How Did They Create The Dragon in 'Pete's Dragon'? Filmmakers Wanted Elliot To Have Heart

On Friday, Disney is set to release its latest movie, Pete's Dragon, a remake of the 1977 classic movie. It's the story of a boy orphaned in the woods for years, who survives with the help of Elliot, a gigantic green dragon. How did they create the dragon in Pete's Dragon?

Director David Lowery wanted to remain true to the original movie, but, according to USA Today, the tricky part was creating a computer-generated dragon that "exuded warmth, as well as animal magnetism."

“We’re writing this movie and thinking, ‘How did this kid survive winter in the woods all alone?’ ” Lowery said, according to USA Today. “Well, the answer is he curled up with a really fuzzy dragon who’s probably hibernating.”

But it was still important to maintain many of the dragon's characteristics from the original, including his big tummy, his ability to turn himself invisible, and his way of communication—through groans and roars. And, Lowery said, according to USA Today, he is "now quite as physically adept or graceful as you'd imagine a dragon to be."

Because, deep down, Elliot is lovable. He's a vegetarian, has ears that look and change with his expressions and moods — much like a dog — but it was the fur that Lowery credits with going "a long way in selling the relationship at the heart of the movie," he told USA Today. He added that Elliot's flights were inspired by the albatross for takeoffs and seagulls for landings, because neither bird is terribly graceful, which the filmmakers said was important to ground the character of Elliot in a bit of reality.

According to ABC News, the movie was shot in a remote part of New Zealand. Elliot was created by the same CGI geniuses that made Gollum in the Lord of The Rings movies, WETA Digital.

In addition to Elliot, who is the real star of the film, Pete's Dragon stars Hollywood powerhouses Robert Redford and Bryce Dallas Howard, and little Oakes Fegley as Pete. A reviewer from the Charlotte Observer seems to think all the work the filmmakers put into making Elliot believable has paid off. Here's what he said in his review of Pete's Dragon:

Elliot remains a triumph of computer animation, expressive and emotionally complex. He’s immediately appealing, with his chipped front fang and an apparent allergy that causes him to sneeze snot on humans.

But beware, there's a car accident at the beginning of the movie, when Pete becomes orphaned that many reviewers say is every bit as sad as the gut wrenching killing of Bambi's mother. "If your kids can get through the first five minutes of Pete’s Dragon (which rank right up there with the shooting of Bambi’s mother on the Disney trauma-o-meter), then you won’t find a sweeter family film for the waning days of summer," a reviewer from Entertainment Weekly said.