The following is a conversation that took place between Flickering Myth writer Justin Cook and How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World producer Dean DeBlois at New York Comic-Con…
Dean DeBlois’ name should rightfully hold some weight in the world of animation. Not only did he contribute to a variety of Disney Animation projects in the late 1990s and 2000s (Mulan, Atlantis: The Lost Empire), even co-writing and co-directing 2002’s Lilo and Stitch with collaborator Chris Sanders, but he’s written and directed every installment of what may be the most critically acclaimed and beloved animated film series on the market right now, How to Train Your Dragon.
Additionally, if How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World hits as hard as the previous two entries in the series did, in terms of box office numbers, visual flair and emotional impact, and based on the New York Comic Con footage fans have every reason to believe it will, the trilogy could very well go down as one of the greatest in animation history, maybe even film history.
As The Hidden World marks the likely end to the Jay Baruchel-starring How to Train Your Dragon trilogy, DeBlois is faced with the question of where to take his career next. After about three decades in animation, by the sounds of it, he may even want to try a new medium on for size, following the lead of Sanders, his collaborator on the first How to Train Your Dragon movie, who is now set to direct 2019’s live-action/CGI hybrid film Call of the Wild.
Check out the writer-director’s interview with Flickering Myth below, where he talks about moving on from the franchise, the film’s release date shuffle/delays and more…
Few animated franchises have had the same writer and director for each installment. What’s it been like spending so much time with this franchise? And also, are you gonna miss it now that the process is nearing an end?
I would say having spent a decade with these characters and this world, it’s a rare opportunity. It was pointed out to me by Guillermo del Toro, he said “It’s a drying up opportunity as well, it’s not gonna happen as much in the future.” But I feel, having been inspired by movies like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, and being able to weave a narrative across several installments is kind of a gift. And I’ve learned so much, I’ve grown so much, I think as a writer and director. And I feel like we pushed boundaries within DreamWorks and pushed technology to meet our aspiration. So the whole experience has been super positive, and I will miss the characters, but I’m also ready for something new. I’m not sure what that will be yet, but it will be great to dive into a new world, new characters, maybe even a new medium.
So would that be staying within the realm of animation or maybe into live-action directing?
I don’t know, I’ve always wanted to do live-action, or maybe a live-action[-animation] hybrid film… we’ll see. Not just for the sake of doing a live-action film, but if the material really spoke to me and I felt like I could bring something special to it, I’d love to dive into it. Still an ambition of mine.
The franchise has a lot of really great light, fun moments, but those are melded with these darker moments like the death of Stoick in the second one. I know based on the footage, we can expect more of those dark moments, but is there ever a concern about younger audiences responding to those moments? Do you think it’s important to have those darker moments in there?
Yeah, I do. I think you need the balance. I think humor is fine, but if you don’t touch people emotions then it’s forgettable. I certainly want to make people cry if I can, and I would love to thrill people and put them on the edge of their seat, and give them a few scares, but also in a disarming way, touch upon something emotional. That’s always my goal, more than it is anything that sort of feels fearful – I never do gratuitous violence, but I always try to go for something that really sticks with you, that touches you emotionally, that hopefully brings you to tears.
And then lastly, this movie had a release date shuffle. It was supposed to come out in 2016, and it was delayed until now. What was that like, dealing with that on your end?
(Laughs) I’ve just come to realize that you can’t really plan your future with too much conviction because the world of film is constantly shifting around. When I signed my contract this third film was supposed to come out in June of 2016, and now it’s gonna come out in February of 2019. And it really wasn’t a problem with the film so much, as it [was] just the studio at one point had expanded in terms of its personnel and its ambition. They wanted to put out three movies a year and then they scaled it back to two. And then the movie changed hands, so it went from an independent studio to owned by Comcast and Universal, so there was that adjustment as well. You just kind of roll with it. If the movie is something you ultimately want to be a part of, then you just kind of take on the changes and accept that’s the business, and it’s just gonna go that way.
What began as an unlikely friendship between an adolescent Viking and a fearsome Night Fury dragon has become an epic trilogy spanning their lives. In this next chapter, Hiccup and Toothless will finally discover their true destinies: the village chief as ruler of Berk alongside Astrid, and the dragon as leader of his own kind. As both ascend, the darkest threat they’ve yet faced—as well as the appearance of a female Night Fury—will test the bonds of their relationship like never before.
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is set for release on February 1st in the UK and on February 22nd 2019 in the US.