WonderCon 2014 was filled with so many wonderful and wonderous things. It’s practically in the name. So a film like How To Train Your Dragon 2, the sequel to the 2010 animated hit of the same name, would fit right in for a convention like this one. We were invited to sit in on the film’s press conference to talk to director Dean Deblois and film star Jay Baruchel about the film itself, what kinds of new characters would we would see and how it would affect Hiccup’s character growth, and the number of new dragons we would encounter and the logistics of creating them. Hit the jump to read what they had to say.
Can you start off by telling us where and when the film is set, and how Hiccup has grown in that time span?
Dean DeBlois: The narrative of the film is set five years after because we realized that coming out of the first movie Hiccup achieved everything he wanted: he had the admiration of his father, the respect of this town, and the affection of Astrid. So to give him a new problem we kinda looked at most of our journeys in life. We realized at that moment when we look back at our childhood and longing, and realized there are situations that happen before he can become an adult, and in Hiccup’s case it’s being groomed to become a chief, and that is dull and a bad fit for him. So without him discovering his soul, he expressed that by flying with Toothless to uncharted lands, finding new dragons, and more.
Can you talk about how Cate Blanchett role?
DeBlois: Part of Hiccup realizing that a part of him is missing is drawn out from the first movie. This idea of what happened to his mother, where was she. So we looked at it as “what if she had been missing for 20 years?” and in those 20 years she was living amongst those dragons, learning their ways, discovering their secrets, and becoming their fierce protector. So if Hiccup were to run into that person, well of course, there is this special side of him that’s just intense interesting second life, no wonder he is this dragon whisperer. So it’s really about expanding his own self-discovery.
Can you talk about coming back for the TV show?
Jay Baruchel: Dean had pointed out to me earlier that one of the cool things about the TV show is that we get sort of go a bit more into everyday life. We don’t have enough screen time for it in the movies. We have a limited amount of time, and things always have to happen. What the TV show gives us is a chance to put the audience in that neighborhood, on that island, experiencing this sorta minutia everyday life working on Berk.
Talk about why it was important to do a sequel for How To Train Your Dragon?
DeBlois: The idea of doing a sequel needed to be necessary to me. There were a number of unanswered questions in the first movie, that I did feel there was more story to be told, but my vision was that it would be a trilogy, a middle act to a three act story, we would call it a very finite way, in much of a way that it is addressed in Cressida Cowell’s books: the disappearance of dragons, what happened to them, and hiccup’s completion of coming of age. The stories kind of write themselves, the moment you leave the island of Berk, and you venture off into the world that Cowell has created, there are also different types of dragons with different abilities all over the place. It’s just a fun world to live in, very easy to write.
It’s rare to see the star of the film and sequel reprise his role in the television series,
Baruchel: For me it was just, there was no question that I didn’t want to hear anyone else play him. I think part of my job is to take ownership of the character and to be defensive and protective, and all that kind of stuff. So when even there was a first mention that Hiccup might have a life on television, it had to be me. What is really cool about the TV show is that it takes place in between the two movies, and so when it is all said and done, in what way we would have given the full and complete story. Selfishly it’s kept me in that mindspace, and so a lot of people have been asking me what it’s been like to come back to this role I say well I never left. And so I just love we are creating this kind of free open world, but when it comes down to it I just did not want anyone else to play him.
DeBlois: Nor would we.
How does one get ready for a voice role for a film like How To Train Your Dragon 2?
Baruchel: How do I get ready for it? Hmm. Getting ready involves waking up, taking a shower, combing my hair; sometimes I don’t take a shower, because I don’t have to. I don’t need to put makeup on, or costume or, or anything. Actually sometimes I give myself a mission, I try not to shower for two weeks, and I spend time with Debois for a few hours. No actually I adore it, when I first started acting I was 12. Strangely it was 20 years ago. One of the first gigs I had was dubbing, dubbing from French to English in Montreal, and if you can do dubbing you can do any of it. That was about as thankless and labor intensive as it can get. And this is just a dream. I love it because I have an overactive imagination, and being in that group, that is what is required. Because there is no actual dragons in front of me, nor anywhere in the world, so it kinda caters to what I love to do. And I’ve been working with Belois for seven or eight years, so it is kinda of a short hand. I much perfer to take notes from him.
DeBlois: Another thing to say about Jay is that he is just one of those actors that embodies the character so well, that he is an authority on it. All the right lines, in the neighborhood, Jay will do one or two lines, and then past that he’ll do it in character better than I had written it.
What kind of dragons can we expect to see in the film? What is the creation process behind what kind of dragons we see?
Baruchel: You know what kind of actual dragon geniuses we have in the first film? You actually tracked them? Not trying to point you out, but wow! How come I don’t know this?
DeBlois: We have a group of dragon that were designed to fill the spaces, because Valka (Cate Blanchett) has a dragon sanctuary for the different dragons she has rescued, and we actually came up with a modular system where we can pair different kinds of bodies and wings and tails, and come up with endless varieties that way. They are in a sense the background. Featured, there are about the same amount of new dragons on the island, and there moments that are really well rigged, really well thought out, and hopefully they are every bit as surprising as the other ones if not more so.
Do you guys record your voices together?
Baruchel: I think on this one I was only in the same room with an actor once. BUt there is the thing. The film is a fairly international cast and a really big cast, so some of us are in Canada, some of us are in Australia, some of us are here in the states. So one of the cool things about it being voice acting is that things like that don’t get in the way of things, you still find a way to create and record together. For me it’s just usually an isolation room.
DeBlois: It’s nice when we can get actors together, because we let them run the scene, get in on each other’s lines, sometimes go off script if it feels right. I think the voice acting in animation is the most spontaneous element, everything else is so meticulously planned and executed that it takes place over the course of several years. So I encourage it whenever I can for actors to go off script.
How To Train Your Dragon 2 Opens in theaters on June 13, 2014.