An idyllic Tauranga location will feature in the latest Disney movie which had it's Los Angeles premiere this week.

McLaren Falls features in a scene at the start of Disney film Pete's Dragon.

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.

The movie's supervising locations manager Clayton Tikao confirmed there had been two days of shooting at the park in late February.


"It's a happy scene. It's at the beginning of the film where, the boy and the dragon, you see them having fun," he told the Bay of Plenty Times.

"We went into the river bed and we were looking up from the falls, away from the bridge."

Mr Tikao said they set up base on a property above the falls and had to helicopter all the equipment into the river bed.

He said it was an easy decision to film there.

"It's beautiful. It's a great looking location and it looks good on film. It's a very simple reason why [we decided to film there] - because it looks great."

The park remained open during filming and the public were very obliging in keeping noise levels down to allow shooting to continue, he said.

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

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

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

Tourism Bay of Plenty head of marketing Kathrin Low said it was wonderful to have the region feature in a major movie.

"We're delighted that through the filming of some of Pete's Dragon at McLaren's Falls there is the potential that people from all over the world will be inspired and delighted by its stunning backdrop and scenery and want to visit it first hand.

"The filming of Lord of the Rings has resulted in enormous international interest from movie viewers to visit the shoot locations throughout New Zealand. We cannot estimate the potential impact however we can assume that McLaren's Falls (and the region) will have increased profile and therefore potentially increased visitation as a result."

Tourism New Zealand planned to launch a public relations, social media and advertising campaign around the movie in North America - a key tourism market.

The movie opens in New Zealand 15 September.