From Ducks to Dragons: Translating a DreamWorks Franchise into Print
Fans of Toothless, the flying Nightfury from 2010’s How to Train Your Dragon, have had many reasons to celebrate of late. First DreamWorks Animation announced it would release two sequels to the hit film, scheduled for 2014 and 2016. Then Global Creatures brought the character to animatronic life for a live arena show that has been touring the world since March. Earlier this month, Toothless made the transition to the small screen with the debut of a tie-in animated series on Cartoon Network. Now, he’s making the leap to the printed page in Ape Entertainment’s Dragons: Riders of Berk comic series, expected to hit newsstands in December.
No wonder they’re calling 2012 the Year of the Dragon.
Two major animation buffs are bringing their talents to the project: writer Aaron Sparrow and illustrator James Silvani, who previously teamed up to bring Disney’s Darkwing Duck out of retirement for a successful BOOM! Studios comic series. According to Sparrow, the idea of doing a Dragons book appealed to him well before the opportunity actually presented itself. “I was working on the Disney books when How To Train Your Dragon came out and I remember having a discussion with one of my assistant editors about how awesome it was, saying ‘Oh, I wish we could do a Dragon comic – it’s too bad we don’t have the DreamWorks license.’ And then I ended up at Ape Entertainment and they had the DreamWorks license, so being able to pitch for it and get it approved and then tie into a TV show that they’re doing is pretty neat.“
The television series, also entitled Dragons: Riders of Berk, picks up after the events of the first film to show how Hiccup (Jay Baruchel, reprising his role) helps his Viking community learn to co-exist with the creatures they’d previously engaged in combat. The comic will do the same, fleshing out various characters and themes introduced in the series. “We get a lot of feedback and direction from DreamWorks and from the production team on the show,” Sparrow explains of the collaboration. “They’ll send us a two-sentence concept and say ‘we think this would be a good springboard for an idea’ and then we’ll go out and develop it and send it back to them.”
Working from an episode guide for the first season and an overview of the second, Sparrow has a pretty clear sense of what territory can be mined for new ideas, as well as what the comic will need to steer clear of. For example, when asked about Alvin the Treacherous, a character that will be voiced on the series by fan-favorite Mark Hamill, he insists he’s “sworn to secrecy.” He can confirm that Mildew, voiced by Stephen Root and introduced in the Berk pilot episode, will be popping up in the comic, however. “He’s an older Viking and very determined to return to the old ways. He doesn’t like the fact that the dragons are in the villages and he has several different schemes that he tries to put into play to make them look bad.”