Disney's friendly dragon on the way

FOR PETE'S SAKE: The 1977 Disney film Pete’s Dragon is to be remade in Wellington.
FOR PETE'S SAKE: The 1977 Disney film Pete’s Dragon is to be remade in Wellington.

A multimillion-dollar remake of Disney's 1970s fantasy film Pete's Dragon is expected to start in Wellington within weeks.

American film-maker David Lowery, picked by Walt Disney Productions last year to direct the project, has regularly tweeted in recent months about heading to New Zealand for the new film.

He met Weta Digital and Weta Workshop staff while visiting Wellington in July, and has scouted locations around New Zealand.

Weta refused to comment, but an industry source confirmed the company was involved in the production and auditions were under way in the capital.

The original movie, starring the late Mickey Rooney, had a budget of $10m but the remake is expected to cost a lot more.

In July, Lowery posted: "Location scout day 2: bushwhacked our way to a remote redwood forest, home to wild pigs descended directly from Capt Kidd's [sic] porcine stock".

Film NZ promotes Whakarewarewa Forest, a 5600-hectare forest near Rotorua with a large redwood stand, to location scouts.

When a friend asked him in July if he had met "Weta friends or higher up" while in Wellington, he replied: "Weta, of both the Digital and Workshop variety".

Lowery is co-writing the script with Dallas-based producer Toby Halbrooks, and the producer is fellow American James Whitaker.

According to an online casting group, all actors have to be available from this month until April.

The movie revolves around a young boy, Pete, who, after losing his parents in a car crash at the age of 4, escapes to a forest and befriends a dragon.

Young American star Oakes Fegley has been cast as orphan Pete and Oona Laurence will be Natalie, a new character and one of Pete's friends.

Computer-generated imagery is expected to be used to create Elliot the dragon.

The Dominion Post