Dean DeBlois came to The Contenders London with the third and final entry in the Oscar-nominated animated franchise, which debuted in 2010 and has since grossed $1.6B at the global box office. Adapted from the book series by British author Cressida Cowell, the latest instalment finds the human Hiccup and his dragon Toothless bonding to defend the now-peaceful isle of Berk from the arrival of aggressive hunters who plan to wipe out dragons forever.director
As well as featuring state-of-the art animation techniques, the series has been praised for its compassion in having a lead character with a disability. Speaking to Deadline’s Tom Grater, DeBlois revealed that it was actually Dreamworks Animation founder Jeffrey Katzenberg who encouraged them in this regard.
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“As we were completing story reels for the first film,” DeBlois recalled, “(we realized that) although we’d tried to take a lot of daring choices in the telling of the story, it all wrapped up very cleanly. Jeffrey Katzenberg said that he just felt like the ending was a bit too pat and he asked if we would consider killing off Toothless, which we thought was really extreme. But at one point we’d been joking around that maybe one of the kids wanted to lose a limb, so that they could be more like a one of the rough-and-tumble Vikings.”
DeBlois said that re-examining that idea was inspiring. “We presented it again as something that maybe we could do in earnest — maybe Hiccup would have some sacrifice to show for his bravery. It just worked out really well, because it made Hiccup a vulnerable character, one that had a kind of a symbiotic connection with Toothless, but it also spoke to a larger idea of the price of heroism. And in years to come, we were visited by a lot of military vets and a lot of amputees have reached out to us and let us know how much that meant to them.”
Although the Dragon movies have been incredibly successful for De Blois, the director confirmed that it was definitely a case of three and out. “I think from the moment that we first discussed doing a sequel,” he said, “I pitched back the idea of doing a trilogy, so that we could map three acts of one story — one large coming-of-age story that would take these disparate characters, bring them together through extraordinary circumstances, and then separate them in the end. The idea of having that bittersweet but life-affirming ending was very important to me, and I think that we accomplished our goal.”
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