How to Train Your Dragon 2 writer-director Dean DeBlois and star Jay Baruchel have worked together for over seven years now since starting work on the first How to Train Your Dragon. They have grown close and it's fitting that we got to talk exclusively with the pair together at WonderCon recently to chat about their highly anticipated sequel that is one of our must-see summer movies.
When How to Train Your Dragon first came out, it struck a chord with audiences young and old and from all corners of the globe. We ask Baruchel and DeBlois what it is they think it was about this relationship between Baruchel’s Hiccup and his dragon Toothless that so resonated.
We also explore how this world that is shown in the How to Train Your Dragon 2 first five minutes is merely a “drop in the bucket” of what could be when it comes to further expanding this beloved franchise.
Movie Fanatic: You two have such a collaborative spirit working on How to Train Your Dragon and now How to Train Your Dragon 2. What do you find is the key to this magical working relationship and friendship?
Jay Baruchel: It could be because we grew up not too far apart from each other in Canada. But, there was a degree of kindred spirit as soon as I met him. I loved his ideas and everything that he wanted to do with the movie. I love the way he communicates. Now we’re seven years in the relationship and now it’s fairly instinctual and a wonderful shorthand. We understand each other. I don’t know that you have to tell me much now.
Dean DeBlois: I’ll start with a description and… he’s got it. He knows the character so well. So much of it is fashioned on Jay himself -- that sharp wit and very intelligent and also mindful of his physicality. All of that goes into that character in a charming way. We’ve recorded Jay more than anyone and he never puts up a fight about it. He’s always such a good sport and I think it’s because he knows he’s carrying the movie. The example he sets for the whole cast runs deep because they see how hard he works on it.
Movie Fanatic: What struck me about the first movie and it was evident from the first How to Train Your Dragon 2 trailer is the relationship between Hiccup and Toothless. What do you think it is about your character Hiccup and also his relationship with Toothless that so touches people?
Jay Baruchel: That’s a huge part of it. Our movie belongs to no time and no era. We live in an inpatient era and it’s 140 characters and reply in cyberspace. I think our movie is super old school [laughs]. People buy their ticket, they sit down and people told me when the first one ended they got sad. They didn’t want to leave. The world we created is this beautiful immersive escape that we get to take people to. You could come up with all sorts of rationales why people connect to it, but I honestly think the best of any art bypasses the head and goes right here (points to his heart). Our movie is visual poetry and it speaks to what, sometimes, people need.
Movie Fanatic: When the first movie came out and people flocked to it, it had to be incredibly gratifying. But, did you have that feeling Jay’s describing after being so immersed in it?
Dean DeBlois: I’ve been at this for a few years now and it’s the first world that I got to play in that it went on and on. But, it had something in common with Star Wars, which was the be all and end all as a kid. I love that it’s a universe that keeps going.
Movie Fanatic: There are so many messages to the How to Train Your Dragon stories, no matter what walk of life or where you are in your life -- there is something that speaks to you. What most spoke to you about this world?
Jay Baruchel: For me, it was the relationship between Hiccup and his dad and Hiccup and the world that he’s born in to. I understood that to a “T.” I’ve always been wired differently, for better or worse. I’ve never been interested in what all the other kids were interested in and certainly at odds with what my dad wanted me to be interested in. If it was up to my dad, I’d have just played hockey all my life. I was not that guy. Then, I’ve grown up around animals and I’ve never not had a pet at my house. Some of them I’ve forged incredibly meaningful relationships with, more than any other human. For me, that spoke to me.
Dean DeBlois: I grew up in a suburb of Ottawa where every house was identical to the other. It was hard to be special. I longed as a kid to be a part of something unique. I was always inventing these clubs and secret societies. What I love about Hiccup in the first story and it carries on to How to Train Your Dragon 2 is that he’s part of this elite little secret club – dragon riders. It’s an island that is a drop in a bucket of the whole world.
Jay Baruchel: It’s kind of like The Goonies!
Dean DeBlois: Yeah! The whole thing is a big wish fulfillment. Beyond being able to get on the back of a dragon and ride it, how about rebuilding one to some degree. Being an essential part of that creature, being able to thrive and fly again. It’s granting importance to a character that would otherwise seem insignificant.
Dragons on the brain? Watch How to Train Your Dragon online!