When the first “How To Train Your Dragon” came out, I was excited because Chris Sanders and Dean Deblois were both involved, and “Lilo And Stitch” was one of the most charming animated films in recent memory. Sanders has moved on, but Deblois is now the primary architect of the “Dragon” series moving forward.
It's safe to say that the series is in good hands. “How To Train Your Dragon 2” isn't just one of the best of the Dreamworks sequels, it's one of the best sequels to anything that I've seen in a while. It is a confident, smart story, told with an eye on both the epic scale of the world and the action as well as the intimate emotional material that makes this something more than just an excuse to sell a new toy line to the fans who loved the first movie.
When we spoke about the film, he discussed how he approached this as the middle chapter in a trilogy, and while there are plenty of filmmakers who discuss similar things when publicizing their movies, it feels like Deblois has a better than average handle on how that actually works. So often now, sequels feel like they're checking in just to remind you something exists and so they can squeeze a little money out of the fans. Here, we meet Hiccup at the next major turning point in his life. The first one transformed his community and his entire way of life, but Hiccup isn't done. He's busy mapping the world around Berk, trying to learn more of who might be out there somewhere. It's been five years, so the Hiccup in this film is a young man really coming into his own. The way Deblois establishes what has changed and the way he builds onto story threads from the first film is very elegant, and it's obvious that he loves this world. And when he finishes the story, he wraps it up. There's no cliffhanger in a traditional sense, but there is still plenty of world left to explore. It's hard to strike that balance in a way that doesn't feel crass these days, and he nails it.
I'm excited to see where Deblois goes from here. He's going to finish out the third “Dragon” film, and then I want to see what other characters and stories he brings us in the future. I think he's one of the best storytellers working in animation right now, and there's an emotional maturity to his work that is really appealing. It was great to get a chance to check in with him as he prepares this new chapter in the story to be released.
“How To Train Your Dragon 2” is in theaters everywhere June 13th.