This post is in partnership with Universal Pictures
That’s It LA recently went on an excellent day out with Toothless and Hiccup to celebrate the end of a Dragon training era at Dreamworks Animation Studios. We love the How to Train Your Dragon movies, and when we were invited to watch an early screening of the final chapter of the films: The Hidden World at Dreamworks Animation Studios, we had to go!
It’s always so sad to say goodbye, and even while watching the film we couldn’t help but feel bittersweet joy. We were ready to see Hiccup and Toothless all grown up and go on one last adventure with them. The movie picked up on familiar faces we followed in the previous films, specials, and Netflix shows. In the Hidden World, we see Hiccup as the Chief and ruler of Berk, alongside his Girlfriend Astrid, and their dragons in a utopia of both kinds chaotically cohabitating. When a Light Fury appears, and Toothless makes a strong bond, the destinies of rider and dragon begins to unveil. Together with their friends, when a deep threat rises and threatens their way of life, our Viking heroes band together to protect their own even if it means making significant sacrifices. This epic movie offers fans plenty of laughs, action, and so many tears! But mostly tears of joy.
What an incredible ending to a story of Hiccup and his best friend Toothless that cements the How to Train Your Dragon series as the best-animated trilogy of the last ten years.
At Dreamworks Animation, we were able to take a neat look behind the scenes and meet the cast of the film in a discussion about the movie. Jay Baruchel, the voice of Hiccup and America Ferrera, the voice behind Astrid, sat down to meet us and we got to learn about how they felt about their work on the films. To Baruchel, the movies have created essential lessons for kids seeing Hiccup’s journey to adulthood. “I think that there’s a few. The biggest one is that change is inherently difficult, but just because it’s difficult, it’s not to be avoided, that it’s an inherent part of growing up, that everything is bittersweet if it’s important. That nothing worth experiencing comes easy, you know. And I think that especially in the context of all three films, seeing where Hiccup started and where he ends up and how this is the kind of promise of all that potential if you’re born in the margins and told that everything you have is failings. Well, they can be virtues and that just because stuff is a certain way doesn’t mean it has to be that way. And it’s quite a hopeful outlook, I think.”
America Ferrera agreed and added, “ And I think whether you’re a kid or an adult, that is the ongoing journey, the world continues to change. And we have to keep finding the courage to say, ‘Okay, can I pass this threshold, can I become who I need to be to meet this next challenge, to step into this brave, new opportunity or difficulty?’ The movies are so fun and so beautiful to watch, but, really, I think the real success of this film lies in the heart and the deep meaning that exists with all of the characters.”
As the voice of Astrid, young children have gotten to see themselves in her journey as well. More capable than Hiccup–even, she has risen to leadership with sharp skills and knowledge to help her friends. It’s something Ferrera is proud of, “Astrid’s presence in this film as a young woman who isn’t just there to be his cheerleader, his girlfriend, but also stepping into her leadership and her bravery and her courage. And I think their relationship is such a great model for anyone in any relationship. It’s like they are partners, and they lift each other, and it’s never just about one of their needs or the other. They are in it together. And what a wonderful model for our boys and girls to grow up seeing.” She even sees a bit of herself in Astrid, “I feel like I’m pretty close to Astrid, aside from, you know, the ax-wielding skills and her fearlessness.” America explained about what makes Astrid so relatable to her and others, “I mean, I love to be physical. I played sports growing up, and I trained for triathlons. It doesn’t come as easy to me as it comes to Astrid. But, I think for her and Hiccup in the series, they know who they are deep down inside. And they remind each other what matters. And they remind each other who each other is when one of them forgets. And I think that centering and coming back to what matters–who am I, what am I going to let be the driving force of my decisions and my life–is something that I think resonates with me in who Astrid is. And she seems to be the one who is always pulling Hiccup back to his center and helping him grow into who he needs to become.”
Jay Baruchel, who’s voiced Hiccup in every incarnation of the character alongside Ferrera, also felt very connected to his role. Growing up in ways that he recognized in Hiccup’s journey is something Baruchel described, “Like Hiccup, in some ways, I was at odds with the culture I was born into. I certainly had some trouble trying to find my place because like I didn’t play hockey, I didn’t do all the stuff boys do where I grew up. And so, I identify with that kind of inherent outsider’s perspective–but like him, incredibly connected and loyal and patriotic to where I am from. And, you know, it’s weird because Hiccup is an awesome character, so for me to compare myself to him, I like to think I’m as principled as he is.” he laughed and continued to describe how the relationship between Hiccup and his father Stoick has similarities to his and his dad’s. “So, as I said, I didn’t grow up playing hockey. It wasn’t for lack of trying on my dad’s part. But–however, once he saw my interests, once he saw that I love movies, he encouraged the heck out of that. And so, me being in movies is in large part because my dad saw an interest and encouraged it. He didn’t necessarily need me to play hockey. He just needed me to care about something.”
Voice actors don’t get recognized as often as live action, but the duo did share their most memorable interactions with fans throughout the years. Baruchel told us, “Traditionally the most common interaction will be like someone would be, a friend of mine will bring their kid up and be like, “I love How To Train Your Dragon. He is Hiccup,” and then watch the kid look at me, I’m very used to disappointing a lot of the children by standing there and not being a cartoon. Those are the interactions that come to the mind the most frequently.” Ferrera nodded, “Yeah, if you get those looks, can you imagine what I get when parents are like, “That’s Astrid,” and then they’re like, “You’re smoking something, Mom. That is not Astrid.”
The empowering characteristics of its characters are what have made the stories in How to Train Your Dragon so timeless. Looking back the cast gives their fearless leader and director Dean DeBlois all the credit. Jay said, “It stems from our writer, director, who is a very hopeful, forward-thinking man with a big, wide-open heart and believes in the best in people in the world. Any of those messages that you felt, we paid homage to, that’s all from him. That’s all his belief system, which is ours as well.”
America interjected excitedly, “Yeah! And I will say over the years, Dean and I have had conversations about how to evolve Astrid and how to keep her active in her journey and to feel empowered. She has a full character that isn’t just about being the girl to the guy.” she said sharing that parting with the character was special because Astrid had an arc equal to Hiccup. “He has done her more than justice in really allowing her to develop into a full character that has a role to play in the larger journey and what ends up happening with the series.”
After the chat we got to meet the cast and explored the Dreamworks campus, sharing our memories of the films and adventures of the day!
Find out what happens to all of the beloved Dragons and Riders in How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World when it opens in theaters this Friday, February 22!
View our highlights from the Dreamworks campus!