This is the transcript for the commentary for the second How to Train Your Dragon film.
Dean DeBlois: Hi, this is Dean DeBlois. I'm the writer, director, and executive producer on the movie.
Bonnie Arnold: I'm Bonnie Arnold. I'm the producer.
Pierre-Olivier Vincent: I'm Pierre-Olivier Vincent. I'm the production designer.
Simon Otto: And I'm Simon Otto, the head of character animation.
Bonnie Arnold: Welcome to our commentary about How to Train Your Dragon 2. My first comment is actually about this music. I'm so glad we went without the... we had some horns in this cue... didn't feel like the movie. But I love it. I love the way it starts.
Dean Deblois: We actually have the original opening on the soundtrack. Purchase the cd of the soundtracck and you'll hear the alternate version. It was kind of big and brassy, a little more celebratory, but we found that it competed with the 20th Century Fox logo so this was a nicer departure.
Simon Otto: I think it would be interesting to mention that the very beginning you can kind of see Toothless dashing away from the village. I don't know if people miss that, but it's kind of a nice easter egg.
Dean Deblois: And high-tailing it out of there. So the whole concept with this opening scene is really to reveal everybody five years later, but also what the village looks like five years later now that dragons have been integrated, and it's a dragon-viking utopia. So, um we call him POV but Pierre-Oliver Vincent, sorry our production designer had all sorts of great ideas for ingenious updates that would have been designed by Hiccup, and built by Gobber and the gang, that make living with dragons fun and a little less harrowing overall.
Pierre-Oliver Vincent: The big difference between movie 1 and this one, we had to make the dragons friend the village just shown movie 1. So we wrote a lot of colors as a reminder of all the beautiful colors of the dragons and created like a much more peaceful version of this village. In the first movie we had like defensive towers and war machines, but in this one it's all fun and games basically.
Dean DeBlois: Yeah, the old battlement towers have been turned into a windmill, for processing their food, and giant water reservoir that collects all the rain-water, and then distributes it via a bunch of, a work of aqueducts, to have water readily available to put out fires that the dragons inadvertently cause.
Pierre-Oliver Vincent: We had to create as well enormous stables underneath the village and the kids at point in this sequence are going through the cave. Actually, right now. And we are discovering where the dragons live. With all those beautiful colors, and the feeding stations, all dragon accommodations.
Dean DeBlois: That Dragon wash, we don't get a good look at it but that's a hot coal bed so the dragons can scrub off the dirt and then exfoliate under the grinding wheels. Because an exfoliated dragon is a happy dragon.
Simon Otto: Maybe, Dean, we could talk a little bit about how we found our way to this game or race, and the idea that we were talking about the dragon, I mean the kids now riding the dragons, and they're essentially hoodlums on motorbikes and causing mayhem in the city, and over the years it developed into a sport and a race and we were kind of referencing Monte Carlo, Grand Prix, or Tour de France, and how it in time people started watching it and it grew and it became this big, whole village involving dragon sport.
Dean DeBlois: They had to find something to do with all that excess energy now that they're not fighting each other. It's kind of a silly game. It's just there are marked sheep all over the island and the racers, the racing team dragon and viking racing team are looking for them. Each one is worth a point. But then at some point in the game decided by Stoick the black sheep is released, and that's worth ten points. So even if you're dragging in terms of points you still have a chance to win the game, which Astrid does.
Pierre-Oliver Vincent: And I think we have to encourage the public on the dvd to free stream on some of the crowd shots. There is a lot of funny stuff happening in the bleachers at this very moment that I think you're almost missing, you know, at regular speed. But you guys in animation did a lot of funny bits with the crowds.
Dean DeBlois: Yeah.
Bonnie Arnold: I love this shot, actually.
Dean DeBlois: Yeah, the whole idea of Hiccup's introduction was to, to meet him about as far away from Berk as he can get and just create a sense of freedom and a showcase to see how far he and Toothless have come in terms of their flying and pushing the limits but we wanted it to be largely wordless and just a nice heroic re-entry of Hiccup and Toothless against a beautiful piece of music.
Simon Otto: These scenes here are the first we animated in the movie.
Bonnie Arnold: Yeah, I remember Dave Woolvord who's our visual effects superviosr was really../ he and his team outdid themselves with all this cloud work. It's very, very complicated to do in CG Animation.
Dean DeBlois: Every year it gets... there are aspects of computer animation that get easier and they'll look better, like fur and hair, and.. but water, clouds, and ice... those are the real challenges and we still have... we have quite a few of those scenes in this movie. that really put our artists to the test. It just looks incredible
Bonnie Arnold: This scene was actually part of our first teaser we put out to the world to let them know what Dragon 2 is gonna be all about and it was unbelievably well received. Even made a video of all of our fans online reacting to it. They went nuts.
Dean DeBlois: The voice you're hearing is Jonsi. He is the front man of an Icelandic post rock group, Sugar Ros, and I'm big fans of theirs and I made a few films for them and Jonsi was so kind to give us the end credits song of the first film, called sticks and stones. So this time around we invited him in the process earlier and he and John Powell our composer collaborated on a couple of pieces within the movie. This being the first. We'll talk about the other when we get to it. But he has just such a euphoric, kind of a thearial sound to his voice. This mixes both John Powell's melodies with his own.
Bonnie Arnold: Hiccup would not be Hiccup without Jay Baruchel.
Dean DeBlois: Yeah.
Bonnie Arnold: Jay embodies so much of who Hiccup is. I like Jay's voice even more now that Hiccup is older.
Simon Otto: Yeah, exactly.
Pierre-Oliver Vincent: I remember the beginning of the movie selecting references with Rodger Deakins. I mean the intention was to make this world believable and credible. And I think that was the stress on all the special effects and the look of this movie to make it really believable, which is sometimes very complicated because everybody can recognize the real world and that's why were so proud of the cloud sequences and just something as grass is very subtle and difficult to do, and beautiful work.
Bonnie Arnold: I just have to say something really quickly about that first shot of Hiccup. I gave Simon a lot of grief about that, because I just want it to be perfect the first time you see Hiccup five years older. I love it. Thank you, Simon.
Simon Otto: You're welcome. And it is the first time the audience has seen Hiccup in his, , in his new and aged up design, both as we released the teaser and in the movie. And I think it's a really crucial shot because you need to make a judgement of somebody when you see them for the first time. And I think our audience does the same here.
Bonnie Arnold: He's recognizable but he's grown up in a good way I think.
Simon Otto: I'd like to come back to Hiccup and the challenge's we had aging him up while making him more heroic and making him more, in a maybe aspirational. I'd like to talk about this scene real quick it's the, again the way we approach Toothless, we get to talk about that a little bit, I find it interesting that Dean you're a dog lover and you have several dogs. You love dogs, and I am more of a cat person and so are most of the animators who worked on this character and this little sequence of shots where Toothless plays with Hiccup's head like he's playing with a ball of yarn and then the next shot, him slobbering all over him is just kind of coming together of different ideas and different inspirations, that I think is what really makes Toothless the character that he is. It's the debate we had sometimes with where we got our inferences from. We always had the best idea of it. It helps us connect with Toothless, because he reminds us of pets.
Dean DeBlois: Yep. I have one thing to say too about Hiccup mapping the world. It's kind of an expression of his restlessness at this point in his life. The idea that he has been pushing the boundaries and exploring lands beyond the Viking map, is constantly adding new pieces and sketching out the outlines of new lands he discovers. That he carries all the tools actually on his flight suit and I think it's just a way of expressing that five years have gone by and he's now at a point where his father wants him to kind of settle down and train to become the next chief of berk, where he feels that there's something more for him there but he has yet to figure out who he really is.
Bonnie Arnold: I think this scene turned out great, actually. We struggle with this particular scene where Hiccup is mimicking Stoick and Astrid is mimicking Hiccup. But I really like the way it actually turned out.
Simon Otto: Yeah. And I get this process of bringing Hiccup from the first movie to the second movie. These were the first scenes we were animating, where we really had to act and bring that slight awkwardness that he had in the first movie. Also, some of the body language Jay Baruchel, the voice of the character, has in his performances and.. Cause we wanted to make sure he is aspirational and he's grown up and he's grown into his own body but at the same time he's still a little bit of a geek, he's still slightly awkward and dangaly, you know the ill-equiptness he had in the first movie is still mirrored in his behavior.
