Disney’s classic family film Pete’s Dragon has been brought back to life using spectacular New Zealand locations as the backdrop.
The film was shot over both New Zealand’s main islands, the North and the South, showcasing diverse landscapes. The story about an orphaned boy and his best friend Elliot the dragon is directed by David Lowery and stars Bryce Dallas Howard, Oakes Fegley, Wes Bentley, New Zealand's own Karl Urban, Oona Laurence and Robert Redford.
Disney’s Pete’s Dragon fans who want to transport themselves into the film by visiting the real locations used in the movie can explore New Zealand and go on their own adventure.
Forest scenes were shot in the Rotorua region near the Redwoods Forest - the home of Elliot the Dragon and where Pete comes across his mysterious new friend.
In the Redwoods Forest on the outskirts of Rotorua, 110-year-old redwood trees tower above the forest floor and the numerous tracks and trails popular with walkers and bikers. For a dragons-eye-view of the forest floor below, take a walk amongst giants high above the ground on the new Redwoods Forest Treewalk. This grove of 22 majestic specimens is linked together 12-metres / 40-feet in the air with not one nail or screw connecting the structure to the trees.
The central North Island town of Rotorua is one of New Zealand’s foremost tourism destinations known for its powerful Māori culture experiences and amazing geothermal parks.
McLaren Falls Park, Bay of Plenty
McLaren Falls Park was used for an early scene in the movie where Pete encounters a bear on the river’s edge, as Elliot pops up behind him and scares the bear away. The park is 10 minute drive out of Tauranga in the Bay of Plenty region – one of New Zealand’s sunniest regions which boasts many outdoor activities and scenic attractions alongside a rich culture and fresh local cuisine.
Whilst visiting this location tourists can enjoy popular pursuits such as fishing, kayaking and bush walks including the Waterfall Track where glow worms light the way after dusk.
New Zealand’s capital city Wellington is known for its contribution to film and Weta Workshop, once again, played an important role in bringing Disney’s Pete’s Dragon to life. Weta Workshop tours have been named one of the top 10 studio tours in the world. Film fans can meet members of the creative team and see first-hand how they create jaw-dropping special effects.
Just 30 minutes out of Wellington is Battle Hill Farm Park, which is where Pete makes the leap off a cliff to land on Elliot’s back. The Battle Hill Farm Park is home to cycle trails and mountain bike tracks, a popular spot for cyclists and walkers with designated camping areas where you can stay overnight right in the heart of the film location.
Queenstown & Paradise
Queenstown is a hugely popular tourist destination and there is nowhere more exciting or diverse to shoot a movie than in the adventure capital of the world. Situated on the shores of Lake Wakatipu beneath The Remarkables mountain range, Queenstown has movie star good looks.
The beautiful lakes and snowy alps are picture-perfect for a flight on the back of a dragon. Take your own leap off the edge, much like Pete in the film, with A J Hackett Bungy, home of the world’s first commercial bungy operation.
Not far from Queenstown, on the northern tip of Lake Wakatipu, sits Glenorchy and the gateway to Paradise. Paradise is true to its namesake and the picturesque location has to be seen to be believed. Travel one of New Zealand’s most scenic driving routes, then journey up the river aboard a Dart River Jet Boat and, as you zoom through the shallow river on your way to Paradise, you won’t believe what you are seeing.
The small South Island town of Tapanui (Pop. 900), located in the Otago region of the lower South Island, was transformed into Millhaven, a small logging town in America’s Pacific Northwest, for Disney’s Pete’s Dragon. Tapanui is renowned for its incredible fishing in rivers brimming with brown trout and salmon. The Pomahaka River offers world class fishing with some of the biggest brown trout to be found anywhere in the world.
If fishing isn’t your thing, then grab a bike and jump on the Clutha Gold Trail one of the New Zealand Cycle Trail’s Great Rides. The trail is 72 kilometres/ 45 miles long and follows one of the country's longest rivers through a landscape rich with goldminers’ tales of bust and boom.
About Disney’s Pete’s Dragon
A reimagining of Disney’s cherished family film, Disney’s Pete’s Dragon is the adventure of an orphaned boy named Pete and his best friend Elliot, who just so happens to be a dragon. Disney’s Pete’s Dragon stars Bryce Dallas Howard (“Jurassic World”), Oakes Fegley (“This is Where I Leave You”), Wes Bentley (“The Hunger Games”), Karl Urban (“Star Trek”), Oona Laurence (“Southpaw”) and Oscar® winner Robert Redford (“Captain America: The Winter Soldier”). The film is directed by David Lowery (“Ain’t Them Bodies Saints”) from a screenplay by Lowery & Toby Halbrooks based on a screenplay by Malcolm Marmorstein and a story by Seton I. Miller and S.S. Field and produced by Jim Whitaker, p.g.a. (“The Finest Hours,” “Friday Night Lights”), with Barrie M. Osborne (“The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring,” “The Great Gatsby”) serving as executive producer.
For years, old wood carver Mr. Meacham (Robert Redford) has delighted local children with his tales of the fierce dragon that resides deep in the woods of the Pacific Northwest. To his daughter, Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard), who works as a forest ranger, these stories are little more than tall tales…until she meets Pete (Oakes Fegley). Pete is a mysterious 10-year-old with no family and no home who claims to live in the woods with a giant, green dragon named Elliot. And from Pete’s descriptions, Elliot seems remarkably similar to the dragon from Mr. Meacham’s stories. With the help of Natalie (Oona Laurence), an 11-year-old girl whose father Jack (Wes Bentley) owns the local lumber mill, Grace sets out to determine where Pete came from, where he belongs, and the truth about this dragon. Disney’s “Pete’s Dragon” opens in U.S. theaters on 12 August, 2016. The film will be released in New Zealand on 15 September, 2016.