“Pete’s Dragon” Press Junket

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Opening in theaters this August 12th, Disney’s latest live-action film “Pete’s Dragon” reimagines the 1977 film’s story of a lonely boy, the dragon who protects him, the shyster who threatens him, and the family that accepts him.

[All non-attributed photos and video courtesy of Disney.]

Recently, a sampling of the talented folk involved in the making of “Pete’s Dragon” convened at a press junket to discuss the film.

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Bryce Dallas Howard (“Grace”) on comparing this movie to the original 1977 film: “I think there were no throwbacks, intentionally, other than what was at the genesis of this idea, which is that it’s about a boy who is orphaned, whose family, in essence, is a dragon. You know, it’s his best friend and no one believes that a dragon exists, and then we come to see that magic is actually possible. It’s a story about what it takes to find your family. And I think that thematically, is very obviously similar to the first film, but this really was…it’s not even like ‘inspired by’…it’s really an original film. It’s not meant to step on the memories of the 1977 version of ‘Pete’s Dragon.'”

Howard on what families should take away from the film: “I think it’s the power of family, and I think it’s the magic of family. You know, the miracle of family, honestly. Ooo–getting a little emotional!”

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Director David Lowery on similarities between “Pete’s Dragon” and his 2013 film “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints”: “A little bit of facetiousness on that part, but I really do think that both of those movies are about characters who are searching for home, searching for family. And in that movie, Casey Affleck was a guy who thought his family was one thing, and thought his life would be one thing, and turns out not to be the case, and in his pursuit of it, he realizes that he’s missed out on something. And so here we have a story of a little boy and a dragon who…the little boy ultimately finds a new home as well, and the parallels became immediate to me when I realized the scene in this movie where the dragon goes and looks through a window and sees Pete, with his new family, curled up on the bed, and there’s a scene in ‘Ain’t Them Bodies Saints’ when Casey Affleck walks up to a window and sees his wife and daughter sitting with a new guy on the couch…and like it’s almost shot-for-shot the same. It wasn’t conscious on my part, but oh, there you go.”

Lowery on casting Robert Redford: “I’d been working on another project with him…but in the meantime I had been working on this script, and this one started to come together, and we were thinking of…actors to play Mr. Meacham. We had had a different idea of who that character was in mind and it was supposed to be sort of like a kind of crazier old guy, like a guy who, like, maybe doesn’t have all his marbles, a little more comic relief. But then I’m like ‘what if we got Robert Redford? That would be unbelievable.’ And so I sent him the script and he read it and was all ‘oh, this is really interesting, it’s really cool–I’m not sure it’s necessarily the right thing for me…” And then we rewrote the script for him, because I was like ‘yes…this character is obviously not someone you could play, because…he’s nuts, and you are clearly not. You are very put-together.’ But we rewrote it for him, and then he agreed to do it.”

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Oakes Fegley (“Pete”) and Oona Laurence (“Natalie”) on their relationship to Disney:
Fegley: “I like all the animated films…like ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,’ or ‘The Jungle Book’…and I like ‘The BFG’–I hope I like it, I haven’t seen it yet, but it seems like something I would like.”
Laurence: “I mean, Disney was my childhood, and it still is my childhood, so…”
Fegley: “Now it’s even more.”
Laurence: “…Yeah, I’ve seen almost all the Disney films, I love ‘High School Musical,’ I’ve seen it so many times. I love Disney. I feel so lucky to be in an actual Disney film.”

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Robert Redford (“Meacham”) on how he approached making this character unique: “Well, first of all, Lowery came to me and allowed me to step in and develop the character further than was written, so that sort of allowed me to take responsibility for the character and have a little bit of authorship. So my whole thing about the character was that he was a storyteller; and since storytelling was a big part of my life, growing up here in Los Angeles…it was a very difficult time, difficult life, lower working-class neighborhood…people didn’t have much, so storytelling became a huge thing–a way out of a tough situation, and that played a big role in my life, as a kid.

“So I thought, well here’s a story that really is storytelling. It involves fantasy and realism together. When I read the script, I thought, well this reminds me of my childhood, with the Disney movies that I saw, and how much I loved that when I was a little kid. “Bambi,” “Fantasia”…things like that. And then he stopped making those films and went into adult stuff and I lost interest.

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“What I love about it, is that (Lowery) has created a kind of atmosphere of magic. I think magic was such a part of my life, when I was young…that was your hope factor. That was that thing you hope…there’s something out there beyond me, that’s good. Something out there beyond me and this small world I’m living in, that’s bigger and special…So you kind of hung on to that, someday I’m going to be out of here, and go.

“And what Lowery did with the character, was that, when I first read it, I was “well, it’s a nice idea for a movie, but the character is…” I felt it was underdrawn, and he opened it up, and said, ‘look, why don’t you step in and be part of the development of the story,’ so he allowed me to step in and work on the character. And then things changed. I felt like I was part of things, I felt like what could be developed was more in the storyteller, and more of him trying to see things beyond what you see in front of you. He tells his daughter, he says ‘you only see what’s in front of you. There’s other stuff. Look around, look beyond.‘ I like that concept a lot.”

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“Pete’s Dragon” will open in theaters August 12, 2016.

Jeanine resides in Southern California, pursuing the sort of lifestyle that makes her the envy of every 11-year-old she meets. She has been to every Disney theme park in the world and while she finds Tokyo DisneySea the Fairest Of Them All, Disneyland is her Home Park... and there is no place like home.

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