Dean DeBlois: Yeah, he's still not the Viking of brawn and muscle that his father may have hoped for early on. He's become a hero in his own way and an advanced thinker but he still compensates for his slight build, just being witty and intelligent. That's what's so likeable about Hiccup.
Simon Otto: And it was a fine line to walk, you know. If we had made him too heroic and too muscular and strong and standing his ground right from the beginning, people would have had a hard time connecting with him and recognizing the character. And, it frankly would have been less endearing, less charming, and we're playing with this quite a bit in this scene all the way to the end of the movie. He definitely evolves and grows into his own and stands his ground more. The cadence of his acting calms down through the movie, and something you might not notice when you watch it, but you feel it as you're watching Hiccup become the Chief he needs to be.
Bonnie Arnold: I just remember the first tests we did when were not only using some new software for animation, but also testing Hiccup with all of his stuff, and one of our supervising animators, Fabio Linguini, who animated on Hiccup, did that test for us. It helped define it for us.
Simon Otto: It showed us for the first time, that test actually showed us the potential that our software has and also showed us how appealing Hiccup can be, and yet Hiccup was a very tricky character to animate because there's a lot of, like you can pull him off what felt like Hiccup very quickly and so we needed the real team of few animators that mostly stayed on Hiccup, really handled him in a particular way, found that right balance between nerdiness and more heroic aspiration.
Dean DeBlois: Here's that tricky ice that we were talking about.
Pierre-Oliver Vincent: Yeah, we spent a lot of time designing this ice. The look of the ice, the Bewilderbeast ice, not only just ice, but the ice from the last dragon. That was a fantastic location to design. We actually designed this fort non-destroyed first and then we destroyed it, just because our director loves to destroy everything built. But, the reveal especially.
Dean DeBlois: We used to have an opening scene to the movie, where we creep in on Eret's fort late at night and Valka's actually landing to free the dragons trapped, and when everything goes wrong the Bewilderbeast shows up and comes to her aid and blasts the for apart, so that when we find it in this sequence we already knew had transpired but we decided that the tone of that was a little dark to start the movie and that it added to the mystery to be with Hiccup when he discovers this bizarre sight of an explosion of ice, and the remnants of a fort buried within it.
Pierre-Oliver Vincent: We tried through the ice to show a moment in time of the destruction of this fort. When the ice is slowly defying it carries all the debris, all the broken pieces of the fort, which is like having the moment of destruction stuck forever.
Dean Deblois: This is the first of our new main characters, Eret, Son of Eret. He's played by Kit Harington, who is also John Snow on Game of Thrones among other things. I think he's a really great voice in that he has a youth to it and a cockiness that makes him a contemporary of Hiccup's but a very different sort of character, and he was designed to be kind of a rough and tumble cocky cowboy. A self declared greatest Dragon Trapper of all. Yet he has a misplaced loyalty and he will come to discover that throughout the story.
Pierre-Oliver Vincent: And through him you're also introducing how big the world is becoming. In the first movie we were mostly staying on the viking island and dragon island but this time we're introducing new cultures, new tribes. It's a much bigger world.
Dean DeBlois: We thought one of the big concepts would be for Hiccup to discover that there is another dragon rider out there, creating havoc. Here he thought, he thought the Vikings of Berk were the only ones but there is somebody else out there. Not only is Drago Bludvist in concept in this sequence, but the mystery of another rider out there who has been stealing dragons away from him.
Simon Otto: Here's Gothi, the Cat Lady of the village. Except that the cats are now terrible terrors, which we had a little fun with in several scenes. I love that the animators came up with ideas as we were animating these scenes.
Dean DeBlois: I think this is one of the most beautiful sequences in terms of lighting in the film.
Pierre-Oliver Vincent: This is a good example of the fantastic collaboration with Rodger, Rodger Deakins, consultant, head of ????. I don't know how to describe Rodger, he's just a...
Bonnie Arnold: King of light.
Pierre-Oliver Vincent: King of Light, there you go. Fantastic. So amazing in pushing us in getting sometimes very unusual lighting situations. I mean unusual, definitely in the world of animation.
Bonnie Arnold: I think that was the balance. Right Dean? Just finding the balance of believable environments with stylized characters, so it would be... don't want it to be to real, I think. Knew you were in a fantasy world.
Dean DeBlois: There's so much fun design that goes into these sets that you don't really get to see and that's the one disappointing thing about the movie, that as you're telling the story you can't stop to show just how cool everything is. But Gobber's blacksmith stall from the first film has now been expanded upon and it's the dragon armory. This is kind of the Harlem Barber shop of Berk. Everybody hangs out here. That's where Hiccup and Gobber build saddles, fireproof armor, and do some dragon dentistry, build wing slings if a dragon sprained it's wing. It's the one stop shop. But it's completely automated. There's a big windmill out back, so it's powering all the rotors and gears that are powering the table saw or the grinding wheel or many of the other tools that they use to build. Even this is a great idea of having the dress maker's model they use for building saddles. Just lots of great detail.
Pierre-Oliver Vincent: We design a lot of new elements for Berk and specifically the blacksmith's shop. And on top of that we have a wealth of additional material, I mean coming from the first movie. Which makes the world like a large reacher. When we dress, actually ??? this location... I mean we're talking about thousands of objects which was very fun to do and probably very scary for other departments as well. But that's why you have this ??? to it.
Dean DeBlois: And everybody's had an outfit upgrade since the first movie. Everyone but Gobber. Still wearing the same shirt that he was wearing five years ago, and it's looking worse for wear.
Pierre-Oliver Vincent: There's a few more holes, actually, in his shirt. And you see Stoick with a few grey hairs in his beard.
Bonnie Arnold: I love that. His beard looks amazing.
Pierre-Oliver Vincent: And, here we're going down to the stables. You can see, actually, a lot of the children drawings on the walls. And the kids who did those actual drawings are children of people on the crew. So that's an easter egg as well.
Dean DeBlois: This was an idea for a set that POV had early in the process that we could accommodate all dragons by creating a cave beneath the island. At first it seemed cost prohibitive but we pushed it forward as part of the story and I think we make nice use of it. I think it's a really, really cool set.
Bonnie Arnold: That was the theme of the movie. Everything was slightly cost prohibitive, but we managed to make it work. I can't believe it. So much hard work, by so many great artists and crew.
Pierre-Oliver Vincent: The cave was always here. Even in the first movie, I just never talked about it.
Bonnie Arnold: I just have to give a little hats off to Gerard Butler who's doing the voice of Stoick. He did it on movie 1, and he really makes Stoick such a rich character combined with some great animation. Small handful of animation.
Dean DeBlois: I think the human animation overall, I have to say, is better than anything I have seen coming out of DreamWorks or really anywhere. It's fantastic and there's so much subtlety. Some of it's attributed to having many more controls with then skin, but I just think having a nice amount of time to really go over the animation, time and again, and making sure every little subtlety is addressed has paid off in a big way.
Simon Otto: I mean the tools helped a great deal in creating realistic performances. And then we had a tremendous amount of talent on the film, and that had a lot to do with the studio allowing us to take advantage of the talent and bring them on the film, because I think the first movie was beloved within the studio so that a lot of people really wanted to work on this film and I think POV that was similar for you on the art side and so I think that is a big factor of course, the people that actually animated characters and also feel like did a lot of really good work early on in the character development, in the design development of the characters, and the way we built Hiccup and developed Hiccup, it's our designs that our you know to animate because they are more realistic than they were in the first movie. At the same time the designs really worked out and appealing from the start. So that made a lot of things easier, but it was a long process and a lot of the characters went through several stages of design, different versions and Hiccup was particularly challenging to find just the right look on the character.
Bonnie Arnold: But it wasn't just the humans, all the dragons are the same dragons we used from... including not just Toothless are more sophisticated and...
Dean DeBlois: The surfacing. Surfacing is the name of the paint job that basically every object and character has, and it wraps around the object or the character so this Nadder, for example, is so much more sophisticated. There's something to be said for that whole department. I mean this ship is a beautiful example of it. Everything has aged and history to it...
