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...And The Dragons Who Fight Back
According to the myths put together by the filmmakers, the Vikings came to Berk about seven generations before the film takes place. With their first foot set on Berk's soil, so came the first dragon attack. And Vikings being Vikings—meaning incredibly stubborn—they refused to leave their newly chosen homeland. So they're determined to stay and fight, and fight to win, no matter how long it takes. The raids come mostly at night, and it stands to reason that the dragons go somewhere during the day. If they could just find their nest, they would stand a chance of eradicating the threat of nighttime attacks that have plagued them for more than 300 years.

"How to Train Your Dragon,” fittingly, begins with such a night attack, with hordes of dragons—and not just one breed, mind you—bombarding Berk, flying off with sheep, and destroying property. Dean DeBlois explains, "It was very important to Chris and me to start off with a big set piece, because we wanted to establish, right off the bat, the fantasy action-adventure element and to set up the conflict between the Vikings and dragons. We wanted to give audiences a big bang and set a tone, with lots of excitement, while letting them know that there will be a story with emotion and heart. But the film is bookended by really big, exciting action sequences.”

And so, dragons. Lots of dragons.

"In Cressida Cowell's original book, the dragons did speak. They had their own language, but we made a choice early on to have the dragons be more animal-like, with nonverbal communication. I think part of the reason was that it felt like that made the dragons more beasts, difficult to conquer, giving Hiccup and the Vikings a bigger obstacle to overcome. And ultimately, I think it made it more interesting for the animators, as well, because it really challenged them to give the dragons their own personalities, without relying on a voice. There is a sound element to it, but it's really about how they move and their facial expressions, and that is what animation and 3D do so well. In the end, I believe that's what differentiates our film from all the other dragon movies,” comments Arnold.

Of the multiple breeds of dragons included in Cowell's work, the filmmakers chose to focus on six individual, and very different, kinds of dragons—and while they each get brief introductions during the opening attack sequence, they are truly showcased during the sequences of Dragon Training, where a specimen from each breed is studied as it is thrown into the ring on successive training sessions. The film also includes a scene where Hiccup is leafing through the Dragon Handbook, where literally page after page is filled with a myriad of dragons—"That was our way of letting the audience get an idea how extensive this whole vast network of dragons surrounding these Vikings is. Then, they can understand that when they go out fishing or hunting, there may be a dragon hiding, in the water or in a crevice in a wall. Or up in a tree. And that makes their world seem even more complex and dangerous than we were able to do in the time we had,” adds Chris Sanders.

The filmmakers were so committed to creating the rich mythology of Berk, the Vikings and the dragons, they went to great lengths to establish their own version of Norse reality. Per Sanders: "As a kid, I was fascinated by blueprints, and I've been drawn to knowing how things work ever since. And I may have gone a little too far with the dragons. At one point, I wanted to know which dragon was the biggest and heaviest and such, as they're kind of deceptive, because some are very long, some are very compact. So I asked visual effects supervisor Craig Ring if there is a way for them to calculate the volumes of the dragons. And at first he said no, but I knew they could. And within 24 hours, he came back to me and said, ‘Okay, they f

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