Disney’s got David Lowery jumping from a Sundance triumph to the ‘Pete’s Dragon’ remake

I should start this by saying that David Lowery was a regular contributor of reviews to Ain’t Cool News for many years while I was an editor at the site. He wrote as “Ghostboy,” and he was always one of the quietest but most consistent of the reviewers we had sending us material. I always looked forward to seeing what he had to say, and he had a good eye for films that were worth catching up with as soon as possible. I’ve “known” David online for years, but to my great amusement, we’ve still never actually met.

This year, Lowery was all over Sundance. He was the editor of “Upstream Color,” the Shane Carruth film, he was the writer of “Pit Stop,” and he made his feature directorial debut with “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints.”  There’s not one of those three films that would have given me any indication that he would be the person Disney would turn to in the hopes of rebooting “Pete’s Dragon.”

Even reading the story that Michael Fleming just posted at Deadline, I’m having trouble imagining how that particular configuration came together. Lowery will write the film, which Fleming reports will not be a musical this time around. The original 1977 film is one of the weirdest of the Disney live-action/animation mixes, the story of a young orphan on the run from his adoptive parents who are, in typical Disney fashion, truly horrible people. Mickey Rooney, Helen Reddy, Red Buttons, and Shelly Winters all starred in the original film, and it’s always been treated by Disney as one of their lesser lights, a curiosity more than a classic.

According to Fleming’s story at Deadline, Lowery will be writing the film with his writing partner Toby Halbrooks, and there’s no word on who will direct. If it’s anything like the original, there will need to be some real comfort with effects on the part of the filmmaker, and I’ll be curious to see if they go full CG and more realistic with the design of Elliott, the dragon who was animated in traditional Disney style in the original film.

We’ll have more on this one as it comes together, as well as more on Lowery’s “Bodies,” which is set for release later this year by IFC.