<By Swati Sharan>


We often attend festivals to see films. But we rarely attend them to see a film from behind-the-scenes. This time around, this is exactly what happened when attending the workshop for How to Train Your Dragon: A Hidden World at the Toronto International Film Festival 2018.

A Hidden World is the last part of the trilogy of this animated series. It follows Hiccup as he grows up into the chief of his village with his girlfriend Astrid and dragon Toothless by his side. In the last film, Hiccup and Astrid created a rescue haven for the endangered dragons in their village Berk. Now, however, the very presence of these dragons is posing a security threat. So the duo must begin by placing Toothless in a safe and far away dragon oasis that no one has ever heard of other than in mythology. And they don’t know where to look. On top of that, Toothless has fallen in love with another dragon. Hiccup is feeling like Toothless’s being in love is causing them to drift apart. Can everyone still be safe? Can Hiccup and Toothless’s relationship withstand the new changes in their lives? We will find out next March when the film releases.


But in the meantime, here are the highlights of the behind-the-scenes workshop that took place during the festival.

The event began with a hearty welcome for the Canadian writer/director Dean DeBlois by the students from his alumni Sheridan College and festival delegates. Producer Brad Lewis remarked, “Next time I’ll just tell people I am from Canada.”  He then added, “I jumped at the chance to work with Dean. This was a story me and my son were deeply moved with.”


One of the challenges that the talent faced between the making of the different sequels is the great leaps in technology. That consequently led to making the young characters go from childhood to adulthood. Dean DeBlois repeatedly spoke of how much of a group effort goes into making this kind of film with over 300 top-level artists working on this for long hours at a time. He spoke of the challenges in creating these imaginary worlds. Like in the case of finding a dragon oasis, you needed to borrow from some element of real life to create this refuge; colourful coral reefs were used as inspiration for this.

We were eventually treated to a surprise when voice actor Jay Baruchel (Hiccup) dashed on to the stage. He spoke about how much easier dubbing for animated characters became since 1995 when he first started at the age of 12.  At that point, you had to look at a screen and say your dialogue within a limited time in a pattern that beat dialogue routines into his muscle memory. “It was like a boring drill,” he remarks. “So when it came time to do this, it wasn’t like I had to learn another discipline.”


A scene from How To Train Your Dragon: A Hidden World

As for what each of these creators wanted us to come away with when watching the film, Dean said, “I hope the characters feel honest and true, much like people we know in our lives. My personal hope is that the people we are working with get to contribute to that tradition of putting inspiring films out there. So future generations want to make movies as well ‘cuz that’s what Spielberg and George Lucas did for me.”

Brad’s takeaway point was, “I guess Dean’s done some tender writing about some tender relationships like love and bonds and what happens to those bonds over time. I hope you find a piece of this in there and expand on that emotion.”

In true Hiccup style, Jay said, “If you are wired or built differently than the average person, it could be easy to get exhausted or defeated. I think one of the most beautiful things in these movies is that it doesn’t tell you to be yourself. It tells you be yourself because the world needs you. You’re in a role to fill a need. It might just not be abundantly clear immediately.”


Watch the trailer here:


(Photo Credits: Jeremy Chan for TIFF and TIFF Media Library)

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