Bonnie Arnold: There's so many people that head up Matt Paulsen, who is the head of modelling, Paulo Digusman who is head of what we call surfacing and right POV, so many talented people.
Pierre-Oliver Vincent: They did something very unique in animation traditionally we strip the characters from a lot of details that would be very difficult to animate and move around, but on this one we were allowed to keep those details and that's why those characters have so much information on them. And it goes from surfacing to modeling. You can see all the little elements like the outfit of Hiccup definitely. But you can see all the weapons they carry, all the fur...
Dean DeBlois: Ruffnut's terrible teeth.
Bonnie Arnold: Eret's muscle jiggle. We had to fight for that muscle jiggle.
Pierre-Oliver Vincent: I remember this sequence was so very specifically because of the trip we took to Norway, a research trip. We can see in the background some very dramatic cliffs and I remember being on the boat, it was all of you guys in the fjords of Norway and taking some pictures of those amazing landscape.
Dean DeBlois: They found their way into the movie.
Pierre-Oliver Vincent: That's right there.
Dean DeBlois: You can also see ???? in the background. It's the first introduction of Stoick's new dragon. He has a very subtle intro here. And his name is Skullcrusher, and he is a big dragon, a tracking dragon, and he's part of the tracker class. He's a Rumblehorn, which is the name of the species. He's sort of a cross between a truffle pig and a rhino with the coloring of a scarab beetle.
Simon Otto: And that's something we did for every dragon. We really wanted to make sure, both on the design side as well as the animation side, how these dragons behaved, we always went to animals from the real world and we kind of concocted these mixtures of different inspirations and with that helped us create something that maybe the audience can recognize. It's not quite clear what it is and one of the dragons that are coming up in the sequence where we meet the Mysterious Dragon Rider first is Cloudjumper. For all these dragons we did quite a bit of research and really dug deep and found something that described the character very well and referenced something from the real world.
Dean DeBlois: The one thing that's rarely done is to introduce a villain so late in the story. But we were trying to create a bit of mystique around Drago, so we hear through him about Eret, we see a little bit of him in the flashback from Stoick, and there's kind of a menace and a mystique to this stranger from a strange land who is hell bent on acquiring a dragon army. So, when we finally meet him, hopefully we've created a certain anticipation for the character.
Pierre-Oliver Vincent: Tip of the hat to Pablo ???, our head of lighting who did a lot of work on developing the style of the flashback, the visual style of the flashback, that kind of what do we look like in the filter of memory. We spent a lot development time on this.
Bonnie Arnold: I was looking at Hiccup's freckles. Remember we did our first tease and we put it out in the world and Hiccup wasn't quite done. Remember that Dean and all of the people online said where are Hiccup's freckles? He was freckled when he was in movie one. Anyway we ut the freckles back.
Dean DeBlois: This is the second scene we rushed to get through lighting, so that we could debut both Hiccup's introduction and this one at the San Diego Comic Con in 2013. And it really made a splash, it made just the right impact because it showed that Hiccup was grown up but still the same character, that he and Toothless still had the tight bond but also that there was some real mystery to be unveiled in this story. So this is Hiccup meeting that mysterious dragon rider who doesn't even need a saddle. Just stands upon Cloudjumper the dragon and a kind of menacing and powerful way to introduce the character. In fact Cate Blanchett who plays Valka, she said it's the best character intro she's ever seen in a film.
Pierre-Oliver Vincent: You can see how the colors of Cloudjumper the dragon, the dragon warrior outfit. The dragon warrior is definitely trying to look like the dragon.
Bonnie Arnold: You mean that didn't happen by mistake, POV? When you create every element of every frame nothing happens by mistake.
Simon Otto: These water effects are, I mean just two years or three years ago I could never imagined seeing them in an animated movie. The crews did some really amazing water effects that opened our eyes to what's possible, at least from my perspective. I'm sure the effects guys had a much better idea of what's possible and what's not. But when I see these water effects, I couldn't of imagined looking like this just a few years ago.
Bonnie Arnold: Hats off to our amazing effects guys. They did a beautiful
Pierre-Oliver Vincent: ????, head of effects.
Dean DeBlois: This is also an area where the look is very much pulled from photographs we took when we went to Svalbard, an archipelago deep in the arctic, that Rodger Deakins, and I, and James ??? and Greg Taylor, took a six day snowmobile safari through this kind of arctic wasteland of fjords and glaciers and incredible light and we very much used that in the look of, um, this setting. The arctic nest where Valka and all the dragons rescued live.
Bonnie Arnold: Dean, you have to talk about the Dragon Blade here.
Dean DeBlois: Being that Hiccup's a pacifist it was a bit of a trick to figure it out. So the idea is that when you see him using it right here is that in their exploration, when Hiccup finds new lands and sometimes hostile new dragons, he needed sometime to help those dragons see him as a dragon himself. So he harnessed the power of the dragons they have back home. Inside of this sword hilt there are canisters. One of them has Monstrous Nightmare saliva, and so the telescoping blade coats itself in the saliva and with a lighter he can ignite it, and wrap it around himself in flames so he looks like a dragon. And if he gets surrounded by a group of them he sprays a perimeter of Hideous Zippleback gas, which is contained in the second canister, and he ignites that creating a flash explosion. It just gets their attention and from there he can stop the aggressive behavior and befriend them. So it's primarily a dragon training tool. But if he gets into trouble he can use it as a weapon as well.
Simon Otto: I'd like to talk about the darkness in the movie which for us animators is something that is usually quite difficult to deal with because we usually spend a lot of time animating these characters and they're in full light and only light gets applied later. And when I see these scenes I am so impressed by how amazing this looks and yet it was really tough to deal with sometimes, like you spend so much time animating, Toothless, for example, and know you see a black dragon against a black background, but it's so effective, and maybe POV you want to talk a little bit about some of the choices you made in lighting.
Pierre-Oliver Vincent: The stage is actually very simple, there are some complex shapes in the distance but it's all about the character. So, we had Hiccup, Valka and the surrounding dragons around them, we introduced a little bit of the rock language of this location in here but it's really all about the characters. And once again, I mean, we mentioned Rodger Deakins several times but being able to go with such a limited amount of light. We increased it a little bit for riveting Valka, but it's mostly coming from all the dragons with their mouth in fire. This is actually a very, very stylized lighting scenario.
Dean DeBlois: There's one thing I wanted to say about, there's a scar on Hiccup's chin and it was in the first movie and it was never explained. So when we were drawing out the story for this second film, it occurred to me that we could use that scar as an explanation. It's the first thing Valka sees when she gets close enough, and she remembers in her own flashback, 20 years ago on that fateful night she was carried away there was a scar left on her son's chin in that very same spot, as he was just a baby in the cradle. Part of what helps her identify who Hiccup is, becomes a part of the storytelling. Just one of those fortuitous things that we noticed from the first film and could make a story point of it in the second.
Bonnie Arnold: Good job, Dean. I love the little snow in their facial hair, it's so cool. Their mustaches. It's just all those little details, there's many times we watched the movie lately, I have to say I am still amazed by these little details.
Pierre-Oliver Vincent: They're looking for Hiccup and you can see how we increased the sense of urgency by having the sun being down, low rising light. You can see it in the next shot, here. They go toward the sunset.
Simon Otto: By the way something that not everybody knows but when we animate the characters we don't really have fur and hair and clothing. It's clothing there, but it's kind of placeholder clothing and we have a department called character effects and that sequence with Stoick and Gobber flying, they were a really important part of making that sequence as successful as I think it is and...
Dean DeBlois: Because they animate the hair
Simon Otto: And the fur and it's led by ????, whose an amazing collaborator with us. So, we had a lot of back and forth between our departments and a lot of interaction because obviously hair is an important part to a character and fully getting a sense of how a character behaves and looks. Hair is a really important part.
Dean DeBlois: We should talk about this environment a little bit. This was an idea that POV had, that kind of hidden within the arctic wasteland was this oasis that is created by hot springs mixed with the bewilderbeast's ice, creating the rooftop almost like a greenhouse. And so it's this strange, kind of almost tropical micro climate, where all of this arctic flora can thrive, and the dragons themselves live in a protected but really fragile space. And POV you came up with it. What was your inspiration for that?
