Can ‘How to Train Your Dragon 2’ swoop down on the Oscars?

Dreamworks looks to breathe fire into the box-office and Oscar race with its sequel to the Oscar-nominated animated feature “How to Train Your Dragon.” The original “Dragon” was no match for Woody, Buzz, and the rest of the “Toy Story 3” gang, which took the Animated Feature Oscar back in 2011. This time, however, it looks like Hiccup, Toothless, and Oscar-nominated director and writer Dean DeBlois are back with a mission.

“I definitely feel the pressure not to let people down,” DeBlois tells Gold Derby. “Not to be a disappointing sequel.”

“How to Train Your Dragon 2” finds Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) and his dragon, Toothless, at the center of a battle to protect an ice cave that’s home to hundreds of new wild dragons.

“I approached it as a trilogy and that’s how I pitched it,” he says. “If we’re going to do a second installment, how about it’s the second act of a larger three-act story? and that was the framework I presented it in and they seemed excited by that. That way we could track Hiccup’s (Baruchel) coming of age over the course of many years, re-meet Hiccup as a 20-year-old instead of the 15-year-old he was in the first movie.”

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DeBlois tells us that working on an animated film is not much different from a regular feature film, well, except for a big difference in time.

“I think it’s largely the same job,” he adds. “However, it’s drawn out over the course of three years. So, instead of shooting a movie in three months and everything’s a manic pace, we have three years.” 

As lofty as that may sound, the reason there is so much time is to allow for an almost backwards way of film making. He notes, “In live-action, you do all the pre-production, all of the art department stuff. You cast the movie and go out and shoot it and then you edit it. In our process we edit up front. We edit the storyboards before anything’s been animated. We take all of our storyboards, we cut them together with temporary dialog, temporary sound effects, temporary music, and we watch it as a film.” 

Once the film has essentially been made, then the acting and animation come in. “We’ll go out and record the actual actors, then sit down with the animators and talk about what we want out of every shot and they breathe life into it and we start cutting that in,” he says. “Those shots replace the storyboards bit by bit. So it becomes this living, breathing thing.”

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All of the years of work seemed to have paid off, but DeBlois admits that he is still actually pretty surprised by the success of the first “Dragon” film: “I don’t think anyone expected it to be a huge success. In fact, after opening weekend, it was kind of a moderate disappointment. The neat thing about the movie is that it continued to stay at the top of the box office and by week five it had come back to the number one position.”

DeBlois and Dreamworks are hoping for success like this at the Oscars with the “Dragon” sequel. But if the Dragon is tamed once again, at least they can take solace in the fact that this is a trilogy and, as the saying goes, third time’s a charm.

Listen to our full chat below.


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