Pete's Dragon is Disney's latest re-make of an animated feature into a live-action film. After giving The Jungle Book similar treatment earlier this year, Disney decided to take on reshaping a decidedly less famous film. So is the live-action Pete's Dragon similar to the animated original? Cast and crew talk about the similarities and differences between the two stories.
Cast member Bryce Dallas Howard, who plays Grace, spoke a bit about the differences between the two Pete's Dragon films with the Los Angeles Times.
It’s really different this story. It still has the essence of what was so great about the original 'Pete’s Dragon.' This is a story of an orphaned boy whose best friend is what everyone thinks is an imaginary character, and it’s actually a real dragon. And during the course of his journey he finds his family. So that’s still intact. But everything else is very different. Everything else.
The new Pete's Dragon won't have any musical scenes, and its dragon Elliot is rendered using 3-D, rather than his cartoonish appearance in the original. But that's not the only difference in Elliot's appearance: the original Elliot had scales, but in the 2016 update he has fur. “We’re writing this movie and thinking, ‘How did this kid survive winter in the woods all alone?’ ” David Lowery, the film's director, said in an interview with USA Today. “Well, the answer is he curled up with a really fuzzy dragon who’s probably hibernating.”
Unlike in the original, Elliot also has ears on the sides of his head, so “you got a little more dog- or cat-like emotions out of him,” visual effects supervisor Eric Saindon of Weta Digital told USA Today.
The movie is also decidedly more family-friendly. In the original film, protagonist Pete meets Elliot after escaping his abusive foster family. But there are no elements of an abusive family in the remake: instead, Pete is living alone in the woods and meets Elliot after Pete's parents die in a car crash.
Outside of Pete and his dragon, most of the main characters are different from the original film. In the 1977 film, Pete befriends a young woman named Nora, who he tells about his abuse and gives him a place to stay, and who believes Elliot is an imaginary friend. In the new film, Pete is discovered in the woods by a forest ranger named Grace, who, with her family, tries to find out Pete's identity.
The original film has a clear villain: Dr. Terminus, who tries to capture Elliot because he believes dragons have medicinal purposes. The remake, however, is described by Rebecca Pahle of Polygon as "gentle." She writes that "nothing too bad ever happens in Pete’s Dragon that isn’t fixed in short order, and none of the characters are too terrible — even Gavin is far from the irredeemably evil villain we get in some other Disney stories." So if you want a family-friendly adventure, the new Pete's Dragon is sure to be a great time.