Pierre-Oliver Vincent: I remember like many, many years ago going to the Sahara in North Africa and you go through all those dunes and absolutely deserted landscape and suddenly you discover an oasis and I always remember it being one of the most strange looking things I have ever seen. And when you described this arctic world of just snow and ice and this idea of having a nest somewhere, well I mean, you need to have a sense of life, and having this vegetation just coming out of nowhere in the middle of this arctic desert. That's coming from there. We used those rugs as well, I mean, you have been to Ireland.
Dean DeBlois: The saltstones. They have them in Iceland as well.
Pierre-Oliver Vincent: Iceland. I mean they're usually produced by lava cooling down very slowly in very large underground lava chambers. And those are usually revealed by erosion through time. But I think the great element they are giving us is through something unusual looking but almost in a way some sort of architectural statement. Which was a strange mix of location so organic but it was almost like establishing the dragons society through a very mild sense of architecture.
Simon Otto: So Valka is a really, really difficult character to get to the point where she worked for our film, and both from a design standpoint of view, like we were much broader with her, she had pronounced cheek bones and ??? neck. The proportions were much more pushed and like even in the behavioral idea was to go quite feral with her and almost a little crazy out there. We had to pull her back just to make her redeemable and you as the audience are charmed by her, the way Hiccup is. And it took us a good couple of staffs in design and also animating the first scenes, we've redone a few of the first scenes prior to the scenes that we're looking at right here, just to find the right balance of her behavior but also, the scene where Hiccup and Valka meet for the first time.
Dean DeBlois: The idea with Valka was that she was designed to represent what Hiccup you're in for, but to the extreme. Because back home Stoick wants him to step into his boots and become the new chief of berk, which doesn't feel like a natural fit for Hiccup, and he's kind of yearning for something more and when he meets Valka living with this, you know, among dragons in sort of a free lifestyle, with this work which is of great importance, protecting dragons from ill-doers. There's a moment where Hiccup, think well no wonder the missing half of my soul, no wondering I feel like such a square peg. But the idea as well is to sort of show that Valka has a change to undergo, in that she kind of forgotten who she was these twenty years, and she's be living in a dragon colony and.. There's the scratch, by the way, on Hiccup's chin that is later evidenced by the scar.
Bonnie Arnold: I have to say, we're coming up on one of the first cues that John Powell did for the score, which I think is one of the most beautiful cues in the movie.
Dean DeBlois: One of the new themes, yeah. It's a powerful piece of music.
Pierre-Oliver Vincent: This a good example of the work we did in effects to really design something very specific as fire for every dragon. Cloudjumper has that tornado like fire, which is beautifully illustrated in the shot.
Simon Otto: That character didn't have legs right away.
Dean DeBlois: I added arms and a pouch.
Pierre-Oliver Vincent: But he was so cute.
Dean DeBlois: And it's subtle. But hopefully it comes across that Valka realized her sympathy for dragons was a danger to Hiccup and to Stoick and so, once she was carried away, she thought it better to just stay away. She knew she was so different and people can't change. And here comes Hiccup, revealing that he is just like her also a dragon ???, also felt very at odds in his environment but he managed to change minds back on Berk. This begins her transformation and realization that she too can change and go back home.
Dean DeBlois: This is a shot of the ice ceiling that acts as the greenhouse.
Bonnie Arnold: This is Hiccup putting two and two together about what he saw at Eret's fort and the reveal of the Bewilderbeast and it's just amazing dragon, amazing creature.
Dean DeBlois: That was a creature tough to design, actually. We had so many ideas about what the Alpha dragon might look like and we tried to push ourselves to the extreme to find out how far we could go before it breaks, in terms of a dragon concept. There was even a version of the creature that had hair on it. Big shaggy fur like the woolly mammoth or a musk ox. And at that point we realized, nope that's not a dragon anymore.
Simon Otto: You go mammal really quickly. There's elements of a lion in there and elphent and...
Pierre-Oliver Vicent: Polar Bear.
Simon Otto: Polar bear. We kind of mixed and played with these ideas and had to kind of go to far and pull it back. There were people involved in designing this character.
Pierre-Oliver Vincent: Oh, look at the scales of Cloudjumper. They're real scales, which for us was a big achievement.
Simon Otto: Yeah, we've never done that before.
Dean DeBlois: This is just a silly ??? line to show that while Hiccup is dealing with headier problems of who he is supposed to come, that the last of the boys are vying for Ruffnut's attention because she's pretty much the last of Berk's scarce and scary single ladies. Just a goofy little ??? line.
Dean DeBlois: This is very much shortened from what it used to be, but we we're pacing up the middle of the movie because it lagged a little, so this got quite a bit shorter. It's always hard to do when shots have been animated and lit. It's kind of a painful cut, but it helps the pace.
Pierre-Oliver Vincent: This is a good example of as well of some sort of unusual light set up. We knew it was early morning, the mist is casting shadows as well and this Iceberg.
Dean DeBlois: This one is actually very close to the concept painting that POV did, that I loved, on shadows being cast across the Iceberg.
Simon Otto: Actually this scene and other scenes earlier play of the biggst challenges we had to deal with in animation, which is in the first movie the kids get onto the dragons towards the end of the movie, and most of the scene in the first movie is two characters and most of them are underground, and very few flight scenes, and this movie we deal with the characters, all the characters travelling on flying dragons throughout the film, and then the character seems so much bigger than the first movie.
Dean DeBlois: This sequence was originally longer and once again we found the pace lagged in here, in the middle of the movie, so we trimmed it down. But there is, but I think we'll include it in the deleted scenes so you can see all of it. It was animated and headed toward lighting and we decided to snip out a few moments. Just a longer montage showing how Hiccup and his mother go from being estranged to really connected over their love of dragons.There discovery... Hiccup in this particular moment was trying to describe all the lands he discovered and he looks up to see that she's mapped pretty much the entire Northern Hemisphere.
Pierre-Oliver Vincent: It's a good and enjoyable moment as well. The stories about to get slightly more dramatic. I mean having the lightness of this moment.
Bonnie Arnold: The music and the wing-walking. It's so beautiful.
Dean DeBlois: Yeah, it's just a bit of joy in the middle of the movie. Gorgeous piece of music by John Powell.
Simon Otto: And it really shows how amazing Valka is, and how many steps further she is in her living and co-existing with dragons, and that makes her so magical, for Hiccup.
Pierre-Oliver Vincent: It was nice to also introduce the ice world under the warm light. I mean the first time we get to Valka's fortress, it's the dragon mountain or the Bewilderbeast's nest. It's kind of scary and I think now they connect, and it's a fun place too.
Dean DeBlois: If you ever get a chance to Svalbard, this is what it looks like. It's just incredible and it goes forever.
Pierre-Oliver Vincent: You just need to add a lot of ???.
Dean DeBlois: This rock formation, actually, is literally taken from a photograph in Svalbard.
Pierre-Oliver Vincent: Just look at the snow.
Bonnie Arnold: Another thing is the story point that, Dean, you were trying to set up is, Hiccup and Toothless trying to reconnect in flight, that will pay off at the end of the movie. They keep trying and failing.
Dean DeBlois: The idea of this whole flightsuit thing is they're working it out. It's a new invention and it ends in a lot of nasty spills but eventually they will get it right.
Bonnie Arnold: This is some of my favorite animation, actually, of Hiccup and Valka in the movie, I have to say. This is really tough...
Dean DeBlois: Really sensitive animation from Fabio Linguini, who did Hiccup, and James Baxter who is the supervisor on Valka.
Bonnie Arnold: I think it's kind of what makes you start sort of forgiving Valka for kind of running off and leaving. She starts to talk to Hiccup like an adult and wants another chance to start over. I think that is very poignant in the moment between mother and son.
Dean DeBlois: We wanted to describe that, Hiccup and Toothless are roughly the same age in dragon years to human years. That they're both reaching maturity and what she did was coax along something that would have happened naturally. The idea that he reaches a certain age, his dorsal spines can split, giving him increased maneuverability in flight.
