Lonely Planet Writer

New Zealand locations give new life to Disney classic Pete’s Dragon

The backdrop of several spectacular New Zealand locations has given one of Disney’s classic family movies, Pete’s Dragon, a new visual life.

A re-imagining of Disney's cherished family film, PETE'S DRAGON is the story of Pete and his best friend Elliot, who just happens to be a dragon.
A re-imagining of Disney’s cherished family film, PETE’S DRAGON is the story of Pete and his best friend Elliot. Image: Matt Kitscher / Disney Enterprises

Shot over both the North and South islands, the film features a number of breathtaking landscapes.

Bryce Dallas Howard is Grace, Robert Redford is Mr. Meacham and Oona Laurence is Natalie in Disney's PETE'S DRAGON, the adventure of an orphaned boy and his best friend Elliott, who just so happens to be a dragon.
Bryce Dallas Howard is Grace, Robert Redford is Mr. Meacham and Oona Laurence is Natalie in Disney’s PETE’S DRAGON.  Image by Matt Kitscher/ Disney Enterprises

The endearing tale of an orphaned boy Pete (Oakes Fegley), and his best friend – a dragon named Elliot – stars Bryce Dallas Howard and Robert Redford and is directed by David Lowery.

Breath-taking shot using the New Zeland countryside for the shooting of Disney's Pete's Dragon
Breath-taking panorama of the New Zeland countryside used for the shooting of Disney’s Pete’s Dragon Image by Matt Kutscher / Disney Enterprises

Also featuring in the cast is Wes Bentley as well as locals Karl Urban and Oona Laurence.
However, fans of the movie can acquire a greater empathy for the story by exploring the real locations which were used to film the adventure.

For instance, the Rotorua Redwoods Forest where Pete first encounters his new friend is used as the home of Elliot.
Towering trees over 110 years old provide a perfect backdrop for the tale which also benefits from dragon-eye views of the forest floor below.

Rotorua is a major tourist destination in New Zealand and is a centre for Māori culture experiences together with amazing geothermal parks.

The country’s capital city, Wellington, plays a key role in bringing the movie to life. It has Weta Workshop tours where tourists can see for themselves how jaw-dropping special effects are created in the world famous studio.

Queenstown is another popular tourist spot and as a major adventure capital, provides an exciting and diverse backdrop for film shooting.

The small South Island town of Tapanui with a population of 900 people is a small town in the Otago area of the South Island. It was transformed into a small logging town named Millhaven in the Pacific Nortwest of America, for the Disney’s Pete Dragon shoot.