DreamWorks Animation’s latest movie, “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World”, was released on Dec. 20.
“How to Train Your Dragon” in 2010 was a great hit around the world, nominated for Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film, and the sequel, “How to Train Your Dragon 2” was also a great hit around the world and nominated for same award 2 consecutive years.
The latest long waited sequel is expected to be nominated for Academy Award. Although the first movie gained high reputation from anime fans, the second movie did not released in movie theaters. There are additional expectations for the latest movie because of that reason.
We interviewed Director Dean DeBlois, to ask what did he think as important when he created the series, which describes the communication and coexist between the humans and dragons, two characters from different race.
The reason why he depicts bittersweet growing-up stories:
How to Train Your Dragon’ is story about a dropout viking, Hiccup meeting a legendary dragon called Toothless from Fury tribe, and proves that he can grow up by interacting with dragons, an enemy race to the human.
Later, Hiccup overcomes hardships he faces, and becomes a leader of the vikings. The movie is popular type of story that depicts the growth of a boy, but in the previous movies, Hiccup loses something and has a bitter ending although he gains victory at the last.
The majority of the story is a happy ending, but the boy’s experience is pretty severe. Why did Director DeBlois tried to make such story with a bitter ending?
“You feel satisfaction with a happy ending, but for me a fascinating story is when the character makes a decision, acts for it, and as he grows up, he has to pay what he wished for. Don’t you think our life is just like that? I believe that the story that make you feel the reality will makes the audience fascinate more.”
Hiccup was a dropout in the first movie, but he seems to be reliable as he behaves as a leader of a vikings’ leader in the latest movie.
All three movies described the growth of Hiccup and “coexistence of a human and a dragon”, and the series with this theme comes to the end in this latest movie.
“Throughout the 3 sequels, the main theme of the movie is the relationship between the main character, Hiccup and his partner dragon, Toothless. Hiccup did not feel confident and proud in the beginning, but he finds his uniqueness throughout the interaction with Toothless. The latest movie again describes an avoidable event for Hiccup and Toothless in order to advance their relationship.”
The latest movie not only sees Hiccup’s growth, but also Tootless’s growth.
“Toothless grows up together, becomes unique, and exchange opinions as he gets smarter. He appears more on the screen compared to previous two series. This time, the story is also about Toothless unable to decide between his natural instinct and friendship between Hiccup.”
Director DeBlois commented that the growth of the animators were necessary to depict the growth of Toothless. Because the animators understand more than when they created the first movie, it had been reflected to the actions of the characters.
“Because the animators had moves Toothless since 2010, they understand the characters more, and Toothless can moves in various patterns now. Advancement in techniques is of course important, but the reason why the animators can express the emotions of the characters more now is that there was an advancement in animators’ techniques and understandings toward the characters.”
How did the courtship movement of a dragon, the animal which does not exist in real world, was created?
One highlights of the movie as an animation is that when Toothless and female dragon , Light Fury express their love to each other. The scene is beautiful, as the emotion is expressed through movement instead of words.
We wonder how he created the courtship movement of the animal which does not exist. Director DeBlois commented that he “mixed unique courtship movements” of multiple animals.
“First, I wanted to included the scene similar to the scene in the first movie, when Hiccup and Toothless meets for the first time, to the latest series. When Hiccup met Toothless, Toothless was a wild dragon, and in this movie, Toothless meets the wild Light Fury. I researched many wild species to depict the scene. I researched courtship movements of birds, reptiles like lizards, and spiders and used the ones which are the funniest. The jumping scene of Toothlessis from spiders’ courtship movements. I used the birds’ courtship for the scene which Toothless sticks out his chin and return it to the original position.”
Toothless, who has a hard time deciding how to make the first contact, looks cute when he tried his best awkwardly. It is full of animations that can’t be done without imagination, so we would like the fans to see closely. Researching the original movements of the animals is an another way to enjoy the movie.
What the director of a live action movie brought us
This series is created with 3DCG, and it can be misunderstood as a reality, with backgrounds with reality and serious writing. The wavering flames looks real because it calculated a billion illuminating angle, followed light paths, and created the final calculated drawing. Director DeBlois commented the reason on his fixation on reality “I want the audiences to believe that a dragon once existed in the past.”
“Not only it looks real, but also the law of physics were real. It a world where a person die when they fall off from the flying dragon, and the building burns down when it catches fire. Only in such a world, the heroism of Hiccup can shines. In order to shine his heroism, we invited Roger Deakins, one of the greatest film director of live action movies, to take part in the movies.”
Roger Deakins is a film director who represents Hollywood, with the experience of being nominated for Academy Film Award for 14th time. DeBlois commented, “he brought us natural lighting and sophisticated camera work.” The best advice from Deakins was “to limit”.
“In animation, anything can happen. Unrealistic camera work, dynamic composition and all the other things can be created. Of course, there are many wonderful works that uses freedom of animation fully. Because we wanted to make the realistic, physically correct world, we needed his inspirations. Roger said, by looking at the storyboard, ‘which character’s perspective is this storyboard for?’ or ‘Is this cut necessary for the story or you just want to show it off to the audience?’, and he always gave up right advice to us. The movie is made as if it was filmed by a professional cameraman. When we were filming the first movie, Steven Spielberg visited our studio and praised us by saying, ‘the camerawork is like a live action movie.'”
The characters’ movements, the camerawork, and lights are all following the law of physics, and everything was done to add reality to the fantasy world where the dragons live.
All of the film itself, and the bitter story are like the real life, and expected to touch the audiences’ hearts.