Pierre-Oliver Vincent: Beautiful work as well from my painting. Everything you see in the back is my painting, with just model ??? on set. And many of those shots you can see in the distance, the dragon oasis, Valka's mountain was that explosion of ice and it's all painted.
Bonnie Arnold: That painting has gotten so much more sophisticated, and you really can't tell.
Pierre-Oliver Vincent: ?????.
Dean DeBlois: This used to be a much longer argument and it actually dragged the tone down quite a bit, but it was used to show that as much as they connected and they felt an infinity for each other that Valka and Hiccup had a very different core belief, whereas Hiccup is all about co-existence and people can change, and can learn to live with dragons, Valka believes, having seen so much harm done to dragons that humans could never be trusted, and that the dragons needed to be segregated in order to protect them. So, it's a nod toward that change, without having to spend too much time let the tone be dragged down by it.
Bonnie Arnold: Love those bubbles.
Dean DeBlois: And at last we find Drago's realm. He's been lying in wait with his massive flotilla of ships, preparing for an attack on Dragon mountain and Valka's nest.
Bonnie Arnold: Fishlegs, the collectible nerd.
Dean DeBlois: Resident dragon expert.
Pierre-Oliver Vincent: I mean that shot with all the boats, it reminds me how many of them we have to create. There are ??? armies, ??? under the banners of Drago. And this of course is the main ship. Drago's ship which is some sort of aircraft carrier. It's gigantic.
Dean DeBlois: The flagship, we finally gave it a name, Conqueror. And of course there's something down there. He has something at the end of those chains that he is intently focused on. We're going to find out what that is a little later.
Bonnie Arnold: I love Drago's design, sort of struggle with making him a little bit more unique. I think you guys did an amazing job of making him.
Dean DeBlois: There was an interesting moment where we had a very generic looking villain. He was a brute, there was nothing to special about him. And we asked a couple of other character designers to each take a stab listening only to Djimon Hounsou's voice, and they both arrived at the same look, which is really interesting. So Nico Marlet are character designer on the film then took their designs and brought it into the world, tied it in with everything else. This idea of long hair, kind of dread, and a big wide body and a predator like profile going from his forehead to his nose, just made him look exotic without being specific, and I think that was the plan. We wanted to suggest that he had traveled a great distance for this goal.
Bonnie Arnold: He's a great fit with Djimon's voice, actually, I think.
Pierre-Olvier Vincent: You can also see the big difference in the color palate. All the dragon's that are with Hiccup or Valka are very vibrant and colorful, and Drago and his army are a lot of slave dragons, and their all desaturated, so the color is basically disappearing from Drago's world.
Dean DeBlois: I always liked everything so dirty and steel enforced, heavy, and it's kind of reflected in the designs themselves. And Drago is meant to be the antitheses of Hiccup. He has a power over dragons but it comes from force and brutality, instead of compassion and understanding. They both suffered loss at the hands of dragons but Drago's approach, his reaction to it was to punish the dragons and punish the world for his loss as opposed to Hiccup trying to integrate them.
Simon Otto: I think this is an important scene for Astrid as well. That she has a plan on how to basically bluff her way a little bit to safety. And I think it was important for her to be present in and be the strong woman she was in the first movie, carry that idea forward.
Bonnie Arnold: America Ferrera who does the voice of Astrid told me after she saw the movie, she was so proud of how strong Astrid was and what a good role model she was for girls.
Dean DeBlois: Astrid doesn't wait for anybody's permission, she's a take charge kind of character. She was actually designed in the first film to be the most clean cut Viking model of the new generation. She had everything it took to be a strong Viking. And Hiccup teaching her a different point of view about dragons kind of made her all the better. So she not only take charge, she is very capable. She also shares a love for dragons that makes her even stronger.
Bonnie Arnold: She's like the first person that Hiccup sort of converted, actually.
Dean DeBlois: These baby dragons have a few moments in the film, kind of establishing them so that when we use them later, we've realized they're wild and uncontrolled, and immune to the effect of the bewilderbeast.
Dean DeBlois: This is a fun scene that really didn't change since it was storyboarded by ???, who just did a great job with several of the scenes in this film, early on. It was always meant to be that Stoick would encounter Valka as though he's seen a ghost, and it completely takes the words out of his mouth, and then he's rendered speechless. But as Valka kind of nervously tries to justify her decision to stay away, that the love in Stoick's eyes melts away the tension. A few well chosen words kind of snuff her retort, which leads to a really romantic moment.
Pierre-Oliver Vincent: Talking about Valka, and designing Valka, I remember the first time you described this character to me.
Dean DeBlois: I think that's why I wrote the part for Cate Blanchett because she always plays characters that have a commanding presence, very authoritative and capable, but also quite vulnerable. And she definitely needed to be able to express that range. So when I saw Cate Blanchett in her beautiful dress and hair done up at the Oscars in 2011, I walked up to her and told her that I had written this part for her in the film and luckily her three boys were huge fans of the first movie, so it was kind of an easy sell. I told her a little bit about the character and how she lived with dragons for twenty years. And it was amazing, right there in the middle of the cocktail reception of the Oscars she started hunching over and kind of carrying herself like someone who would have lived with dragons for twenty years, and talking about the mannerisms, and I thought well I think she's buying into it. So she said, "Send me the script, I'm not doing anything".
Pierre-Oliver Vincent: Well that's a beautiful moment. This is really the turning point for Eret.
Dean DeBlois: That's a gorgeous looking scene too. This is another one where the lighting is very unique, and I have never seen anything quite like this in animation before. Just has such a beautiful defused kind of blooming light to it.
Pierre-Oliver Vincent: ???? focus. The thing that sold the weather conditions we talked about, I mean sometimes having heavy fog, we ???? in a sequence during the fist movie that maybe rain just happened. I mean having this range of beautiful moods, like this, is incredibly helpful.
Dean DeBlois: This is were we start to introduce some of the traps that will be used later and how they use bait dragons within them to attract wild dragons, who will land to try to rescue them. Everything that Drago has is heavy and brutal and it's a nice contrast to our very sympathetic character.
Simon Otto: This entire moment was animated by the supervising animator of Eret, Dave Torres, who showed us in reference where he acts it out, but he acted it out with a blue gymnastic ball, but it totally communicated what he was after.
Dean DeBlois: Now we're getting into a moment that was very, very delicately handled, and I think quite successfully. But we were nervous about it for the longest time, and it had to do with Valka feeling very overwhelmed and probably very guilty, not having been there all those twenty years, and so everything is... Hiccup is so excited about her coming back home, and she's just feeling skiddish about everything, because it's too much, too fast. So Stoick observing that, observing her skiddish behavior decides that he's going to adopt a different approach, and so after calming Hiccup down for a moment, he decides he's going to whistle and then sing an old Viking courting song, that everyone would have known, and they all know the lyrics, and it would have been their song, maybe something that was played at their wedding. So he uses it to remind her of who she was and who they had been together, and it all happens in front of Hiccup and we really play Hiccup's point of view, as it's a magical moment, a wish fulfillment for Hiccup, seeing his two parents come together again before his very eyes. It was handled so delicately and so beautifully by the animators and it's also just a gorgeous example of lighting, the subtle lighting in the film.
Pierre-Oliver Vincent: We tried to stick all these difficult moments for Valka, by having a very, very warm light coming from the fire in the center of this room, and another light coming from natural light filtered by a wall of ice. It's just kind of stuck in the middle.
Dean DeBlois: Some beautiful Stoick animation here by Christoff ???, and James Baxter.
Bonnie Arnold: That's just beautiful. I always said that scene is important so you know exactly what Hiccup his feeling and thinking in this scene because this is really the first time he's seen his parents together in his life and every time you look at him he's sort of, you know, completely get what he is feeling. That makes me enjoy it that much more.
Simon Otto: The wish fulfillment that's now happening, I think you live this scene through Hiccup's eyes.
