It’s been a good 40 years since we first saw Elliott of the 1977 film Pete’s Dragon, but true fans will remember how he had “The head of a camel, the neck of a crocodile,” and that “He’s both a fish and a mammal.” According to the teaser trailer released last year, however, Elliott is looking a little different these days. Largely CGI, the new and improved Elliott will be covered in fur and, from the looks of the promo image, walking on all fours. The overall effect seems more like a lion or a tiger than a dragon, but there are a lot more complex components to this creature.
Director David Lowery explains his creative choices:
“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.”
Something they did want to forget about: Eliot’s pink mop top.
“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.”
It’s said that the pink also clashed with the photo-real terrain of Pete’s home in the woods, and with the level of realism that was wanted for the convincing nature of Elliott as a real creature. But… he’s not. He’s a figment of Pete’s imagination. The pink would just accent the fact that this character was formed in a child’s mind, you’d think. Production designer Jade Healy elaborates:
“David saw this furry, soft dragon that kids could imagine, when they go into the woods, could actually be there.”
For such an old movie, it took a trending sort of research to capture the flow (or lack thereof) of Elliott’s movements. Healy reveals:
“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.”
Speaking of Elliott’s body, this time around there were a lot more animal influences in its design. The Australian flying fox was tapped for his wings, the polar bear for his fur, and a mix of lion, tiger and elephant for his roar. The biggest contributor, however, was David Lowery’s own pet cat.
As for the humans of the story, Oakes Fegley plays the titular orphaned Pete, while Robert Redford and Bryce Dallas Howard are also signed on. We’ll have to wait until August to see how this reboot shakes out!