Over the weekend at WonderCon in Anaheim, CA, actor Jay Baruchel (Hiccup) and director Dean DeBlois of How to Train Your Dragon sat down to talk to press about the upcoming sequel.
They revealed how the movie ties into the TV show, how it’s going to be the part two of a trilogy and the addition of Cate Blanchett into the mix.
The television series has been airing since the last picture, it follows the events after the first film but are there plans for it to bridge into the next picture?
Jay Baruchel: One of the cool things about the TV show is that we get to go into everyday life. What the TV show gives us is the opportunity to put the audience in that neighborhood and the islands and see what life is like every day.
DeBlois: The idea of doing a sequel needed to be necessary to me. I think there were enough unanswered questions in the first movie that there was more story to be told, but my pitch was that it be a trilogy. The second movie would be like the middle act of a three-part story. It will culminate in a very finite way. 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 help set up the second movie. They’ve done two seasons that intentionally weren’t stepping on our toes in terms of the surprises and reveals that we have, and now that the second movie will be out there, the third season could get closer to setups of those things and hopefully create a seamless narrative.
Jay, can you talk a bit about your involvement with the show? Many movies that spin-off into TV series tend to not use the same voice cast. What inspired you to keep voicing Hiccup?
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, I was very interested. What was cool about the TV show is that it takes place in between the two movies, so when we’re done with the franchise we’ll have given the world a very 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 world and my answer is, “I never left.” When it comes down to it I just did not want anyone else to play him.
Have you received any sort of producer’s input into the character since you’ve been with him for so long?
Baruchel: I’d like to think so. They could be humoring me for all I know.
DeBlois: Hiccup is so similar to Jay that whenever I have a question about how or what he might say, I give up the fight because I know I may have heard it a certain way in my head, but that’s just me second-guessing him. He’s the greatest authority on the character.
What are the changes in the universe since the first film?
DeBlois: Well, we’ve advanced the story five years after the first film because Hiccup had everything he wanted at the end of the first movie. He had the admiration of his father and the respect of the town and the affection of Astrid. So when we looked to give him a new problem, we looked at our own journeys through life and realized that there’s that moment when you look back at childhood with longing and realize that the future is daunting because you have to become an adult. Hiccup is being groomed to become a chief, and that seems like a very dull and unexciting future. So it’s really about discovering the other half of his soul and he expresses that by constantly mapping and exploring uncharted islands and finding new dragons and finding new conflicts.
What’s the scope of the sequel?
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, that conflict being incited by a very ambitious conqueror, Drago Bludvist who’s looking to build a dragon army. He’s played by Djimon Hounsou and employs dragon trappers. One of the self-declared best dragon trappers is Eret, Son of Eret, played by Kit Harington. And then there’s the third character, Valka, Hiccup’s mom, played by Cate Blanchett, who’s waging this one-woman war against Drago’s ambitions by rescuing those dragons and whisking them back to a sanctuary where she mends them back to health.
Could you talk a bit about Cate Blanchett’s involvement and how she comes into the story?
DeBlois: We had hoped that that was going to remain a secret until people saw the movie. I think Hiccup realizing that a part of him is missing is drawn from the first movie, this idea of his mother and ‘Where is she?’ We thought it’d be interesting if she was missing for 20 years, and in those 20 years she’s been living with dragons and learning their ways and discovering their secrets and becoming their fierce protector. And if Hiccup were to run into this interesting, exciting person who’s living this dragon-centric life, how would he react? It’s really about him expanding his own self-discovery.
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.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 opens on June 13th 2014