Dean DeBlois: This is the second music collaboration of Jonsi and John Powell. They wrote this melody together and we then approached Shane Mcgowen who is the lyricist, and front man of the ???, and he took to the song and he wrote the words so that it felt like something timeless and steeped in Viking tradition. And so it's a back and forth courting song where he's promising her the son and the moon and she's saying all I want is hand and you to be beside me. It's really a sweet song, and it all comes together in a way that I think has this honest and raw and authentic quality, like your parents dancing around your kitchen as opposed to a break into song musical moment. So we we're careful about how the music bled into the scene and very, very cautious about marking it cringe worthy because it had every danger of being so.
Simon Otto: And I think both Gobber and Toothless played a big role in that too. They kind of take the edge off a little bit. I think it's really crucial.
Dean DeBlois: Add a little humor while things are so earnest. There was something that John Powell kept saying, that if we can make it entertaining and funny and honest, then the effect of it... kind of ??? in retrospect that you think back, and you think, well there's a really sweet moment, really powerful moment, particularly in light of what's coming.
Simon Otto: I mean it's a scene where really all is well, everything's going to be okay and everything's pointing in the right direction and somehow even you thin you still feel, that there's one problem that hasn't been resolved, which is Drago. And right when you get that notion like we cut to the scene where the dragons are all leaving the oasis and you realize that, okay now we're gonna face Drago.
Pierre-Oliver Vincent: And once again ????.
Simon Otto: I think we should make a shout out to the crowds department who handled the amount of complexity that dragons and humans and a multitude of behaviors that they have to then figure out to get it all together in these shots.
Bonnie Arnold: James Thornton right? They did a great job.
Simon Otto: James Thornton and his team. This shot here is, that we're coming into is the single most...
Dean DeBlois: The showcase. Every behavior of every character running down there is convincing and real and it's such a dense complicated shot, it's something that wouldn't have been attempted or even been possible with our previous software.
Bonnie Arnold: I think it's the most complicated thing we have ever done at the studio, right?
Simon Otto: And you know at the same time it's also incredibly complex, it's also complex because every department has to work with each other. I mean, there's character animation, ??? character animation, and crowds animation and lighting and effects, and everybody kind of had to work together at the same time and, I don't know the exact time, but the render time on a single frame is humongous and the shot in itself is thirty seconds long. So it was a real challenge for everybody on the team.
Dean DeBlois: We get to showcase all of the wonderful designs that POV and our art department created for Drago's machinery and war machines. They have a lot of character to them. Each one's designed to take down a different type of dragon. It's a lot of fun.
Simon Otto: Well, this was a philosophy of ours I think, both on the character side and also on the set side. We wanted to have real specific design ideas and behavior ideas. You can't confuse one dragon with another or human character with another. Nothing's generic, and really that was one of our big goals and I think even just... generally in our careers, I think that something so important that we make very specific, that our really recognizable. And through that, bringing a lot of entertainment to the film and individuality.
Dean DeBlois: This sequence is such a showpiece for our effects department. They just did an incredible job and they really rose to the occasion. There is so many very complex shots, that have beautiful effects that are so convincing.
Pierre-Oliver Vincent: We've been talking about dragons a lot and I need to give a big tip of my hat to ???, the art director, who took charge in surfacing and creating all those beautiful color keys for pretty much every single character in the movie. And whenever we're very close to those dragons you can see how much work went into the surfaces and even, I mean the human characters.
Bonnie Arnold: The colors.
Dean DeBlois: He did a beautiful, beautiful paint job for both the Bewilderbeast and the cloudjumper. They're incredible paintings.
Dean DeBlois: So, here's where we finally get to see the Bewilderbeast in action and realize that he ingests masses of water and regurgitates it with tremendous force that tears apart the target but also freeze them in his extreme icy breath. This was also another surprising behavior we wanted to showcase, that the dragons have different abilities and in this case it's the two headed Hideous Zippleback that swallows it's own tail and then lights itself on fire and becomes a flaming wagon wheel, dispersing people and breaking apart machinery.
Simon Otto:: Gil Zimmerman and his team came up with a lot of really cool shots. That one shot where Hiccup and Toothless fly past the warship they just destroyed and kind of spin in their own axises. And I think this sequence, uh, there was some storyboards done but what we see here is largely developed in ????.
Bonnie Arnold: Yeah. Gil is the head of layout.
Dean DeBlois: Here comes one of the most impressive special effects in the whole film.
Bonnie Arnold: The reveal of the Bewilder... What we call, our crew called him the Bewilderbad. He was the bad guy.
Dean DeBlois: He's meant to be the mistreated, kind of scarred, beaten, version of that majestic bewilderbeast. It's been trained as Drago's attack dog.
Bonnie Arnold: I would say about Gil Zimmerman, he's... we call his title the head of layout, but really he's responsible, and his team for all the amazing camera work in the movie.
Dean DeBlois: Yes. Yeah they did a tremendous job.
Simon Otto: In our world, that means not just framing what is being performed or animated in the early sets. It's actually coming up with the shots, the type of shots, ahead of time, before we go in and animate the characters. So, there's work that the layout department does early on in creating and telling the story, but then also work that's being done once the character's are being performed, making sure that everything's framed right and setting everything up for the lighting department, which comes further down the line.
Dean DeBlois: Yeah, they do very detailed pre-visualization, which has animation of the characters as well as movement of camera, lens choices, and compositions. And often times when we're working with the animators to actually go in and do the real performance, we'll sometimes talk about a composition we particularity liked that came from the layout department and try to preserve that.
Simon Otto: The fight of the Bewilderbeasts is one of my most proudest moment as the leader of this team and this scene for example animated by ??? is much more in the turf of visual effects animation, and it is what we traditionally call, more cartoony animation, and I think he did a fantastic job, when there were obviously other animators working on these scenes as well. You really get a sense of the size and the weight of these creatures, and I think it's quite impressive.
Bonnie Arnold: I have to do a shout out to our sound designer Randy Thom who gave voice to all of these dragons, all of the sounds that you hear and it was...
Dean DeBlois: Yeah, they were an incredible team, and Randy's actually the voice of Toothless. It's one little detail he uses his own voice and mixes it with elephant sounds and pig sounds to come up with that very distinctive voice.
Bonnie Arnold: Like the growls and the roars, and all the vocalization... I mean, all of them are unique to the dragons, pretty amazing.
Dean DeBlois: It was one thing that we were trying to get across, built upon an idea in the first movie that there was a hierarchy of dragons and the first movie featured the queen of that particular nest but there are several rungs above that and the very top of it is the Bewilderbeast, and it's just sort of a natural born alpha. There are very few of them in existence, and obviously Drago has one of them. Valka was living under the protection of another. But they have the ability to force their will upon other dragons through using that kind of ultrasonic communication that we established in the first movie, and it's stare and it's pulsating sound, so it's the, um, real demonstration of power over dragons that Drago is about to reveal. Something that even Toothless is susceptible to. Conceptually it was as it's very core a fundamental idea for the second film that would break down the relationship between Hiccup and Toothless that was so strong at the beginning of the film and turn them into enemies again, and have Toothless be taken away from Hiccup, just as a way of really kind of breaking the relationship and knowing that once they get back together, they will be stronger than ever. It really gave an arc to their particular relationship, which is really the heart of the whole trilogy.
Simon Otto: I like to insert a quick... Shaggy Hornsby, supervising animator of Drago here really found a way to play him, like really under play him and play him with a lot of disdain and attitude and when he starts whipping out the bullhook here and starts yelling it's such a switch that's really scary and I think that works quite effectively.
Dean DeBlois: One of my favorite pieces of music in John Powell's score right here. I just love the way the pipes come in, it's really arresting.
Pierre-Oliver Vincent: One thing we tried to do as well in the lighting and effects department was to start the battle really bright with sunshine back lit kind of concept and you can see how the sequence, I mean, shot after shot it gets dirtier. You can see how much more smoke there is. It gets really suffocating to really demonstrate that struggle that begins now.
Dean DeBlois: Here we have the Bewilderbeast bearing down upon Toothless and him struggling. ??? Jeffers did a beautiful job with this particular bit of animation, in seeing him struggle and finally succumb to the power of the Bewilderbeast and his insistence to take control.
Bonnie Arnold: If you listen really good you can hear that sound that he... Part of the control of the Bewilderbeast of the other animals, the other dragons.
