Good to know Hiccup the Viking is still up for adventure in How to Train Your Dragon 2, the sequel to the 2010 box office hit. In this 3D, animated movie, the now 20-year-old, again voiced by Jay Baruchel, is living the dream, spending his days idly riding his friendly dragon, Toothless, with pal Astrid ( America Ferrera). But Hiccup will soon find out what it’s like to be a responsible adult in this (believe it) bit of a tearjerker.
We spoke to Baruchel ( She’s Out of My League, Robocop), Herrera (seen most recently in Chavez) and the writer/director, Dean DeBlois ( Lilo & Stitch), while they were at the Four Seasons Miami Hotel.
How did the sequel come to be?
DD: The first movie was based on a book series, but we didn’t know if it would work. We were really just trying to make a single movie to play to an audience. We had no idea the level of affection and love and fandom it would get. That led to discussion of a sequel, then a trilogy. So many sequels feel so unnecessary, so we needed to see these characters go through a rite of passage and a different storyline.
The special effects were something. What did you think of the finished product?
AF: I saw it for the first time at the Cannes Film Festival with a theater filled with about 900 people decked out to the nines. There was a moment in the beginning when Hiccup is riding Toothless, and it’s the closest I’ve felt to actually flying. My stomach literally, you know, raised up to my throat. I thought, “I feel like I’m falling.” It was really exciting. Jay and I were in the first row the entire time talking back and forth. People were like, “Shut up!” [Laughs].
DD: It was a very intense experience to hear Hiccup and Astrid on screen, then right next to you in your ear. The enthusiasm was palpable. It was really nice.
AF: I think no one in the theater was having more fun than Jay. He caught me crying.
JB: It’s hard not to. I think [ HTTYD2] is like every kid’s dream — a combination of a childlike obsession with dinosaurs and a childlike obsession with flying. Together you have them in a dragon. Yeah, I would ride one as soon as I could find one.
DD: We all have pets. So we have this deep affinity . . . we know the relationship between human and critter. A lot of that behavior goes into the dragons. You see your own cat or dog or horse.
AF: My dragon plays fetch, which is a lot like my golden retriever.
Were you in the same room or did you do your voice work separately?
JB: Just once, in the scene when Astrid does her impression of Hiccup. That’s when we got to record together.
AF: I felt really uncomfortable. I felt bad making fun of him.
DD: I kept urging her to go further, go further. At Jay’s expense.
JB: It’s OK. I’m aware of what I sound like.
How is it directing voice actors? Do you let them improv?
DD: I do my best to tee it up and leave it in their capable hands. Jay knows the character so well that we can sit in a room and banter about. He’s got a great take on the dialogue.
Not to give away too many spoilers, but can you talk about No. 3 at all?
DD: We plan on ending the trilogy the way Cressida Cowell’s books did. An adult Hiccup’s voiceover looks back at the time there were dragons, which suggests that they will go away for some reason. I think that will be bittersweet and powerful and, hopefully, emotional and satisfying.
How do you see these characters developing and changing in the third film?
JB: Astrid is convinced she is going to be chief, but she’s wrong about a lot of stuff [laughs]. I can’t wait to see Hiccup inherit his father’s mantle and see what his version of being a chief is like.