dean deblois interview

The How To Train Your Dragon trilogy is coming to an end, and it will probably make you cry. No, not over Hiccup’s glorious new beard (though that is worth shedding a few awestruck tears over), but over the bold and life-affirming story of friendship between a boy and his dragon that director Dean DeBlois has been building for the past decade.

We spoke to DeBlois about How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, and how the third and final film of the DreamWorks franchise will explain why “dragons are no more.” And yes, we did ask about Hiccup’s beard.

I wanted to start with the prevailing question on everyone’s lips: What’s up with Hiccup’s beard?

[Laughs] Well, that’s the first time I’ve been asked that question so far, so it’s surprising because the main narrative of the story does not involve Hiccup with a beard. I’ll only say even though the main narrative of the story takes place a year after the events of [How to Train Your Dragon 2], we do play with timelines a bit. So the beard is a move to that older Hiccup at some point in the story. I don’t want to get into spoilers…

So could we say it’s an epilogue that takes place however many years in the future?

[Laughs] That’s too specific! Like I said, it kind of bounces around in timelines. So we go backward, then go forward, and there’s sort of an allusion to the wise and selfless Viking leader that Hiccup becomes at the end of the trilogy.

Does that epilogue have something to do with How to Train Your Dragon author Cressida Cowell’s remarks in an interview a few years back, saying there will be ”an explanation as to why dragons are no more”?

Yes. In fact, when Cressida visited Dreamworks back in 2010, while we were just finishing up How to Train Your Dragon, she told me that she was working on the last installment of her book series, one that would explain what happened to dragons. And I just found that idea very exciting because it was immediately kind of gripping and emotional. And I love the idea that she would explain a period of time that could have existed if we are no longer surrounded by dragons — that’s just a wonderful mystery to explore.

So I was inspired by that, I was also inspired by the first words of her very first book, which was Hiccup as an adult reflecting back. The line is, “There were dragons, when I was a boy.” There was something really wonderful and bittersweet [about] a specific era of time that covers a storyline like Hiccup and Toothless, where you have two disparate characters who are brought together by extraordinary circumstance. And even though they may separate in the end, there’s this wonderful life-affirming quality to it, because they will never be the same again.

It sounds like How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World will be the most bittersweet of the series.

Yes, intentionally so. My favorite types of movies are those that kind of have that somewhat disarming and very poignant emotional place to go to, that take you along with them. There are some tough decisions to make that hopefully the audience shares with the main characters. The intent is to have the audience share the entire spectrum — it’s fun and it’s adventurous, and there are moments of fright and peril, but I think the wonder and the emotion are the most important moments. I hope to bring our audience to tears.

When was it decided that the third film would be the last one?

After the success of the first movie and its box office run, I was approached to come up with ideas for a sequel. And I’m generally allergic to sequels, because they oiften feel like they lack a purpose other than continuing a franchise and making more money. So I pitched back an idea that we should do a trilogy, three definitive acts of one larger story that tells Hiccup’s tale from clumsy runt who’s always in everyone’s way to the selfless chief he’s destined to be, featuring rites of passage along the way. The studio liked that idea, so it gave the trilogy kind of an integrity from the start. It wouldn’t keep going on and on until people lost interest in the characters, it would have a reason for being.

Continue Reading Dean DeBlois on How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

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