From new technologies to new characters, director Dean DeBlois answers our questions about what to expect from the culmination of one of the biggest animated franchises of all time.
Ahead of next week’s Annecy Festival, where the studio will unveil a sneak peek at the highly anticipated culmination of the blockbuster franchise, DreamWorks Animation has released the first trailer for How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World.
Due in theaters on March 1, 2019, The Hidden World completes the story arc first introduced by writer and director Dean DeBlois in the original How to Train Your Dragon movie released in 2010. What began as an unlikely friendship between an adolescent Viking and a fearsome Night Fury dragon has become an epic trilogy spanning their lives. In this next chapter Hiccup and Toothless will finally discover their true destinies: the village chief as ruler of Berk alongside Astrid, and the dragon as leader of his own kind. As both ascend, the darkest threat they’ve yet faced -- as well as the appearance of a rare and elusive female Night Fury, known as a Light Fury -- will test the bonds of their relationship like never before.
In other words, Toothless gets a girlfriend! And just maybe that upsets the dynamic between the faithful Night Fury and his human friend Hiccup. The new trailer introduces this new love interest, who is as wild and aloof as Toothless is tame and friendly, as well as a new villain, Grimmel the Grisly (voiced by F. Murray Abraham), a big-game hunter who has stalked Night Furies into near-extinction and is greedily gunning for the one big prize that has eluded him: Toothless.
Watch the new trailer in the player below, and then scroll down for our Q&A with writer and director Dean DeBlois:
AWN: Thank you for taking time to speak with us, and congratulations on getting this film closer to audiences. You must be really excited.
Dean DeBlois: You know, this is the fun part. So we’re here, got 300 people working on the film at the moment, just all systems go. We’re kind of powering through the animations and some amazing final lit shots coming in ... It’s a really nice time. It’s nice to see it all get realized after tweaking it for so long.
AWN: Can you tell us, were there any new technologies developed for this final installment of the How to Train Your Dragon franchise?
DB: Prior to this we didn’t have our own ray-tracing tool, which is sort of a back-end tool that allows us to light shots in a realistic way, with just incredible detail. And that lush environment, many characters, just allowed us to realize the full scope and ambition of the movie in a way that we hadn’t been able to before.
AWN: So the studio developed an in-house version?
DB: Yes, it’s called Moonray, and we’re the first movie to test it out, and so far it’s working beautifully.
AWN: And how long have you been working on the story for The Hidden World?
DB: I began right after How to Train Your Dragon 2 came out, in the summer of 2014. So by the time this film comes out on March 1, 2019, it will have been almost five years, which is a long time. I hadn’t spent that much time on a film since Mulan, over at Disney.
AWN: What can you tell us about Toothless’s new girlfriend?
DB: Narratively, the Light Fury is an engine of change in the story. By that, I mean that she comes into the story in a very innocent way. She and Toothless meet, it’s an attraction at first sight, but she’s wild, and she’s elusive, and she’s very distrusting of humans -- for a very good reason, which you come to learn in the story. But her intention is to get to know Toothless, and to lure him away, to ultimately represent his call of the wild. And when I say she’s an engine of change, it’s something that Hiccup is at first very enthusiastic about, he’s so happy that Toothless has found a variation of his species, that he could spend time with as a mate. But he quickly realizes that her intent is to lure him away, to lead him back to the world of dragons.
So it’s something that forces Hiccup to really confront an insecurity that he’s had since the beginning of the trilogy, which is, you know, “Am I worthy without Toothless?” Every accomplishment and achievement that he has is largely based on his relationship with Toothless. His confidence and his sense of invincibility comes from Toothless. So it really begs the question, “What am I without him?” And it’s all part of Hiccup’s growth to becoming that wise and selfless Viking leader that he’s destined to be. But he’s got a few bumps along the way, of course.
AWN: Hiccup goes through a lot of growth in the second film. How does that help him with the challenges he faces in this new film?
DB: Each of the films of the trilogy is based on consecutive rites of passage. And the second film certainly propels him into adulthood when he was quite reluctant to embrace it, and to let go of the careless abandon of youth. So this carries that forward. The main narrative of the third movie takes place about a year after the events of Dragon 2. He’s a rookie chief. He’s a chief who’s dream of creating a peaceful dragon/Viking utopia on his home island of Berk. But, it comes with consequences, too, because in defeating Drago in the second film, they’ve become famous.
So the world knows, especially their enemies know, they now harbor the largest flock of dragons known to mankind. All under the leadership of Toothless, who’s now become the alpha. So it’s definitely pushing Hiccup forward to have to make choices. But they’re difficult, and they go against the grain, and often cause a lot of doubt in his fellow Vikings. But he’s ultimately finding his way towards doing the right thing, even if he’s not always successful.
AWN: Is there anything else you can tell us about the challenges Hiccup and Toothless face in The Hidden World?
DB: Hiccup has to consider his strongly held belief that they’re all better off together, versus doing what’s right for Toothless. And his love for Toothless is a very powerful emotion that guides him, that shows that nothing can quite train you to let go. And that’s ultimately, in a very sweet and emotional way, something that we’re going to carry the audience along through the story. And hopefully, if we’ve done our job right, lead them to the same conclusion in the end.
AWN: Finally, what can audiences expect to see in this new Hidden World of the dragon?
DB: Oh, it’s a wonderland, it’s amazing. We definitely wanted to create a plausible world within our world. That adheres to our physics, and adheres to our understanding of nature, and yet still find that line where it just becomes transcendent and full of wish fulfillment. The idea of the Hidden World, it’s forbidden for mankind, it’s a discovery and it holds within itself many secrets and a promise of another world, a place where dragons can ultimately be safe.