Disney filming new movie in Lakeland

Production scheduled at four locations through June 23

By Amanda Castro - Reporter/Anchor

LAKELAND, Fla. - Hollywood is coming to Central Florida as production crews are in Lakeland this week filming a new Disney movie.

Dozens of people stopped by the South Gate shopping center Thursday to check out the production and to try to see some movie stars.

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"You don't see this in Lakeland very often," resident Tina Wagner said. 

Disney started production for "The One and Only Ivan" in London in May. Crews and actors are now in Lakeland this week to continue filming.

The live-action/CG hybrid film is an adaption of the children's book by Katherine Applegate and it is directed by Thea Sharrock.

The movie features several stars including Bryan Cranston, Angelina Jolie, Danny DeVito, Helen Mirren, Sam Rockwell, Brooklynn Price, Ramon Rodriguez, Arianna Greenblatt, Indira Varma and Eleanor Matsuura.

Disney said in a statement the film is "based on the true story of a uniquely-talented gorilla and the other animals who share a communal habitat at a suburban shopping mall." Disney adds it is "an unforgettable tale about the beauty of friendship, the power of visualization, and the significance of the place we call home."

[READ: 17 Disney classics getting live-action remakes]

Semitrailers full of production equipment were set up in the South Gate parking lot as crew members transformed the plaza into a movie set. They built new businesses, including a bowling alley and boardwalk, and there was a green screen in the middle of the shopping center.

"It looks different. I've never seen the Bowl A Rama or the Boardwalk there," resident Donna Goodwin said. 

Crews are filming in several locations throughout Lakeland until June 23, including the South Gate shopping center, the Silver Moon drive-in, a playground at Dixieland Elementary School, and along Palm Drive. 

Many people came out to the plaza and took pictures of the production. They said they hope to see some of the stars in the film. 

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"Trying to be nosy, trying to see if we can see any actors and whatnot, but we didn't see much," Wagner said.

Hap Ranthover lives in Lakeland and said he responded to the production crew's ad calling for classic cars. His 1979 El Camino is one of several classic vehicles that the production team is using for the film.

"They did shots this morning of them coming out, the different shoppers coming out and would get into the car and go back and then they'd do it over and over again. It was pretty cool to watch," Ranthover said. "I can't wait to see the movie and the rest of the production."

Lakeland officials said they do not have any estimates on how filming has economically impacted the community, but a spokesperson said the production crew is working with local businesses during filming. 

Disney told News 6 there is no official release date for the film, but many people said they can't wait to see Lakeland on the big screen. 

"I can't wait to go and see it, although I'm a sucker for anything Disney," resident Mara Kotzur said. 
 

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