Simon Otto: We needed to figure out what that looks like. We wanted to make that really clear to the audience. It's not Toothless that's doing this. It's not rabies, it's not an animal that's just crazy, it's... he's clearly under the control of somebody else. He's a Zombie and doesn't understand what's going on, and, uh, actually the one shot of his view is very important because we pick it up later, it's just to show the difference between what he sees when he under this control and what he see's when he's not under the control.
Dean DeBlois: We thought the pupils were a really good way to visually show that Toothless was not himself. So when they're under the influence of the Bewilderbeast their eyes go to slits. As they begin to break out of it they dilate again.
Bonnie Arnold: I have to say, I love the way that scene between Hiccup, Toothless and Stoick was edited and a shout out to John Carr, it was really beautifully cut. Just all those things that were going on at the same time and he and Mark Hester and the editorial team, really outdid themselves.
Dean DeBlois: So originally, in the very first outline I had, it was Gobber that jumped in front of the blast and sacrificed his life for Hiccup. I wanted it to be somebody who was close to Hiccup, but, um, when I was pitching the outline to Guillermo de Toro, he's the one who suggested it should be Stoick instead, because he thought that this is, given the storyline we're telling to have Stoick always be there as a crutch to Hiccup meant that he would never really stand on his own. He wouldn't really step into the role completely, and so he said narratively Stoick has served his purpose and why not make it be Stoick instead of Gobber. So, Gobber got spared, but I think he was right. It is very strong. It certainly is a sad moment and people are sad to see Stoick go, but his effect on Hiccup will be lasting.
Bonnie Arnold: Especially because I think he's come, Stoick has come even more loveable and you respect him and understand his role with the people of Berk.
Dean DeBlois: He definitely went out a high. He got to re-meet the love of his life, have a beautiful romantic moment, have a huge heroic moment in fighting Drago, and a very sacrificial moment for Hiccup. So, he definitely goes down as a hero. This was a key part here, to make sure we sympathized for Toothless and don't blame him for what happened and I think when you see him come out of that trance and just how vulnerable he is and confused about what's happening when he's chased off by Hiccup, it just sort of breaks your heart. I think we the audience are waiting for that moment, where Hiccup and Toothless can reconcile, and he can get him back from Drago's control.
Simon Otto: You could see one of the small inferences we had when we were designing the Bewilderbeast. He kind of gets on his hind legs like an otter. So again, a lot of animal references influenced us in the choices we made with the dragons.
Dean DeBlois: The intention here was to play this jut against music, so you'll hear no effects, just Gobber's voice over, and the start of this beautiful piece that John Powell had written. We actually had a very simplistic kind of fiddle piece that would play over this in our showreels and I had asked John Powell if he could, over the course of a week, kind of rough in something, because we were about to have an early test screening and he wrote this beautiful piece that has remained right up to the final score.
Bonnie Arnold: I think this is almost everybody on the crew's favorite shot in the movie, don't you think, guys?
Simon Otto: It was also one of the, it was one of the first scenes that had John Powell's new score.
Bonnie Arnold: This shot, in particular, this shot of all the arrows. Wow, amazing.
Pierre-Oliver Vincent: It's a very simple ceremony. It's just like those two big icebergs in the distance, almost like the gates of Valhalla.
Simon Otto: And in terms of Hiccup, again, it's a scene we did quite early on and this was a scene later in the movie where he's really going through his transformation. He's now a much more toned down dude and Jakob Jensen did a wonderful job on a lot of these shots that are his. And Hiccup just kind of pouring his heart out and we all felt really good about this.
Dean DeBlois: Yeah, it's very subtle, very sophisticated bit of acting and hats off to Jakob Jensen for that. Also gorgeous animation here by James Baxter. I think he handled Valka with just the right amount of maternal wisdom and kind of a vulnerability as well, because she suffered a great loss here, too, but she needs to be the strong one in order to bolster Hiccup.
Simon Otto: And I think there were some shots that where the tears were still in development and we hadn't put the in, and every time we saw it we felt like, where are the tears, guys, like he just lost his father. They're coming.
Pierre-Oliver Vincent: They're very difficult to do.
Dean DeBlois: There's actually a shot here that's coming up that was suggested by Steven Spielberg. We had the pleasure of having him watch the film four times while we were making the movie, at different stages, and he really asked for this shot of Hiccup silhouetted against the burning ship, finding his resolve. He had been pitching that maybe we could do it without words, but we realized that Hiccup needed to say something that honored his father. It's a neat moment though, because you really see Hiccup step into the shoes of his own volition and realizes that he finally learned enough and come a long way towards realizing that he is the leader that his people need right now. He's going to do it, come what may.
Bonnie Arnold: I sometimes say, that it's okay when you realize, it's okay to be what your parents want you to be. Hiccup has that realization.
Dean DeBlois: You just discover it yourself.
Bonnie Arnold: Exactly.
Dean DeBlois: And so, here is the payoff for the setup of those baby dragons that are showcased earlier in the movie, as listening to nobody, and are immune to the effects of the effect, the controlling effect of the Bewilderbeast.
Pierre-Oliver Vincent: We designed the set to really regain a lot of energy after this very sad sequence, of the funeral.
Dean DeBlois: Yeah, we had to bring some joy back into it.
Bonnie Arnold: I think the challenge of Stoick's death was, I mean, you really have to be able to recover from that and just sort of the build back up.
Dean DeBlois: It's okay to go to sad, dark places, but we need to get triumphant and reward the audience for going there with us. I think it's really smart.
Simon Otto: I love this shot. It gorgeous.
Dean DeBlois: It's quick, but you should see the eyes turning to, the pupils turning to slits before they fly off. The idea they are reacting to that broadcast of the alpha dragon, the new alpha dragon being Drago's Bewilderbeast. So bit by bit we see all of Berk's dragons fall under it's influence and gather around it as it's commanding them to. It's a challenge with scenes like this not to go to gratuitous and too dark, but we realized this was the moment to probably tell the Vikings of Berk that Stoick was dead, so we don't have to acknowledge it later. They've had some time to process it. So when Hiccup arrives and along with the rest of the gang we can play up the positives.
Bonnie Arnold: It was sort of a late addition but it works.
Pierre-Oliver Vincent: It was very heartbreaking to design this shot, having Berk with all the ice and destroyed.
Dean DeBlois: And all of the dragons gathered, so now Drago has Valka's nest of dragons, along with Berk's dragons as well.
Simon Otto: We had several moments like this in the movie, where we realized we were working on something that we probably not going to be working on again, like Stoick. Letting go of that character as animators is tough. And I am sure you felt the same about the set. We won't return to this in the same shape.
Pierre-Oliver Vincent: I got the chance to rebuild it.
Bonnie Arnold: We love the sheep.
Piere-Oliver Vincent: And you can see throughout the sequence as well that the light slowly is rising. I mean we did this... Simon was talking early on how to collaborate, when there are so many departments and that's a good example of this as well. This is quite difficult to set throughout all the shots but the light is slowly rising all the way to the point where Hiccup is back and can celebrate the moment with the sun coming.
Simon Otto: How do you track that, when you have multiple artists working on different parts of the scene to make sure the gradual change is working?
Dean DeBlois: I was thinking about this story and how Hiccup may try to get back to Toothless, just ignoring Drago and focusing entirely on Toothless and talking him through it, trying to break through the hypnotic command of the Bewilderbeast.
Bonnie Arnold: I like how Drago is just kind of fascinated by Hiccup that, he is kind of jealous though.
Dean DeBlois: ??? undoing. He just doesn't think that this pipsqueak has any power that he couldn't out dominate, and yet just a wonderful touch and soft words and the forgiveness of it all is what breaks through. It's really powerful.
Simon Otto: Here's just a technical little side note. You know, making these creatures fly believably was... we put a tremendous effort into understanding how flight works and we keep telling Dean, can you please not do hover scenes because these creatures can't actually hover. And yet it's incredibly difficult to tell a story with flying creatures and have them move forward at all times. Though we just eventually accepted that...
Bonnie Arnold: Oh, my favorite shot in the movie. I'm sorry Simon, I just had to say this is my favorite shot and my favorite music cue. Ah, beautiful.
