In How to Train Your Dragon 2, it’s been five years since Hiccup and Toothless successfully united dragons and Vikings on the island of Berk, and the now inseparable pair journey through the skies, charting unmapped territories and exploring new worlds. When one of their adventures leads to the discovery of a home to hundreds of new wild dragons, the two friends find themselves at the center of a battle to protect the peace because only together do they have the power to change the future of both men and dragons. For more on the film, watch the first five minutes of the movie.
While at WonderCon to promote the upcoming release of the sequel, actor Jay Baruchel, who voices Hiccup in both the films and the TV show, and writer/director Dean DeBlois talked about how things have changed since the first movie, how the voice recording works for these films, how many different types of new dragons there will be, the characters new to this film, and the plan for the franchise, going forward. Check out what they had to say after the jump.
DEAN DeBLOIS: Well, we very deliberately advanced the narrative by five years because we realized that, coming out of the first movie, Hiccup had achieved everything he wanted. He had the admiration of his father, the respect of the town, and even the affection of Astrid, the girl that he was pining for. So, to give him a new problem, we looked at our journeys in life and realized that there’s that moment when you look back at your childhood with longing and realize that the future is daunting because you have to become an adult. In Hiccup’s case, he’s being groomed to become chief, and that seems like a very dull and bad fit for him, as a future. So, it’s really about him discovering the other half of his soul that’s lurking out there in the world, and he expresses that by constantly mapping and going deeper into uncharted lands, and finding new dragons and finding new conflicts.
How does the television series factor in to the movie franchise?
JAY BARUCHEL: One of the cool things about the TV show is that we get to go a bit more into the everyday life. We don’t have enough screen time to do that in the movies. We have a very specific finite amount of time that things have to happen in, in the movies. What the TV show gives us is the chance to put the audience in that neighborhood and on that island, experiencing the minutiae of everyday life for a Viking.
DeBLOIS: The idea of doing a sequel needed to be necessary to me. I think that there were enough unanswered questions in the first movie that it did feel like there was more story to be told. But my pitch was that it be a trilogy, so that it can be the middle act of a three-act story. It will culminate in a very finite way, much the way that the books end. It was about the disappearance of dragons and what happened to them, and Hiccup’s coming of age. There’s a lot of interesting stuff there, and lots to explore. The stories write themselves. The moment that you leave the island and venture off into this rich world where there are different types of dragons with different abilities, all over the place, it’s just a fun world to live in and very easy to write, actually.
BARUCHEL: Well, for me, there was no question. I didn’t want anyone else to play the role. I think part of the actor’s job is to take ownership of the character, and to be defensive and protective, and all that stuff. So, when it was first mentioned that Hiccup might have a life on television, it had to be me, in my opinion. What is really cool about the TV show is that it takes place in between the two movies. And so, when all is said and done and we walk away, we’ll have given the world a pretty full, complete story. Selfishly, it’s kept me in that mind space. A lot of people have been asking me what it’s like to come back to this character and come back to this world, and my answer has constantly been, “I never left.” I just love that we’re creating this deep, open platform that’s a multimedia world. What it all comes down to is that I just didn’t want anyone else to play Hiccup.
DeBLOIS: Nor would we.
BARUCHEL: Thank you. That’s good news.
Is there anything specific that you do to prepare for doing voice-work?
BARUCHEL: My getting ready involves waking up, taking a shower and going in there. Sometimes I don’t even shower because I don’t have to. I don’t have to put make-up on or a costume, or anything. Sometimes I give myself a cool mission to not shower for two weeks, if I know I’m going to be in a room with [Dean] for a few hours. But, I adore it. When I started acting at12, which is strangely 20 years ago, one of the first gigs I had was in dubbing shows from France into English, in Montreal. If you can do dubbing, you can do any of it. Dubbing is about as thankless and labor intensive as voice acting gets. So, this is just a dream. I love it because I have a pretty overactive imagination, and I’m a chronic daydreamer. Being in that booth, that’s what’s required because there are no actual dragons in front of me, nor anywhere in the world, I suspect. So, it caters to what I love to do. Also, at this point, I’ve been working with [Dean] for seven years and we just have a shorthand. I much prefer to take notes from him than most people.
DeBLOIS: Jay is one of those actors that embodies the character so well that he’s an authority on it. I’ll write lines that are in the neighborhood, and Jay will do one or two passes of that, but then he’ll just give me a line that’s perfect because it’s in character and better than I’ve written. And the ad-libs have so much more life to them, as well.
