|“||Within the Isle of Berk is a large sunken area known as the Cove. This part of the island is surrounded by forest rocks, trees, roots and a pond full of fish. The grey and green scenery adds the tropical touch of a mystical island that an island such as Berk needs. With its vast waterfall gathering a pool of water, the Cove acts like the sole ground of finding purpose and knowledge. The Cove was primarily significant because it was where Toothless and Hiccup first unite and grow to befriend one another.||”|
|— School of Dragons Official Site|
In order to make the location seem like a "safe-haven" for the duo, art direction called for "softer colors, the application of moss along trees, and the calm water on the lake," claims Head of Surfacing Sabrina Riegel. Modelling Supervisor Matt Paulson also mentions that, "even the rocks are softer in style, modeled with softer edges and more rounded shapes like sandstone."
Earlier concept art showcased thicker, more prominent roots from trees over the rock walls and was scaled much larger than the final work.
|“||When we tried faster environment map reflections--which is how the cliff walls were initially projected onto the water--weird depth problems would occur, making the lake hard to look at in 3D, so we ended up using ray tracing instead. [src]||”|
|— Head of Effects, Matt Baer|
Animating lake posed a challenge as unlike ocean shots, such as the pan in the movie introduction, which moved at high speeds, the camerawork in the cove was "locked off for majority of the time". This emphasizes the reflections on the surface and distorted its depth, which were difficult to resolve in a 3D stereoscopic film. They had to resort to ray tracing to animate the lake.
The lighting was also a challenge, claimed Kathy Altieri, the Production Designer. They cheated the lighting the most in the Cove, especially since it was a hole in the ground and little light was supposed to reach it. As such, they "filtered light through the trees, bounced it off walls, pushed it and pulled it until [their] shots told the story they were looking for".
The waterfall was built for another use in the film, but was installed into the cove eventually. It uses full fluid stimulation to water water flow across rocks and down and particle-rendering tools to break in the mist. Visual Effects Supervisor Craig Ring adds that the waterfall, at a safe distance, adds "complexity" to the background.
The Cove is a tranquil spot in the outskirts of Berk, near Raven Point. It is covered with lush and dense foliage and surrounded by rock faces on all sides, only bridged to the outside world by a small gap between two rock faces. The rock faces are covered with vines, moss and thick roots from older trees that sit at the edge of the rock faces.
An inland freshwater lake sits in the middle of the area, which is fed via a small waterfall. The Cove is littered with mossy rocks which forms the occasional stack. There are several taller trees like pine in the Cove.
After Hiccup frees Toothless, Toothless clumsily glides into the cove but his injured tail fin renders him unable to fly out.
After Hiccup's first encounter with Toothless, he decides to seek for the dragon once more. He stumbles upon the Cove. He sees the trapped dragon inside and studies him from afar, realizing his injured tail. But as Toothless spots him, he leaves with haste.
The next day, he returns with a fish and a shield, which gets stuck in the opening and he abandons it. He confronts Toothless and starts to interact with him, which forms the iconic "Forbidden Friendship" scene, and eventually bonds with him.
The following day, he returns with a prototype of a mechanical tail fin and a basket of fish and tries it on Toothless. The successfully takes to the air and almost leaves the Cove, until Toothless swings Hiccup off. After finalizing the prototype, he continues meeting Toothless there, leaving occasionally to fly but returning when they part ways.
In "The Terrible Twos", Hiccup reluctantly leaves Toothless there, until he could figure out what to do about the perceived jealousy of Toothless for Torch, a young Typhoomerang Hiccup takes in. He later returns to his side in the nick of time when he was chased by Torch's Mother.