When director-writer Dean DeBlois considered the engine of change for DreamWorks Animation’s How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, he began to wonder what coming-of-age would look like for the Night Fury aka Toothless…as the dragon grows to yearn for a life beyond humans.
“For so long, he has been Hiccup’s constant companion,” says the director. “But he has begun to stray from that bond as he is drawn by the call of the wild—and by instinct and maturity.” To stay true to the narrative, the storytellers had to contemplate the unthinkable. “We asked ourselves if we could have their relationship completely fall apart, but still bring them back together, stronger than ever,” DeBlois says.
Once Toothless first encounters the Light Fury (so named by Astrid)—a stunning and shimmering all-white dragon who exists on pure instinct—our alpha male finds himself pulled to the wild world from which she comes and will assuredly return. “Toothless is conflicted by loyalty, but he’s drawn to what is so natural,” says DeBlois. “For him, that’s embodied by the Light Fury; she offers an innocent existence untainted by humans.”
(Watch the featurette New Year, New Dragon at: https://youtu.be/wbgt7OC2dgs.)
That said, DeBlois admits that any stranger breaking up our star couple had to be both likable and spectacular. “The Light Fury promises a family and the propagation of Toothless’ species,” he says. “She’s essentially there to lure Toothless back into the wild and to his rightful home. To make sure the audience is not resentful of Light Fury, we had to give her such a charming and distinct personality that she’d win us over. These are wordless transitions in animation, and imbuing her with these characteristics required our hitting familiar marks for humans.”
One of the more iconic moments in The Hidden World was one of the first sequences to be led into production: Toothless and Light Fury’s first date on the beach. Set to playful, romantic chords from series composer John Powell, the scene is primarily music-driven and largely a dance. While Toothless fumbles through his amateurish knowledge of the opposite sex, he must rely upon the creature in his life who loves him more than any other: Hiccup.
Toothless first captures the attention of his feral love by adopting a behavior he learned from humans, specifically Berk’s new chieftain. “We based this on the story of Cyrano de Bergerac and gave it a lot of love and care,” DeBlois says. “Hiccup encourages Toothless to replicate dragon courtship behaviors he’s observed. Still, this is a stunning female of the wild who expects Toothless to know what he’s doing. Of course, he’s a bumbling amateur…with Hiccup cringing on the sidelines.”
So what’s a dragon to do when he’s head-over-heels in love? “Toothless has no references; he’s the last of his kind, and there’s underlying sadness to that,” DeBlois says. “Ironically, the one thing he learns from a human—drawing in the sand—is what wins her over.”
In Philippine cinemas February 20, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is distributed by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.