SAN FRANCISCO — There’s a lot of good and bad to making a follow-up to a highly successful feature film. The people behind “How to Train Your Dragon 2” ran into both as they were putting together the sequel that follows one of the best reviewed films of 2010.
“When we made the first film, there was nothing to compare it to. If for whatever reason we didn’t achieve what we were trying to achieve with the first one, so be it,” Jay Baruchel, voice of Hiccup in both movies, said. “Now there is that precedent so the series (there’s talk of a trilogy), by this point, takes on an almost institutional-like quality. So, we have to pay homage to it. There were no requirements the first time. Now, there are requirements.
“That being said, what’s easier is that we already have our rhythms, we have our shorthand. So, it’s just a matter of picking up where we left off.”
The main thing that everyone kept in mind was that the original “How to Train Your Dragon” was enjoyed by so many people that the sequel had to be equally as entertaining.
Not only did “How to Train Your Dragon” make almost a half-billion dollars at the box office around the globe, it pulled in an additional $158 million in DVD sales.
Producer Bonnie Arnold paid attention to the enduring qualities of the original.
As she was making “Dragon 2,” Arnold monitored social media for mentions of the original film — and saw plenty of high praise that keeps the bar for the sequel set very high.
“How to Train Your Dragon 2” picks up with Hiccup and his dragon, Toothless, getting caught in the middle of a war that could have deadly consequences for all dragons.
Hiccup will need the help of all his friends, a weird collection of dragons and a mysterious person from his past, to save the day.
Director Dean DeBlois, the man behind the original “Dragon,” knows disappointing sequels are more the norm than the exception.
“We knew that going in, so I knew if we were going to tangle with a sequel, I really wanted it to be as good or better than the first,” DeBlois said. “So I was looking at my past of viewing films and ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ was the one that really stood out for me because it took everything I loved about ‘Star Wars’ and made it bigger and better in every way.
“That became the high bar for us to measure ourselves against. We knew we would never really get there, but it was stimulating in that we collectively held hands and said ‘we have to deliver.’”
The attempt to deliver includes the same computer-generated images and voice talents from the original film. Where the team has tried to be bigger and better is in the expansion of the Norse world where dragons used to be feared. The sequel goes from a handful of dragons to hundreds.
The team was just as determined to make this move as emotionally strong as the original. One of the big attractions for the first film was the story line about a young man and a dragon coming of age, learning to trust and building a binding friendship.
“John Powell, our composer, summed up the theme of this movie really well. He created a new musical theme for the movie called ‘Lost and Found.’ I think that’s what the movie is really about. It’s Hiccup searching for what he’s to become against the backdrop of two rather overbearing parents and a lot of expectations of his community,” DeBlois said.
The cast and crew can relate because they started working on the sequel knowing there were a lot of expectations from the community of fans for the original film.