How to Train Dragon 2

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, based on the children’s book series by Cressida Cowell, was such a huge success that it was only a matter of time before a sequel got made.

In the second chapter of the epic trilogy, five years have passed since the heroic young Viking Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) befriended an injured dragon and forever changed the way the residents of Berk interact with the fire-breathers.

Now, Vikings and dragons live side-by-side in peace on the fantastical isle that has been transformed into a dragon’s paradise. But when grown-up responsibilities loom on the horizon, Hiccup and his faithful dragon Toothless take to the skies in search of answers. It’s much more than he bargained for, though, when Hiccup discovers that a mysterious dragon rider is really his long-lost mother Valka (Cate Blanchett) and that the peace between dragons and Vikings is threatened by the power-hungry Drago (Djimon Hounsou) with help from the dragon trapper Eret, son of Eret (Kit Harington). As Astrid (America Ferrera), Gobber (Craig Ferguson) and Viking friends Snotlout (Jonah Hill), Fishlegs (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) and twins Ruffnut (Kristen Wiig) and Tuffnut (T.J. Miller), lend their support, Hiccup, his mother and tribal chief father Stoick the Vast (Gerard Butler), must work together to protect the dragons they have grown to love. In the process, Hiccup finds the answers he has been looking for in ways he could never have imagined.

DreamWorks Animation SKG presents HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2, featuring the voices of Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, T.J. Miller, Kristen Wiig, Djimon Hounsou and Kit Harington. The film is written and directed by Dean DeBlois (“How to Train Your Dragon,” “Lilo & Stitch”). It is produced by Bonnie Arnold (“How to Train Your Dragon,” “Over the Hedge,” “Tarzan”). The executive producers are Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders (“The Croods,” “How to Train Your Dragon,” “Lilo & Stitch”). The music is by John Powell.

This film is rated PG for adventure action and some mild rude humor. WHAT A DIFFERENCE FIVE YEARS MAKES In 2010, DreamWorks Animation’s HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON soared into theaters and stole the hearts of audiences around the world with its blend of high-flying action, witty humor and dramatic depth, earning $495 million in worldwide box-office receipts and nabbing two Academy Award nominations along the way, for best animated feature and best original score. But the success of the film, written and directed by Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders, was gradual.

Even though it was a critics’ darling from the get-go and No. 1 at the box office in its opening weekend, “It actually underperformed according to studio expectations,” DeBlois says. “But it had amazing legs. It clung at or near the top of the box office for seven weeks. We were all really proud of the fact that the word of mouth surrounding the movie was bringing audiences to see it, and bit by bit, we ended up surpassing studio expectations.”

The triumph of HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON spawned a TV series, a live stage show, DRAGON merchandise — and legions of loyal fans. “It’s deeply satisfying to know that the passion we put into the film is reciprocated,” DeBlois adds. “We see so much love coming back to us — fan videos and fan fiction and character drawings — it exists in a bigger way than we ever intended it to be.” From the beginning, DreamWorks Animation executives viewed DRAGON as a potential franchise. Its stellar reception and box-office achievement easily put sequel plans in motion.

Since Sanders was turning his attention to directing DreamWorks Animation’s “The Croods,” they approached DeBlois about helming HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2 on his own, with Sanders taking on an executive producer role. “I told them, ‘I’m really interested if you’ll entertain the idea of it being a trilogy,’” DeBlois recalls. “‘The first movie can serve as the first act, this’ll be the larger second act and then there must be a third culminating act.’ Thankfully, they bought into that concept.”

“Dean, in Hollywood terms, is the real deal,” says Producer Bonnie Arnold. “He’s a great storyteller. He thinks like a little boy, which is always helpful when you’re making movies about boys and their dragons. He’s creative, but the best news is that he lets the other creative members of the team bring the best things they have to offer to the movie.” Agrees Visual Effects Supervisor David Walvoord: “Working with Dean is amazing. He’s not just the director, but the writer, too. He has a incredibly special relationship with the characters and the world, and he has such a strong vision for what that world should be that it was really inspiring for us and, at the same time, made our job so much easier because he’s really able to articulate what he’s looking for, which helps send us in the right direction.”

The first film, based on the children’s books written by British author Cressida Cowell, introduced to audiences the gangly teenage Viking Hiccup, whose world is flipped upside down when he encounters and befriends an injured dragon he names Toothless. According to Arnold, DeBlois viewed HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2 as Hiccup’s coming of age story, “not the ‘further adventures’ of Hiccup and Toothless” as some sequels are prone to do. “When Dean pitched his idea for the second film to DreamWorks Animation executives, another crucial element of his pitch was the fact he wanted to age the characters by five years,” she adds. “It just made it a more interesting place to go and was something different that you don’t see in animation, honestly. That was a bold choice on his part and we feel really grateful that DreamWorks supported that idea.” Not that it was always an easy choice. According to DeBlois, it was a bit of a challenge on the design front and a trial-and error process for the artists to retain the charm and appeal of each character while at the same time aging them.

“We discovered ultimately, with most of the cast, that if we could just retain their overall silhouette and stamp, but increase their size, change their wardrobe, age their face in subtle ways and give them different hairstyles, that seemed to do it,” he says. “Hiccup was maybe the trickiest one just because in aging him, we wanted to make sure that he didn’t become a classic Hollywood hero. He had to retain his gangly quality, because there’s so much of his charm in that, that dorky awkwardness that he possesses. “So we made sure that even though he did get taller, he never quite filled out the way his father, tribal chief Stoick the Vast, had hoped he might in the first movie,” DeBlois continues. “He’s still slight of build but he continues to compensate with his intelligence, wit and advanced thinking.”

Returning as Hiccup is actor Jay Baruchel, who personifies those very qualities, according to DeBlois. “I can’t think of anyone else who could ever play Hiccup in this way, because the character is Jay, to a large degree,” he says. “He embodies so much of what Hiccup is: A guy who’s quick-witted, intelligent, spry on his feet…there’s an adorable awkward quality to him that he’s very aware of and plays to his advantage.” And it’s through Baruchel’s ability to convey Hiccup’s emotions that the audience connects with the character, says Arnold. “The audience is experiencing the movie through Hiccup. What makes the whole experience of the movie even more rewarding is understanding how Hiccup feels about a given situation,” she says. “Jay is so passionate about the character and brings so much of that into his voice performance. As much as Dean is a great writer of the Hiccup dialogue — and he really is — Jay knows Hiccup better than anybody.” DeBlois is quick to agree. “Jay often makes modifications to his own dialogue because he knows the character so well,” he says.