Movies, Books & Disney+

Actor Bryce Dallas Howard, Director David Lowery Talk “Pete’s Dragon” at Press Day in Hollywood

Hi everyone!

A few weeks back, we were invited to an early press day for Pete’s Dragon at the El Capitan in Hollywood, and we sent our CA correspondent to cover it. Pete’s Dragon is the newest in a long line of live-action Disney Studios films which include (just this year) The Jungle Book and Alice Through the Looking Glass. Writer/director David Lowery and actor Bryce Dallas Howard were at the press day, talking about the film which opens on August 12th, 2016. There were four clips from the movie shown, which gave an idea of what to expect next month.

Lowery said that Pete’s Dragon is set “somewhere in the Pacific Northwest”, there isn’t an exact date nor an exact time frame given. Lowery intentionally kept the movie timeless, but said that the feel of it may be late 1970s or early 1980s, saying that some films endure because they don’t “root themselves in a specific time”. Lowery wanted to make a story that was different than the original, a Pete’s Dragon for a “new generation”. While the movie itself does not pinpoint its location, the actual filming was done in New Zealand. Taking quite a different tack than Jon Favreau in the live-action film The Jungle Book, Lowery wanted his sets to be real – even if his dragon wasn’t. Weta Digital is also based in New Zealand, and the company was the one that brought Elliott to life.

Both Lowery and Howard emphasized friendship in the film, the friendship between a child and a creature like Elliott. Lowery likened it to a favorite pet as a child, or a child’s relationship with a dog. In Pete’s Dragon, Howard plays Grace, the forest ranger daughter of Mr. Meacham (Robert Redford), who likes to tell stories to children about a ferocious dragon that lives in the woods. Grace does not believe in the dragon until she meets Pete (Oakes Fegley), who is a 10 year old with no family or home, and says he lives in the woods with a dragon.

Howard herself is a fan of the original 1977 Pete’s Dragon, reading the Pete’s Dragon board book to her kids. She wasn’t interested in a copycat film, but jumped onboard when she knew it would be different. Her most exciting moment when seeing the trailer was getting to see Elliott come alive as a character in the film.

Lowery cast Fegley based on having a child that wasn’t too perfect, one who didn’t have a ‘trained quality” or cried on cue. He wanted a child actor who could be himself. Lowery brought in Debra Zane (Bloodline) to conduct a worldwide casting search for the iconic role.

Casting Robert Redford was easy for Lowery, who had been working with Redford on another project and was able to get the script in front of Redford. Howard calls Redford “disarmingly relaxed and cool”.

Pete’s Dragon isn’t meant to be a rehash of the original film, but one that can stand side-by-side it.

Pete’s Dragon opens on August 12th, 2016 and is rated PG.