Filmmakers Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders know how to make a dragon movie. And the animators proved it by directing the newest family adventure to hit theatres — How to Train a Dragon.
In the 3-D-animated comedy (which is based on a popular series of kids’ books), Canadian actor Jay Baruchel voices Hiccup, a bumbling young Viking that gains the respect of his family and friends after he trains a dragon — the dreaded enemy of the Norse (at least in this film).
So what exactly are the secrets to making an animated dragon movie? We got the answers when DeBlois and Sanders (Lilo & Stitch) recently visited Toronto:
First, make good source material your own.
“The world of the books differs considerably from what we did,” said DeBlois who explained that they turned the author’s “iguana-sized dragon” into a menacing black monster. “We needed one that was powerful and dangerous… (the studio) ultimately wanted a big fantasy adventure and so the elements were there but it took some hardline decisions.”
Next, find a partner.
“(Chris and I) write together and we direct together and we just act as each other’s toughest critics,” explained DeBlois. “I trust his sensibility and he trusts mine … it’s like two soul musicians who write better music together than they do separately.”
The film also featured more than 300 crew members working over a brief 14-month schedule.
“You have like fifty scenes out there at once that are in various stages of being produced so it’s a marathon,” added Sanders. “You’ve got to keep your energy up so that’s another reason to partner with somebody — there’s just so much to do.”
Finally, hire a great cast that includes Baruchel and Gerard Butler.
“They really worked their characters; they really want to get inside the heads of them,” said DeBlois of a voice cast that also included talk-show host Craig Ferguson.
“It’s a very draining thing, strangely, to stand in front of a microphone and do these lines over and over again and try to picture a scene that isn’t really happening around you,” added Sanders.