Flying high with Disney’s Pete’s Dragon

Tourism New Zealand has secured exclusive cast interviews and video content to showcase New Zealand internationally as the home of the new Disney movie Pete’s Dragon.

This week’s Hollywood premiere of the movie follows more than two years of work by TNZ to capitalize on tourism opportunities presented by the remake of the children’s classic which was filmed entirely in New Zealand. 

In Disney’s Pete’s Dragon, New Zealand is the setting for Millhaven, an American Pacific Northwest logging town with Tapanui in Otago transformed into Millhaven’s main street.  Other New Zealand locations featured include the Rotorua region near Redwoods forest, Wellington and Queenstown.

A Dragon’s eye view of New Zealand video, with special effects by Weta Digital, is an exclusive piece of content developed by TNZ as part of the Disney’s Pete’s Dragon project.

TNZ was also given access to interview cast members about their experiences in New Zealand. These interviews, being shared on, include the movie’s stars, Hollywood great Robert Redford describing New Zealand as “a country with a smile on its face” and Bryce Dallas Howard saying New Zealand as ‘the most beautiful country on earth’.

Working with Disney and the New Zealand Film Commission as a result of New Zealand’s international film incentive programme, TNZ has been able to maximise opportunities at every step of the film’s development, accessing and creating content, identifying marketing and trade opportunities and using high impact media channels.

Rene de Monchy, Tourism New Zealand’s Director Trade, PR and Major Events says: “This is the first time we have worked with Disney and we wanted to take every opportunity possible to collaborate and ensure that New Zealand is clearly attributed as the home of Disney’s Pete’s Dragon. They have been an exceptional partner.

“Film tourism is one more way we can tell the story of our people and place and showcase the very best of what New Zealand has to offer as a holiday destination. It also reinforces our message that everything in New Zealand is close together - with tourist activities set in and around film locations playing a big part in the visitor experience.”

“We have a great affection for Elliot the Dragon and we are sure audiences the world over will also adore him - our objective is to make a strong connection between the epic landscapes that audiences see on screen and New Zealand as a magic place to have an adventure.” 

TNZ has also sponsored an amazing virtual reality experience, alongside Air New Zealand, Nokia and Weta Digital, of Elliot the dragon flying through the Shotover Canyon. The virtual reality experience will be shared extensively online by the partners and make an appearance at Disney’s Anaheim Park. 

Jodi Williams, Head of Global Brand Development at Air New Zealand said "As the national carrier for New Zealand, Air New Zealand is proud to be a part of any opportunity that showcases the absolute splendour of the destination.  Like Elliot's flight over the country, Air New Zealand is committed to taking passengers deeper into New Zealand and giving them the ability to experience all that it has to offer." 

Disney’s Pete’s Dragon opens in New Zealand 15 September.