Dean DeBlois: It's so short lived, the shot is beautiful, the big wide one.
Bonnie Arnold: Yeah, the big wide one with the falling, and the music there almost a religious experience I have to say.
Bonnie Arnold: This is an important scene to you, Dean. Right in terms of the blindfold.
Dean DeBlois: Yeah, I think we went round and round about it but ultimately we needed to give Toothless a handicap so Hiccup would have to take the last ditch decision of trying the wing suit again. So keeping up the idea that it's both a visual, a sound command and it's an ultrasonic thing, that Hiccup has to basically do everything he can to block the communication.
Bonnie Arnold: Ah, it gives me chills, actually, every time I watch it.
Dean DeBlois: And then here comes the hail mary of the... he realizes the saddle is empty and Toothless flies... Hiccup flies in using his dragon blade to try to displace Drago, get him off of that control position.
Bonnie Arnold: And the payoff of the...
Dean DeBlois: Of course he has his split dorsal blades now so he's got the ability to fianlly jackknife up and get Hiccup to safety.
Pierre-Oliver Vincent: It's a nice recall as well to the first movie, when he's ??? in the dorsal spikes of the Red Death.
Dean DeBlois: Yeah, it didn't work out so well.
Dean Deblois: So, Valka had talked about earlier in the film about how every Dragon has it's secrets and we thought this is a moment where the Bewilderbeast really crossed the line, in trying to kill Hiccup. It just forces Toothless to evolve a bit and to become the super version of himself. I just thought seeing him glow hot and searing between the plates and glow in his nose and a kind of intense glow on his skin was a way of indicating that Toothless was no longer to be messed with, he was not going to be controlled by the Alhpa anymore. In fact he was going to take him on face to face.
Simon Otto: I really connected with the metaphor of that. You know, the transformation of Toothless, through his friendship to Hiccup, and the need to protect. It's the mother instinct... I think the metaphor of that is powerful and I hope that the audience feels it at this moment, that it was necessary for him to become that Super-Dragon if you will.
Dean DeBlois: It's like a mere cat taking on a lion. It's such an unfair match but he's so fired up and so determined to protect Hiccup, it's like a mother lifting up a station wagon to protect her child. It's kind of a super power he gains in the moment, that's emotionally driven.
Bonnie Arnold: All the dragons are defecting back to support Toothless and Hiccup.
Dean DeBlois: Yeah, there inspired by the rebellion, that David and Goliath like show of support.
Simon Otto: And here Hiccup gives him the chance to back down and...
Dean DeBlois: And this is an idea that Stephen Spielberg gave us, where it happens very quickly but it's a call back to those dragons lighting up there mouths... Right there. Toothless tells them to get ready and you there mouths start to glow and he takes the first shot and all of a sudden he's inundated by the shots of all these other dragons who are now emboldened and inspired to fight back. I think it's just a really cool moment.
Simon Otto: Such amazing effects here.
Dean DeBlois: It's like Toothless now is command of the army.
Bonnie Arnold: And Gil Zimmerman's... the camera work is beautiful.
Dean DeBlois: It finally comes down to the these. He's just gonna blast ice over all of them but Toothless doesn't give him the chance. Shears that tusk right off. Incredible effects work there too.
Bonnie Arnold: I love that animation. Take that, and get out of here and don't come back.
Dean DeBlois: In our minds... exactly he's saying get out of here and don't come back. See the Bewilderbeast be submissive for a moment, acknowledging that there's a new alpha in town. He's been dethroned. And we intentionally didn't really show what happen's to Drago. As their celebrating Hiccup and Toothless get the last look. The water settles, there's no sign of them. It's intentionally vague. You'll have to wait for movie 3 to find out what happened. This is the moment where we wanted to be really magical, to just have all of the dragons land and in their own way kind of give tribute to the new alpha.
Pierre-Oliver Vincent: It's actually funny how the ice, which has destroyed the village, plays into the magical moment, you know, as well.
Bonnie Arnold: I remember when Tron made a board of this shot, Dean, almost from the very beginning, right when Toothless is... became the alpha.
Dean DeBlois: Yeah.
Bonnie Arnold: It was sweet.
Dean DeBlois: There's a version that ???? did.
Simon Otto: He has his, this one drawing where Toothless stands there proudly and takes his ???, almost shows off a little and we definitely got that drawing.
Dean DeBlois: That would be in the deleted scenes actually. That's in good bye to momma.
Dean DeBlois: This is the point where... this is the last section of the movie that we animated. We really wanted to dial up the sense of relief and fun and celebration to kind of counterbalance the sad moments we had been through.
Simon Otto: Sean Saxton was the supervising animator on the kids and he did a couple of really... some of the funniest shots of Ruffnut and Eret and this reuniting all the kids and their dragons.
Dean DeBlois: I thought that was a sweet moment just to see Skullcrusher who is no longer paired up with a Viking, gets a new owner in Eret. It's a nice way of tying up two storylines.
Pierre-Oliver Vincent: Oh, and finally...
Bonnie Arnold: Uh, our favorite... the kiss. This is just a ???, right?
Pierre-Oliver Vincent: We knew they had something together.
Simon Otto: He shot reference with his wife.
Dean DeBlois: And here's where we see the village elder, Gothi.
Bonnie Arnold: Oh yeah, it's beautiful.
Dean DeBlois: Finally give him the mark of the Chief.
Bonnie Arnold: Again, it's just Hiccup and the music...
Simon Otto: This is where you know in Hiccup's animation that he has come into his own much more and is much more balanced and calm and I think this shot that is coming up is one of the key shots that describes Hiccup post transformation. Right here.
Dean DeBlois: It's a beautiful shot by Fabio Linguini.
Pierre-Oliver Vincent: You can see in the back everything receding.
Bonnie Arnold: The gulp. Hiccup's gulp when he just takes it all in.
Dean DeBlois: And we get a nice little reprise of Where No One Goes, and in a way kind of... the village is being rebuilt, life is going to go back to normal and all though there is play, there's also work involved. It was important to feel that Hiccup is at work as much as he is. He's being a responsible leader and he'll take a few minutes out to have fun but... There's Stoick being honored with his sculpture in front of the great hall. Hiccup checking to make sure that the horizon is free of trouble and it was a balance just to show that he is going to be a different kind of chief, but a responsible one nonetheless. Drago's armored Dragons being freed.
Bonnie Arnold: I think the voice of peace that Hiccup promotes is a very big... a very popular with the audience as a piece of who Hiccup is and what he's striving for.
Dean DeBlois: Hopefully it's not preachy, it just seems to be what their about. Simon. Simon Otto, our head of character animation was very vocal about that last maneuver. We had one that was a little too Michael Jordan and he said no we've got to keep him awkward and charming right up til the end.
Simon Otto: I always felt strongly about that. I think it would have been a shame in my mind to break the character that I think we established during the last two films, and just create a scene where he's just the coolest of them all, and I don't think that's who he is and he would never present himself like that. He's cool because he's not like that, I think.
Dean DeBlois: So, even though Simon fell out of a tree and broke his back, he still managed to have a lasting impact on the end of the film, those last few shots.
Simon Otto: I clawed my way back.
Pierre-Oliver Vincent: And Hiccup is actually dropping the sheep in Astrid's basket.
Simon Otto: Yes, exactly.
Dean DeBlois: That's a good point.
Simon Otto: He's making her a winner.
Dean DeBlois: This is a showcase of many of POV's beautiful paintings that he did in the development of the look for the film.
Simon Otto: Is that painting you mentioned earlier there to of the... when Astrid gets Eret.
Dean DeBlois: I think it is, yeah. I think it is under Dave Wolvoord's...
Bonnie Arnold: Right here.
Dean DeBlois: It's gorgeous.
Dean DeBlois: Alright, that's it. I think we're done with our commentary. Hope that shed a little insight and...
Bonnie Arnold: We hope everyone enjoys watching the movie as much as we enjoyed making the movie. Another labor of love by a lot of people, who worked really hard for a long time.
Dean DeBlois: Thanks for listening.
Bonnie Arnold: Thank you.
How to Train Your Dragon Film Commentary
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How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World Film Commentary