In 2010, DreamWorks’ computer-animated “How to Train Your Dragon” quickly distinguished itself as a truly awesome animated adventure. The franchise, which appeals to both adults and children, spawned a sequel plus two shows on Cartoon Network.
At WonderCon 2015 in Anaheim, the studio unveiled footage from “DreamWorks Dragons: Race to the Edge,” a Netflix original series bridging the gap between the movies. New and sometimes deadly characters appear as does the Dragon Eye, a well-guarded artifact filled with useful secrets for Hiccup and his friends.
After the panel, executive producers Art Brown and Doug Sloan joined a roundtable discussion about the series and what fans can expect. I asked the producers if “Race to the Edge” is as dark as it appears in the teaser footage.
“The pieces that we showed for the panel were a lot of set-up for the Dragon Eye. I don’t know if it’s dark, but mysterious or high stakes,” Brown explained. “There are some shows that are off-the-chart ridiculous. There’s a show where Tuffnut gets bitten by a weredragon and thinks he’s turning into a dragon. I think when you have the drama base, the comedy comes in and releases it and cuts it.”
Brown added that since the riders are older, the stakes are a little bit different. “So it’s going to feel, at times, like we go for it. When it’s mysterious, we go for the mysterious. There are episodes where we have the feel of a horror film.”
Sloan pointed out that the animation this year is much more realistic. “It’s much better than it’s ever been,” he said. “It looks more real. When it’s threatening, it looks more threatening; the dragons are sometimes terrifying.”
Sloan also thinks it’s an honor for them to bridge the gap between the two “How to Train Your Dragon” feature films: “How did the flight suit come to be? How did the Dragon Blade come into being? How did Stoick find his dragon? How did Gobber get his dragon? Us being able to make that up is just like the greatest thing ever. We’re setting building blocks up for Drago; it all sort of steps down to him and his bad-guy pyramid.”
“Race to the Edge” features such notable performers as Alfred Molina, who the producers said really wanted to do the show. Adelaide Kane, Chris Mintz, and Jay Baruchel, who is very protective of the Hiccup character, also are on hand.
“Jay’s a great guy,” Brown offered. “He loves the character, and he’s a writer as well. There’s a level of camaraderie in working with him. If something’s not working, he’s like ‘What if we do this?’ Whatever makes the show great, we’re open to it. That’s the beginning and the end.”
“DreamWorks Dragons: Race to the Edge” contains, as do most animated DreamWorks/Netflix offerings, kick-butt heroines. Astrid, voiced by America Ferrera, is a warrior who is fiercely loyal and protective of Hiccup. The awesome Mae Whitman also returns to the franchise as Heather.
“[Heather] ends up really becoming a big part of the riders in the Netflix series,” Brown revealed. “She comes back and she’s got a great storyline. Mae is terrific. Such as great person and a great actress.”
“DreamWorks Dragons: Race to the Edge” debuts on Netflix on June 26