Aviation, tourism and energy writer for the Business Herald

How Weta's latest dragon will sell NZ

New Zealand tourism chiefs are hoping a new dragon will breathe more life into selling our country to the world.

The remake of Pete's Dragon was filmed in New Zealand and has its Los Angeles premiere overnight.

In a video released today by Tourism NZ, viewers can see a fly-over view of New Zealand from Pete the Dragon's point of view.

Described as a modern day retelling of the ''cheesy yet lovable'' 1977 Disney classic, the film tells the story of a boy named Pete living alone in the woods who befriends a dragon that he names Elliot before being found by adults.

WATCH: Pete's Dragon trailer:

Video

It stars Robert Redford, Bryce Dallas Howard, Kiwi actor Karl Urban and Wes Bentley.

The movie was filmed Rotorua's redwood forest, around Wellington, Queenstown and in Tapanui, which became ''Millhaven'' for the purpose of the film.

While the setting is designed to make it look as if the film is in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, Tourism New Zealand says viewers are left in no doubt where it is actually set.

''The fact that 100 per cent of the movie was made in New Zealand provides us with a wonderful platform to reinforce the message about what a wonderful country we have here,'' said Tourism NZ manager of PR and major events, Rebecca Ingram.

''The connection between Pete's Dragon and New Zealand is something we're working really strongly with Disney to make sure is clear.''

A media event last month attracted about 100 journalists, she said and they were all clear were the film was set.

Tourism New Zealand would launch a public relations, social media and advertising campaign around the movie in North America.

The United States is a key market for New Zealand tourism.

Oakes Fegley is Pete in Disney's Pete's Dragon, the story of a boy named Pete and his best friend Elliot, who just happens to be a dragon.
Oakes Fegley is Pete in Disney's Pete's Dragon, the story of a boy named Pete and his best friend Elliot, who just happens to be a dragon.



''What we try to do is make the point there are those four real locations used in the film and then say if you were to go to these locations you can stand where Elliot the dragon did and can do all these things in real close proximity,'' said Ingram.

Pete's Dragon was created by Weta Digital and another famous New Zealand dragon, Smaug, featured in The Hobbit and was also created by Weta.

Bryce Dallas Howard is Grace and Robert Redford is Mr. Meacham in Disney's  Pete's Dragon.
Bryce Dallas Howard is Grace and Robert Redford is Mr. Meacham in Disney's Pete's Dragon.

She said it was hard to to estimate the spin-off from Pete's Dragon but Tourism NZ research showed The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings were signficant draw cards.

About 160,000 international holiday visitors or 18 per cent last year cited the Hobbit trilogy as the reason for their initial interest in New Zealand.

This is not the first dragon used to promote New Zealand. Air New Zealand previously painted Smaug the dragon from the Hobbit on its aircraft. Photo / Richard Robinson
This is not the first dragon used to promote New Zealand. Air New Zealand previously painted Smaug the dragon from the Hobbit on its aircraft. Photo / Richard Robinson

- NZ Herald

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