Principal photography began in New Zealand today on “Pete’s Dragon,” writer/director David Lowery’s re-imagining of the 1977 Disney animated hybrid.
Indie “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” turned studio director Lowery’s version will not be a musical, as the neglected Mouse House Classic is, but it will blend live-action with CGI to tell the story of orphan boy Pete and Elliott, his often-invisible dragon pal.
Studios chase hot indie mavericks like Lowery out of Sundance for large properties, for one, because they’re presumably cheaper than A-list talent. Other indie finds to helm similarly ambitious projects for-hire include “Safety Not Guaranteed” director Colin Trevorrow for “Jurassic Park 4,” “Kings of Summers”‘s Jordan Vogt-Roberts for Legendary’s King Kong prequel “Skull Island” and, earlier, Gareth Edwards, director of SXSW premiere “Monsters” who Legendary tapped for 2014’s “Godzilla.”
The “Pete’s Dragon” cast includes Bryce Dallas Howard as the park ranger who’s in on Pete’s secret, and 10-year-old Oakes Fegley of “This Is Where I Leave You” as Pete. The film costars Wes Bentley, Kiwi “Star Trek Into Darkness” star Karl Urban and, as Grace’s father, Robert Redford.
Produced by Jim Whitaker and executive-produced by Barrie Osborne with a script by Lowery and “Ain’t Them Bodies” producer Toby Halbrooks, the film features VFX from Peter Jackson’s Oscar-winning WETA Digital.
“Pete’s Dragon” is scheduled to be released in U.S. theaters in August, 2016.