Pete's Dragon fans probably aren't going to like this. As the new Elliott the Dragon looks nothing like his former self. The original Elliott was a hand-drawn animated character. But the newly rebooted creature is a CGI effect. And he's very green and furry. While we barely caught a glimpse of Pete's best friend in the teaser trailer released last year, EW has our first official look at Pete's Dragon. And, well, it is what it is.
Most people can't see Pete's friendly, furry dragon. And after some original fans get a look at the new creation, they might wish they'd never seen this thing. It looks more like a cat than a dragon. But perhaps that's the point. To make it look like a giant, happy pet? The original Pete's Dragon was released in 1977, and it's been nearly 40 years since we've seen Elliott the Dragon back on the big screen.
The original was a live-action/animation hybrid where all of the humans were played by real actors. The story follows an orphaned boy, played here by Oakes Fegley, who lives in the woods with his giant lizard. The rest of the cast is rounded out by Robert Redford and Bryce Dallas Howard, who knows a thing or two about dealing with dinosaurs after her time spent in last year's summer blockbuster Jurassic World. While this new version of Elliott is decidedly different from what we remember, the original's mannerisms may still be intact. Says director David Lowery.
"Certain things about the original design we loved: Big jaw, big snout, and a clumsy quality that we really wanted to not completely forget about."
The signature traits of the original Elliott helped establish what was being done in this new Disney reboot. But it was decided early on that the hot pink accents seen on Elliott back in 1977 needed to be abandoned. Gone are his spikes and wild neon 70s haircut. The director goes onto explain.
"We explored pink, just to see what would happen. From the get-go, the aesthetic was always to make everything feel as handmade as possible, including effects. To really have it feel like a blur between a very grounded realistic world and a world in which a big green dragon that can turn invisible can exist."
The main problem with the hot pink is that it didn't blend in with the forrest surroundings that Pete calls home. The movie uses a photo-real terrain as a backdrop. And that realism needed to be retained in the way Elliott was presented as a real creature. Elliott is based on domesticated animals, and behaves as such. Says production designer Jade Healy.
"David saw this furry, soft dragon that kids could imagine, when they go into the woods, could actually be there."
So, yes, that is not just your imagination. The new Elliott looks like a cross between a dog and a cat. It is not some medieval manifestation that you might see in Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings. And that's the intent. Another big part of reinventing Elliott for modern audiences revolved around watching hours upon hours of funny animal videos on the Internet. The dragon is not very elegant in his movements. Says Jade Healy.
"There's one video of a giant panda tumbling in his cave, and we looked at that again and again as our Elliott - this big animal who just doesn't know what to do with his body."
There are quite a few animals that make up Elliott's overall design. He has the wings of an Australian flying fox, polar bear fur, and his roar is a finely tuned mix of "lion, tiger, and elephant." Though, David Lowery reveals that, more than anything, Elliott is based on his own pet cat, and the things he'd witness the beast do on mornings before the shoot. You can get your first look at this strange green creature in the image below. Pete's Dragon flies into theaters everywhere this August.