Principal photography on Pete's Dragon commenced today in New Zealand. A reimagining of the 1977 Disney classic, Pete's Dragon will blend live action and CGI to tell the story of the special bond between an orphaned boy, Pete, and his best friend, Elliott, who just happens to be a dragon.

The film starsBryce Dallas Howard as Grace, a park ranger who discovers the existence of Elliott; 10-year-old Oakes Fegley as Pete; Wes Bentley as Jack, a local mill owner; New Zealand native Karl Urban as Jack's brother, Gavin; Oona Laurence as Natalie, the young girl who befriends Pete; and Oscar winner Robert Redford as Grace's father.

Pete's Dragon is directed byDavid Lowery (Ain't Them Bodies Saints) and produced by Jim Whitaker, with Barrie Osborne serving as executive producer. The screenplay is by Lowery and Toby Halbrooks. WETA Digital, the visual effects company founded by filmmaker Peter Jackson based in New Zealand, will utilize the latest in digital effects to bring the dragon, Elliott, to life. The film is scheduled to be released in U.S. theaters in August, 2016.

Related: Pete's Dragon Clips Get Up Close & Personal with Elliott

Says Whitaker:

"This is a story about how magic can enter one's life and change the way they see the world. And I think David Lowery is the perfect director to bring this project to life."

The production begins shooting in and around Wellington before moving north to the Rotorua area, and will complete principal photography in the South Island communities of Tapanui and Invercargill. Film New Zealand, the country's national film office and sister agency Film Wellington assisted the Walt Disney Studios in assessing and confirming New Zealand for the production.

Says Osborne:

"New Zealand has long been a wonderful partner for film production. Wellington's state-of-the-art facilities and filmmaker-friendly community, in particular, make it an ideal location to shoot and be based out of."