The world finally had its first look at how Elliot – the green, big bellied dragon that we loved back in 1977 – will look like in the real world, thanks to an exclusive movie still from Disney’s Pete’s Dragon shared by Entertainment Weekly. Since the release of the movie’s official teaser last February, we’ve been raring to see how Disney will render to life the titular dragon. We’ve known Elliot to be the big bellied, goofy and clumsy looking deuteragonist in the 1977 Disney live-action film bearing the same title. But if you’re quick to notice, his current iteration is no longer the same from how we’ve known him in the 70’s.
It’s not at all bad, but on the contrary it’s a perfect take by Director David Lowery given the film’s more serious tone and action-packed sequences. However, Lowery opted not to stray too much from Elliot’s original design. “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,” says Lowery.
Staying true to the dragon’s impeccable camouflaging abilities, Lowery pointed out and removed the obvious, so the first thing to fly out of the window from Elliot’s more modern design is his neon pink spikes and haircut. Lowery wanted to make sure that his current Elliot will be so lifelike as much as possible. “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”, explains Lowery.
It’s not just Elliot’s looks that Lowery and screenwriter Toby Halbrooks took into consideration when they brainstorming on how they will depict the elusive creature. Production Designer Jade Healy also pointed out that against the more medieval concept and portrayals of dragons, they opted for a more domesticated, canine-like approach in order to build a “soft, furry dragon that kids can imagine”. This is highly reminiscent of the warm and lovable character of Elliot’s 1977 persona, in spite of his massive size and frightening fire-breathing ability. Healy also humorously pointed out that for Elliot’s movement, they got inspiration from a wonderful medley of animal behaviors they watched over at YouTube. “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,” says Healy. The 20-foot tall green, furry beast may likely be a part Australian flying fox, part polar bear, with a roar somewhere like that of a “lion, tiger, and elephant”.
Lowery couldn’t agree more with Healy’s assessment of Elliot adding one more species into the mix. “On a personal level, I don’t even see my dog at all… I see a cat,” says Director Lowery. “So much of Elliott’s behavior, when I gave direction, would just be based on this thing my cat did that morning when he was first waking up,” he adds with a chuckle.
Disney’s live-action remake of Pete’s Dragon opens in US theaters on August 12, 2016 starring Bryce Dallas Howard (Grace), Oakes Fegley (Pete) together with Robert Redford, Karl Urban, Wes Bentley and Oona Laurence.