CANADIAN filmmaker Dean DeBlois’ fame may seem like it came out of nowhere, but the director of the acclaimed “How to Train Your Dragon” series has been in the trenches and paid his dues over the years.
In Shanghai to promote the Chinese mainland launch of “How to Train Your Dragon 2,” with 3D and IMAX 3D versions, DeBlois says the sequel is a tribute to the bravery of fathers and what they sacrifice for their families.
His father died when he was a boy.
The 44-year-old says “Dragon 2” features more complex shots and great effects, especially the battle scenes.
The story looks at how Hiccup and his dragon friend Toothless mature. Hiccup, in particular, is looking for meaning in his life as a young adult. A war breaks out and Hiccup understands it is his duty to protect the dragons and his homeland.
Born in Aylmer, a small town in Quebec across a river from the Canadian capital Ottawa, DeBlois began his career as an assistant animator and layout artist. He worked on “Mulan” and “Lilo and Stitch.”
In 2010, “How to Train Your Dragon” became DreamWorks Animation’s top-grossing film in North America outside of “Shrek Forever After” and earned DeBlois wide recognition.
The director shares some behind the scenes stories and ideas under consideration for the third installment.
There are so many different types of dragons in the sequel. Some look like cats and dogs. How did you create them? Did you refer to Chinese dragons?
A: A lot of people in our team have pets. I have three bulldogs. They are very cute with funny personalities. Some of my colleagues ride horses.
Yes. We used familiar animal images as a reference for the dragons. Based on real creatures including birds, dogs and elephants, we discussed what elements and personalities of animals could be presented in the characters. As for a Chinese dragon, I think it is an interesting creature and I would love to explore them in the third film.
Q: The film has been hailed by both children and adults. What is the target audience of the “How to Train Your Dragon” series?
A: We want the franchise to appeal to a broader audience including young children, teenagers and their parents. This is the reason we have included elements of romance, fantasy and adventure in it.
Japanese animation director Miyazaki Hayao does so well in this respect. He is a great inspiration to me. I hope that my movies can immerse viewers into this world and push people’s emotions. The story challenges them emotionally. I think it is the joy of watching a film.
Q: Chinese elements have been included in Hollywood animations such as “Kung Fu Panda” and “Mulan.” Are you considering making a film with strong Chinese elements? What subject would you like to try?
A: Chinese culture is rich with good story ideas and traditional Chinese images are also very engaging to me. One of my Chinese friends once showed me the image of a Chinese ghost — a woman with long hair. It was really fascinating. I want to explore more of that in future movies.
Q: You are a fan of the “Star Wars” franchise. Were you inspired by the George Lucas films?
A: When I watched “Star Wars” for the first time, I was only 7 years old. I loved it as a child, and I also love it as an adult. It makes me realize that a good film has no age boundary. It has also encouraged me to make movies like that.
Q: What surprises do you plan in the third installment?
A: In the third installment, both Hiccup and Toothless will be the leader of their own tribes. They may have more differences of opinion. They will also become heroes with great responsibilities. We also hope that each film in the series reveals more talent and the wisdom of the dragons.