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HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON

Designs Of An Age
As proven with some of the dragons, there is strength in numbers. The same could be said for computer animation, and among the ranks of "How to Train Your Dragon”' are some of the finest in the industry, including executive producers Kristine Belson and Tim Johnson.

"Kristine has unbelievable amounts of energy,” says director Chris Sanders. "It's not unusual for you to be discussing something with Kristine and she just suddenly goes off in the corner and does a headstand. I know that sounds crazy, but she's anything but—she just has tons of energy. She uses that energy as a great champion of the film and has great instincts. Tim is one of those guys who is so smart and so well-spoken that you feel a little less smart around him. You'll hunt for some way to say something, and he'll pop up with the perfect words. He expresses himself so well. On top of that, he has a great heart, and he has a really long track record with DreamWorks, so he really knows the ins and outs of the place. He's been a great help in just guiding us through the process here, because it's a little bit different at every studio. He's got great ideas, calm presence, and just expresses himself so beautifully.”

To Belson, one of the key issues was truth, specifically to the story the filmmakers wanted to tell, and the source from where it was drawn: "We went back to Cressida's book, and there's a lot of spirit in there, and I think that it remains in the movie, but we have definitely moved a lot of it and pieced it around. I think, in a lot of ways, the movie has actually wound up being somewhat of a prequel to Cressida's book.”

Cowell's book was also a big draw for Johnson: "I have two little boys, and we call this the sore throat book, because I can't resist reading it out loud with every accent. By the end of two chapters, you can't read anymore, because your throat is raw. It's that kind of writing that makes you want to inhabit the characters, to give them an accent, to be an outrageous personality—that was so appealing in the books, and it told us right away there was a big movie here. The world of Vikings and the exotic setting of these North Sea islands, the world of dragons, all of those add up to something greater than the individual parts, and makes for a really unique fantasy experience.”

Although most would consider the job of a film editor to be a post-production position, in the land of animation, it is exactly the opposite. Editor Darren Holmes on his role in the "Dragon” hierarchy: "I start from the very beginning, with no picture or sound whatsoever, and based on a script, or even just an idea, the story artist will draw panels. Much like a Sunday comic strip, these include indications of action and the dialogue that's involved for the idea of each scene. Those panels are given to us individually, and we will then record (usually temporary dialogue) with people around the studio here, and then cut those scenes together, to get a sense of how the scene is working—if the character moments are tracking, if the comedy is there. Unlike live action, you're actually able to go back and re-write and re-cut things that you haven't even shot yet. It's a much more fluid process. I like to compare it to the ability to project your script, inasmuch as you're still able to re-write it while you're still editing. You aren't given all the footage after eight weeks of shooting and asked, ‘Well, how do you put this together?' And you only have the capability to move things within the confines of continuity—wardrobe, location, day or night. In animation, you're able to move anything, any story point, to where it will properly fit in the film. And this allows you to spot a lot of potential problems earlier without being locked into having shot the whole scene. It's not actually post-production, inasmuch as all of production. We start at<

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