Randy Thom Q&A: ‘How to Train Your Dragon 2’ sound editor
Veteran sound wizard Randy Thom did double duty on DreamWorks Animation's smash "How to Train Your Dragon 2." Not only did he create an entire soundscape from scratch for this sequel to the 2011 hit but he also voiced the title character again. As he revealed during our recent webcam chat, this dragon "who is vicious sometimes is frightened sometimes and needed to sound like a little puppy…so it was up to me and the team of people who I work with to figure out how to create all those vocal sounds."
In this second installment of the trilogy, Toothless and his owner Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) fight to protect an ice cave that's home to hundreds of new wild dragons. The film scored with both critics (earning a stellar 92 at Rotten Tomatoes) and audiences taking in almost $620 million worldwide (a bump of more than $125 million from the original). And it is a strong contender for Best Animated Feature at the Oscars.
Thom has won two of his 14 Oscar bids, claiming the Best Sound award in 1983 for "The Right Stuff" and Best Sound Editing in 2004 for "The Incredibles." Ever self-effacing, he confessed, “I think up until now it was mostly luck, but now I think I grasp some of the techniques a little better, so I feel more confident.”
He detailed all the demands of working on a big budget film like this. “Some people might assume the job of a sound designer is just literally to fabricate sounds, to figure out how to make the sounds, but really in a grander sense the job of the sound designer is to help the director figure out what the movie should sound like, what the sound style should be.”
As Thom explained, “Every film has a sound style, just like it has a visual style. For ‘How to Train Your Dragon,’ all the sounds needed to be convincing. They needed to be naturalistic enough so that you’d actually believe these were dragons.”
The original "Dragon" lost the Best Animated Feature race to "Toy Story 3" back in 2010. That Pixar pic also contended in Sound Editing (losing to "Inception"). Animated features have made strong showings in both sound categories in recent years, with Thom also contending in both races for "The Polar Express" in the year he won one of his two bids for "The Incredibles" and reaping two nominations for "Ratatouille" in 2007.