Computer Graphics World

May/June 2014

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C G W M ay / Ju n e 2 014 ■ 21 People who read books often eagerly anticipate a second volume because they are keen to revisit a world and its characters. So, why are film sequels expected to be less satisfying than a first film? Is novelty more important in film than in literature? Or, have film sequels too often revisited earlier worlds without expanding the story? "When we finally got a green light to do a second movie, we had a choice," says Simon Otto, head of character animation at DreamWorks for the 2010 film How to Train Your Dragon and the sequel How to Train Your Dragon 2, scheduled for June 2014. "We could reshuffle elements and tell the same story in a different way. But, Dean [DeBlois], our writer and director, said that he wanted to do a trilogy, and that this second chapter would take place five years later. For his navigational tool, he looked at how The Empire Strikes Back in the first Star Wars trilogy opened the scope and expanded that world, evolving so there was a true progression in time." In many ways, How to Train Your Dragon 2 has as much in common with live-action dramas as animated features. Says DeBlois, who also wrote and directed the first Dragon, "I was a Star Wars kid. It seemed like that universe could go on and on, and that was compelling. I love the fact that these films are set in a mythic Nordic land with islands and dragons yet to be discovered. Hiccup has the mind of an explorer. He is on the edges of Viking land, moving into uncharted worlds, exciting worlds that go on and on." Sympathy with the Dragons In Dragon 2 Hiccup is five years older, accepted as a Viking, and a hero of his village for having created a utopia in which the people serve the dragons and the dragons help the people. Actor Jay Baruchel voiced Hiccup, as he had done for the first film, and America Ferrera returns as Hiccup's girlfriend Astrid. "Visually, Hiccup is clearly a more attractive, leading man type," Otto says. "But as animators, we didn't want to lose the slightly awkward kid who talks more than he should and overcomes challenges through wit and intelligence. So, how do you do that and present a slightly more heroic and grown-up character? The balance is incredibly challenging." The team decided to show that the 20-year-old would still have some of the 15-year-old's behavior. "We had conversations with the director and ended up writing a scene early in the film where Astrid mocks Hiccup's geekiness," Otto says. Also helping round out Hiccup's character is his dragon Toothless. At the end of the first film, Hiccup had lost a leg and his friend Gobber had fitted him with a prosthetic. That gave Hiccup a special synergy with By Barbara Robertson ©2014 DREAMWORKS ANIMATION LLC. ■ THE RELATIONSHIP between Hiccup and his dragon Toothless forms the emotional heart of the story.

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