The How to Train Your Dragon Franchise Is Full of Surprises Behind the Scenes
You can't create an amazing story of friendship between a teen and a dragon without a few tricks up your sleeves, or imagination.
With the final installment of the DreamWorks Animation How to Train Your Dragon franchise set for theatrical release in the United States on February 22, we aren’t quite ready to say goodbye to loveable Viking warrior Hiccup, his fire-breathing dragon Toothless, and their fearless bond of brotherhood. Although it’s hard for us to part with this timeless bond of man and beast, the final battle between mankind and the dragon world is inevitable.
The How to Train Your Dragon series is popular with children and adults and profitable: How to Train Your Dragon (2010) raked in an impressive domestic gross of over $217 million, and How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014), earned a little over $177 million. Combined, the two films grossed $1.2 billion worldwide.
If you’ve watched the movies countless times, you know the story well; if you’re new to the series, there’s much to discover. Regardless of where you fall on the How to Train Your Dragon knowledge spectrum, there are surprising facts you may not know about the franchise. And as the final How to Train Your Dragon movie hits theaters, it’s a perfect time to share them.
10 Interesting Facts: How to Train Your Dragon Series
1. In How to Train Your Dragon, Toothless’ silhouette is seen flying through the DreamWorks intro animation.
2. Animators had to attend “flight school” during production where they studied flight physics and movements of different creatures to create realistic characters.
In an interview with Hollywood News, Supervising Animator David Torres said the animators took a two-week intensive course led by Head of Character Animation Simon Otto. Torres said they learned about aerodynamics and used the concepts when animating a creature to create the most realistic flight sequences. Throughout the course, they were tasked with small animation tests where they animated just a wing or tail as opposed to the full body.
3. Cressida Cowell's novel series is the basis for the How to Train Your Dragon movies.
British author Cressida Cowell wrote a series of 12 children’s books following the adventures of Viking teenager Hiccup as he embarks on the ultimate hero’s journey. Publication of the first book occurred in 2003 and the last installment in 2015. In an interview with Movie Web, Cowell said she loved the screen adaptations of her books, remarking she considered the flight scenes better than James Cameron’s Avatar.
4. Toothless’ physical appearance and behavior is a combination of over 10 animals.
“Toothless is a cross between a black panther, a bat and a small bird of prey,” Head of Character Animation Simon Otto said in a 2014 interview with Empire. “He also has some snake influences in his design and his behavior is a mixture of cat, dog, horse and a whole lot of other odd animals, such as wombats, kangaroos etc.”
5. How to Train Your Dragon was the first DreamWorks film with a musical score composed solely by John Powell.
Composer John Powell (Solo: A Star Wars Story) had previously collaborated with other composers on the musical scores of the DreamWorks films Antz (1998), The Prince of Egypt (1998), The Road to El Dorado (2000), Chicken Run (2000), Shrek (2001), Spirit Stallion of the Cimarron (2002), and Kung Fu Panda (2008). His work on How to Train Your Dragon earned him a 2011 Oscar nomination for Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score.
6. Hiccup is the first teenage protagonist in a DreamWorks film.
Of all 36 DreamWorks films, the How to Train Your Dragon series is the only one to feature a teenaged main character, Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III. The gangly, awkward adolescent is animated after the actor who voices him, Jay Baruchel. From Hiccup’s pale, gawky physicality to his high-pitched voice and sarcastic delivery, the creators of How to Train Your Dragon give Hiccup every piece of Baruchel’s essence possible.
7. How to Train Your Dragon 1 and 2 were nominated for Oscars for Best Animated Feature Film of the Year.
A devastating loss for How to Train Your Dragon as Disney’s Toy Story 3 bested DreamWorks at the 2011 Oscars. Even with dazzling, masterfully crafted animation and a gripping storyline, How to Train Your Dragon’s friendship between Hiccup and Toothless, while a rival to that of Buzz and Woody, wasn’t enough to secure the win. Despite nabbing the 2015 Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature Film, How to Train Your Dragon 2 didn’t have enough gusto to beat Disney’s robotic adventure Big Hero 6 at the Academy Awards.
8. This is the first trilogy wherein each film has had a different distributor.
Paramount Pictures distributed How to Train Your Dragon, while 20th Century Fox handled How to Train Your Dragon 2. And the latest installment, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, is distributed by Universal Pictures.
9. The novel series does not feature Astrid; she was created for the movie.
The charmingly awkward romance between Hiccup and Astrid Hofferson (voiced by America Ferrari) wasn’t in the books that inspired the How to Train Your Dragon films; Astrid was contrived especially for the franchise as a strong female who young girls could identify with. Although she was originally written in as a love interest for Hiccup, Astrid’s character developed into a strictly competitive, tough-as-nails dragon warrior of her own.
10. The directors of How to Train Your Dragon also directed Lilo & Stitch.
Directors Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois also directed Disney’s animated Hawaiian adventure Lilo & Stitch. DeBlois also directed and wrote How to Train Your Dragon 2 and 3.