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“DreamWorks Dragons: Race To The Edge” Interview With Showrunners Art Brown and Douglas Sloan

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Douglas Sloan (left) and Art Brown (right)
Douglas Sloan (left) and Art Brown (right)
Douglas Sloan (left) and Art Brown (right)

Art Brown began his career writing and directing the feature film Best Men and then went on to write The Doughboys and Disorderly Conduct.

Douglas Sloan joined the Power Rangers franchise in 1994 as the series acting coach before writing 150 episodes, directing 50 episodes, and producing 300 episodes of the series. He has also written and produced some Disney Channel’s movies, including Minutemen, Motocrossed, and Johnny Tsunami.

Brown and Sloan teamed up to write and produce The Boy Who Cried Werewolf and co-wrote Nicky Deuce. They served as showrunners for DreamWorks Dragons: Riders of Berk and DreamWorks Dragons: Defenders of Berk for DreamWorks Animation and Cartoon Network and continue as executive producers of the Netflix series, Dragons: Race to the Edge, which premieres June 26.

They sat down with TOONZONE NEWS and other members of the press to discuss the new series, first in a moderated session with Kelly Kulchak, Head of Current Programming at DreamWorks Animation TV, and then in a press roundtable.


MODERATED SESSION

KELLY KULCHAK: We’ve got two Dragons films. We wanted to do a Dragons series, could you talk about where it takes place in terms of the franchise?

DOUGLAS SLOAN: These episodes fall in between, obviously, the first and second movies, but they fall about a year and a half before the second movie begins. The kids in the movie are 20-21, and here they are about 19. So it’ll give them a good year or so to have all their adventures and then get back and we’ll pick them up in the second movie right as we leave them in the series.

KELLY KULCHAK: I love how you talked about it being like the “kids in college” years.

DOUGLAS SLOAN: Saved By The Bell The College Years.

KELLY KULCHAK: What if you didn’t see the first two movies, would you be able to step in and enjoy the series on its own?

ART BROWN: Sure. There’s three audiences we cater to. There’s the Dragon fans that have been with the franchise since the beginning, there’s a lot of Easter Eggs for them and they’ll see things in the episodes that are fun. There’s the older, the adults who really see this as a family show that parents and kids will watch together and discuss afterwards. There’s always a theme or a learning experience for the kids. Most importantly our new audiences that are coming up. So people that start with the first two episodes, it’s self explanatory. The adventures and new dragons and the new villains, it’s pretty contained in terms of that audience as well.

DreamWorks Dragons Race to the EdgeKELLY KULCHAK: What’s great about it is the character work that you do.

DOUGLAS SLOAN: They were very well drawn in the movies so that instantly you know all the archetypes. We’ve just been really fortunate to be able to explore them to a much greater degree than they ever could’ve done in the movie just because of time, so we get to do stories about the supporting characters. You get to pair people up, you can pair up Astrid and Tuffnut for example, and stories about these kids and their dragons and stories about Hiccup and Toothless. We get to dive in to all the stuff that you don’t have time to do in a 90 minute movie.

KELLY KULCHAK: So much has happened between the first and second movie, can you talk about that?

DOUGLAS SLOAN: When the show starts, Berk is not as developed as it is in the second movie, so it doesn’t have all the feedings and tunnels and all that stuff, and Hiccup is still figuring out what he wants to do. He discovers that he wants to explore and to push the boundaries. Where the second movie picks up, he’s already at that place. He’s already exploring. He’s got this huge map, and he’s been all over the place, but we are able to tell the genesis of that desire, and we’re also able to tell you how Stoick got his dragon, how Gobber got his dragon, how the Dragon Blade game to be.

KELLY KULCHAK: Flight suit.

DOUGLAS SLOAN: The flight suit. We show you how that came to be.

KELLY KULCHAK: And then Astrid’s relationship.

DOUGLAS SLOAN: Astrid and Hiccup’s relationship. How that develops. How Fishlegs and Snotlout end up fighting over Ruffnut.

KELLY KULCHAK: The Netlfix magic word is “propulsive serialization” and you certainly deliver on that.

DOUGLAS SLOAN: Did you say repulsive?

KELLY KULCHAK: Propulsive.

ART BROWN: It’s a serialized show and then there’s stand alone episodes that are usually about a new dragon and don’t involve the overarching series, but we hit in on that in every fourth episode or so.

DOUGLAS SLOAN: What we found in doing the show is the audience loves new dragons. Any episodes about new dragons, they will love it. They love new characters, