One of our favorite movies last year, animated or otherwise, was How to Train Your Dragon 2. The gorgeous animation; the rich, expanding world; the engaging story; and, of course, the fantastic dragons and their riders made for an epic adventure that left us wanting more. A third movie is reportedly slated for 2018, but in the meantime, we have plenty of dragon-related excitement to look forward to with an upcoming Netflix series featuring our favorites from How to Train Your Dragon. We got an exclusive first look at Dragons: Race to the Edge at the DreamWorks Animation WonderCon panel on Sunday (April 5), and after the panel, we had the chance to talk exclusively with the series’ executive producers, Art Brown and Doug Sloan.
At the panel, we learned that Dragons: Race to the Edge is set one year before the events of How to Train Your Dragon 2. It isn’t simply “a new series,” as Doug Sloan explained, but an entirely new epic adventure that Art said “promises more dragons than anyone has ever imagined.” The first clips from the series teased the discovery of the Dragon Eye, a mysterious artifact that will unlock a whole new world for Hiccup and all the Dragon Riders and enable them to continue exploring, though they won’t know what it is at first. “In the good hands, it’s awesome. In the bad hands, it’s no good,” Art said.
We also got a look at the first few of many new dragon species that will be introduced throughout the series. Obviously, the prospect of meeting new dragons is one that many fans are eager to learn more about with any new How to Train Your Dragon-related project. We asked Art and Doug whether they take inspiration from any specific animals or environments when developing the new dragons. “We–our writers and us–get inspiration all the time from animals, both in land and sea,” Art said. “There’s a dragon [the Cavern Crasher] that comes out in the new season that…flattens its body really small like a certain lizard.” Interestingly, though the dragons are these amazing mythical creatures, Doug and Art explained that they try to draw from reality as much as possible in their creation. “We try to take from the physiology of the animal kingdom that exists now and translate that into dragons. Because there’s so much amazing stuff animals can do, just animals that are in our ecosystem,” Doug said. Art added that this “allows the show to have that basis grounded in reality.”
That said, what kind of dragons can we look forward to meeting in the new series? Art talked about the Catastrophic Quake, which “rolls like a boulder, so you think it’s a boulder. But then it rolls back uphill, and then the thing just comes [at you].” He also mentioned the Night Terrors, a flock of small dragons that come together to form the shapes of larger, more terrifying dragons to scare off predators. Doug teased the appearance of another species, Fireworms, which will be migrating and landing on the Edge, causing the whole place to catch fire. During the panel, we also learned about the beautiful Deathsong, a dragon that draws in other dragons with a siren-like song before encasing them in amber and saving them to snack on later. All in all, it sounds as though there are plenty of exciting new species for our favorite Dragon Riders to discover.
Speaking of, we will of course seeing a lot of the central Dragon Riders we are all familiar with–Hiccup, Astrid, Snotlout, Ruffnut, Tuffnut, and Fishlegs–as well as some exciting new characters. With the exception of Jonah Hill (Snotlout) and Kristen Wiig (Ruffnut), the original voice cast from the movies–including Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, T.J. Miller, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse–are all accounted for in Race to the Edge. Doug assured us that “the girl who does [Ruffnut] is fantastic, and the guy who does Snotlout is amazing.” He and Art also teased new voice actors who will contribute to Dragons: Race to the Edge, including Alfred Molina (Raiders of the Lost Arc, Spider-Man 2), who will “do a bad guy who’s really cool” and Adelaide Kane (Reign, Teen Wolf), who will be the head of a new tribe that will be “a friendly tribe to [the Dragon Riders], and they have their own worship of dragons.” On the villain front, we can also expect to meet a nasty brother team–and, Art explained, “in a very subtle way, you start to see the tie to Drago [HTTYD2‘s villain]. You start to see the through-line of bad guys that they meet.” “Sort of going up the ladder,” Doug added.
With the show subtitled Race to the Edge, we had to wonder how much we’ll be seeing of other fan-favorite residents of Berk. Though we will see events that tie into How to Train Your Dragon 2, such as episodes in which Stoic the Vast and Gobber will get their dragons (Skullcrusher and Grump, respectively), “it’s almost like the kids are at college, in a weird sort of way,” said Doug. “So you won’t deal with Stoic and Gobber as much.” But they will also come to the Edge, and the interactions between Stoic and Hiccup will be especially meaningful for fans who have seen the films. (Spoiler alert!) “You really see the difference between the relationship with Hiccup and his dad developing from father/son, having to ask for permission, to being peers. And also because Stoic passes away in the sequel, all the stuff with Hiccup and him is that much more meaningful because you know what’s going to happen,” Art said.
Streaming platforms–Netflix especially–have really become game-changers in the entertainment landscape. Art and Doug said that developing Dragons: Race to the Edge as a Netflix Original Series as opposed to a traditional series or film has been “awesome.” “They’ve really pushed us to do something brand new, so that’s what we really want to do for them,” Art said. “It feels like a brand new show. They’re out of Berk, they’re older…” “The look of the show is very different. The music is different. It really is a different, different show, and that’s what Netflix wanted and what we wanted to do for them,” Doug added.
So which element of the new series are Art and Doug most excited for fans to experience? “We’ve really tried to ramp up the comedy, and we’re very, very excited to see how people respond to that,” Doug said. “And then, of course, the way the show looks now–it looks more like a movie than it has in the past. But I don’t know that, you know, necessarily kids will really care much about that? They care about the stories and they wanna laugh.” Art teased that the relationship between Tuffnut and Chicken (which, we must add, already looks hilarious from a very short clip shown at the panel) is especially fun. He also feels that they have done a good job of “really bringing the dragons to life” in the series. “You saw even how funny and animated Toothless is–we took the lead from Dean [DeBlois, HTTYD2‘s director] with that opening scene where [Hiccup] is playing with Toothless, and we really just said, ‘let’s build that. Let’s build that relationship.’ Toothless is always the biggest, baddest dragon. But he’s really funny, and the other dragons, too. Hookfang, Fishlegs and Meatlug… Really to amp up those relationships [between dragons and Riders] is really cool.”
Dragons: Race to the Edge will consist of 52 episodes, with the first 13 hitting Netflix in June (and 13 more being released every 6 months or so thereafter). We’ll get to experience the overall arc of the title race to the Edge and the mystery of the Dragon Eye, as well as standalone episodes showcasing new areas and new dragons. “We want to be able to have enough episodes in every season so that if someone turns it on, they’ll know they can just jump right in, not having to know the backstory,” Doug said. Sounds like a perfect strategy for both dedicated fans of the series and those discovering Berk for the first time.
We can’t wait to learn more about the Edge, the new dragons and characters, and what else is in store for Hiccup, Toothless, & Co. in Dragons: Race to the Edge. Thanks to Art and Doug for chatting with us–make sure to check out the series on Netflix this June!
Dragons: Race to the Edge premieres on Netflix this June. Are you excited for the new series?
Featured Image: DreamWorks Animation