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The Vikings Who Attack
In the screen adaptation of "How to Train Your Dragon,” the worlds of Vikings and dragons each have their separate domains —but when they cross, as they often do, the result is explosive and destructive. Dean DeBlois says, "We wanted to set the idea that there was a mythology to this place, and the Isle of Berk, where they live, had been sailed to many, many generations ago, about 300 years earlier. And from the first time they set foot on the island, it was beset by dragons. So, much in the way that ranchers dealt with wolves or any number of settlers dealt with perceived predators, the reaction is to fight back. These Vikings were being raided by dragons that would steal their food and damage their homes. And so, what we have is a conflict that is rooted in generations and generations of trying to cohabitate.”

It is in the midst of this world that we are introduced to Hiccup, the only son of chief Stoick, who, despite his earnest attempts, simply does not fit in. In fact, whenever he tries yet another plan to win the favor of his father and the other villagers, the results are invariably disastrous. To keep him out of the fray and hopefully avert additional calamitous schemes in the hopes of redemption, Hiccup—a constant source of Viking ridicule—is assigned as an apprentice to Gobber, the blacksmith and confidante of Stoick. Despite his love for his son, Stoick often feels ashamed that his one heir is (in his eyes, anyway) totally unfit to become a Viking, much less, its future Chief. Hiccup's brains are undervalued, and his lack of brawn is viewed as an insurmountable flaw.

"The most important quality of an actor in animation,” says Arnold, "is his ability to portray something in his voice. The thing I like so much about Hiccup is that his perceived liabilities—his smarts and his offbeat viewpoint—become his greatest assets. We root for Hiccup. That quality comes through in spades in Jay Baruchel. He's smart, he's funny, and a little bit off-center in his humor.”

Arnold also credits writers Sanders and DeBlois—along with Baruchel's performance—with creating an underdog character worthy of our support. "Hiccup is really the future leader, and this is something that the rest of the tribe has to come to terms with and understand.”

Chris Sanders says, "It's just so much fun to work with Jay, because he really does bring your lines to life. And its more than that, he really inhabits his scenes. Showing him your material is like showing it to Hiccup himself. While we're recording Jay would often pause and say, "I think he'd say it more like this,” and then take another run at it. Sure enough, it would always sound more comfortable. Sometimes it's just a word, but it would make all the difference. It's the part of the process where we give everything a final, custom fit. After every recording session with Jay we would learn a little more about the character of Hiccup, and apply those lessons to the next series of scenes.”

"On the Island of Berk, where the movie takes place, the rite of passage for every Viking is to go out and kill a dragon,” explains Baruchel. "The Vikings have been at the mercy of dragons for as long as they've been on the island. They are essentially the pests, the pigeons or the skunks or the raccoons the Vikings have to deal with—only, instead of messing up statues or tearing up gardens, they steal sheep and destroy entire villages. So for Hiccup to eventually develop something of a rapport, an affinity for a dragon, that's blasphemy in the town. Not exactly something the son of their leader should be doing.”

For DeBlois, Baruchel not only sounds like what Hiccup should sound like, he brought to mind certain characteristics of him: "Jay himself kind of embodies a lot of what Hiccup is. He has a trim build, is very quick-witted, and very intelligent, and he brin

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