Tapanui: Millhaven, Oregon

New Zealand: Pete's DragonTapanui: Millhaven, Oregon

Location

Tapanui is a small farming town off the beaten-track on the South Island of New Zealand. But for several weeks in 2015, Disney turned sleepy Tapanui into the fictional town of Millhaven, Oregon. American cars were shipped in, shop fronts on the main street were converted and many of the locals became extras in the film.

Set in 1977, the movie is about Pete - an ophaned boy who befriends a dragon with whom he lives deep in the woods. At the age of 11 he is discovered by a lumberjack crew and finally taken in by park ranger Grace, her boyfriend Jack and his daughter Natalie.

Park ranger Grace and Pete.

Park ranger Grace and Pete.

Natalie and Pete.

Natalie and Pete.

Crazy but true story: although the film crew spent weeks changing the look of the town, we never get to see the set in its entirety in the finished film. The only prominent sequence features Pete running along the main street and past the Yellow Diner. 

In real life, the diner is the popular Top Nosh Café that serves organic coffee and seriously good home-baked delicacies.

We had a delicious lunch at the café where we meet a bunch of lovely residents for some behind-the-scenes gossip.

We had a delicious lunch at the café where we meet a bunch of lovely residents for some behind-the-scenes gossip.

The film crew felt very much at home in Tapanui and were looked after in such a heartfelt way by the residents that the filmmakers decided to host a special film premiere in the town. These days the buzz has died down, but ask any local about the movie and you'll almost certainly run into someone who starred as an extra in the film.

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