it was to shoot on such a glorious location. “I love adventurous stuff like skydiving and paragliding and all that” he shared, and, added that New Zealand certainly gives Pete's Dragon that sense of “magic” which is undeniable.
For living legend, Robert Redford, taking on the role of Mr. Meacham was a bit of a surprise to his fans, yet, completely in line with the 80-year-old actor; “I've tried to avoid most of my life being pigeonholed” he explains, “There was a period of time where I really had a hard time when I first started acting in film and suddenly it was about how I looked. And I wasn't expecting that, cause I became an actor because I was drawn to the craft in the theater in New York. So I wasn't prepared to go into film and suddenly be judged by how I looked. [and] you try to work your way out of it and you realize its not easy. You say I'm going to try to be a different character, and they don't accept that.”
Redford also got a bit melancholy when recalling his time in New Zealand; “It was such a pleasant shock [to arrive in New Zealand], and, also a profound sadness, because there was a time when America was like that. When California was like that. And I grew up at that time in the end of the Second World War when there was big mass stretches of land. People were friendly, because they were all together for the war effort, or paper drives, things like that. People were friendly with each other. The air was clean. There were swatches of land between Santa Monica and Westwood, Beverly Hills.”
For Bryce Dallas Howard, she had a bit of explaining to do when she announced to her family she would be portraying Grace, a character whom we last saw singing from a lighthouse (played in the first Pete's Dragon by Helen Reddy), “The way I found out about this was I heard that there was a Pete’s Dragon, and I’m sort of like a sleuth, so I was interested, cause I loved Pete’s Dragon as a kid. When I would told my sister that I was doing [this project], she cried.
But, alas, how do you explain how original Lowery's adaptation is? “I was like wait, no, it’s so different, ah, how am I gonna like explain this to you!” Howard boasts, “But I heard that it was happening and I was really curious as to what they were gonna do, like how they were gonna adapt it. Cause it’s an unusual film, and then I saw that it was something that apart from the title and the central themes and the characters of Pete and Elliott, it was truly a departure.”
For newcomers, Oakes and Oona, they were thrilled to at last see Elliott on the big screen after having just worked with green screens for most of the time instead of an actual dragon. “We really had to use our imagination, which was sometimes challenging, but it was interesting.” Oona, who plays Natalie, “We had to [just] use a sketch that we saw of the dragon and just like envision that, and you know, somehow harness the emotions that we would have if like we were reacting to something like that.”
While Oakes undoubtedly has a bright future in acting, the 11-year-old has a fabulous back up plan: “I would be a dog walker if I was not an actor”, he told us. A proud dog Daddy, he was eager to tell us about his canine as well as getting to work with one of role models, Robert Redford.
Pete's Dragon will be in theaters nationwide THIS Friday, August 12th! Stay tuned for my review and thoughts on this magical movie!
About Pete's Dragon
“Pete’s Dragon” stars Bryce Dallas Howard (“Jurassic World”), Oakes Fegley (“This is Where I Leave You”), Wes Bentley (“The Hunger Games”), Karl Urban (“Star Trek”), Oona Laurence (“Southpaw”) and Oscar® winner Robert Redford (“Captain America: The Winter Soldier”). The film, which is directed by David Lowery (“Ain’t Them Bodies Saints”), is written by Lowery & Toby Halbrooks based on a story by Seton I. Miller and S.S. Field and produced by Jim Whitaker, p.g.a. (“The Finest Hours,” “Friday Night Lights”), with Barrie M. Osborne (“The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring,” “The Great Gatsby”) serving as executive producer.
PETE’S DRAGON flies into theatres everywhere on August 12th!
Portions of this material have been provided courtesy of Walt Disney Studios.