DeBLOIS: We have a group of dragons that were designed to fill the spaces. Valka has a dragon sanctuary filled with dragons that she’s rescued. We actually came up with a modular system where we could pair different heads with different bodies and wings and tails, and come up with endless varieties that way. So, they are the background, in a sense, these thousands of new dragons. Featured, there are probably about the same amount of new dragons that have hero moments that are really well-rigged and really well thought out, that are hopefully every bit as surprising as the other ones, if not more so.
Will there be other Night Fury dragons, this time around?
DeBLOIS: Toothless is a very unique dragon. Hiccup is as curious as to whether they’ll find another Night Fury out there, in their travels, but it has yet to be seen, whether or not that will pay off.
Jay, did you ever get to do any of your voice recording with any of the other actors?
BARUCHEL: I think, on this one, I was only ever in the same room as another actor once. But this is a fairly international cast, and a really big cast. Some of us are in Australia, some of us are in Canada, and some of us are in the States, in different parts of the States. One of the cool things about voice acting is that that doesn’t step in the way of things. We can still find a way to create and record together. For me, it’s usually in isolation.
DeBLOIS: It’s nice when we can get actors together because you can let them run the scene and step on each other’s lines, and sometimes go off script, if it feels right. I think the voice acting in animation is probably the only spontaneous element. Everything else is so meticulously planned and executed, and it happens over the course of several years. So, I encourage it, whenever I can, just to have actors interact or, in the cast of Jay, go off script, if it feels right to do so. Oftentimes, that’s the material we end up using.
What is Cate Blanchett’s involvement with the film, and how does she come into the story?
DeBLOIS: We had hoped that was going to be a fun reveal for the movie, but now it’s out there. Part of Hiccup realizing that a part of him is missing is drawn out from the first movie, with this idea of what happened to his mother and where she is. We thought it’d be interesting if she was missing for 20 years, and in those 20 years, like Diane Fosse, she’s been living among dragons and learning their ways and discovering their secrets and becoming their fierce protector. And if Hiccup were to run into that person, here’s this other side of him that’s just living this intense interesting, dragon-centric life. No wonder he’s this dragon whisperer, and this square peg. It’s really about expanding his own self-discovery.
Can you talk about the new characters and how they fit into the story you’re telling this time?
DeBLOIS: The scope gets really big in this movie. What Hiccup discovers, while he’s out mapping the world, is that there’s a brewing conflict, and that conflict is being incited by a very ambitious conqueror, who’s looking to build a dragon army. He’s played by Djimon Hounsou, and his name is Drago Bludvist. Drago Bludvist employs dragon trappers, and the self-declared greatest dragon trapper of all is Eret, Son of Eret, played by Kit Harington. He’s a guy with some misplaced loyalty. And then, the third character is Hiccup’s long lost mother, who is played by Cate Blanchett. She’s waging this one-woman war against Drago’s ambitions by actually rescuing those dragons and whisking them back to a sanctuary where she mends them back to health.
Jay, having played this character for so long, how much input do you get to give?
BARUCHEL: I’d like to think so, but I really have no idea. They might just be humoring and saying, “Yeah, sure, go and do that,” even though they won’t ever use it. I adore that character, and I’d like to think that I’m one of the people that knows him the best. We’ve been at this together for awhile now, so it’s just a beautiful collaboration. If nothing else, they allow me to chime in.
DeBLOIS: I think Hiccup is so similar to Jay, in so many ways, that when Jay has an opinion about the character, about what he would say or wouldn’t say, and how he might say it, I give up the fight because that I know I may have heard it a certain way, in my head, but that’s me second-guessing him. He’s the greatest authority on the character. I try to get it in the neighborhood, and he takes it home.
DeBLOIS: No. I do a lot of the temporary voicing. In fact, I’m the temporary voice of Hiccup, until Jay comes in. It’s horrible and embarrassing, and I’d never let any of you hear it. I’m not an actor. I’m very happy to hand it over to Jay.
BARUCHEL: It makes my life wonderful. I look forward to it, so much. His temp work is the reason I get up in the morning. He tries to do a little impression and everything. It’s the best!
What’s the plan for the franchise, going forward?
DeBLOIS: I know that they’re preparing for a third season of the TV show, but I don’t know if it’s been greenlit yet. The idea of the third season would actually begin to set up the second movie. That’s the beauty of it. They’ve done two seasons that were intentionally not stepping on our toes, in terms of the surprises and reveals that we have. Now that the second movie will be out there, the third season that would follow it could get closer to the setups of those things and hopefully create a seamless narrative. I know that there’s been quite a lot of talk about expanding the world with different young adult novels that would explore different characters and different backstories. That’s all yet to come. I know the general idea is out there. It’s a big ambition. We want to keep developing the world and going as far as we can, but I’m not that aware of specifics.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 opens in theaters on June 13th. Click here for all our WonderCon coverage.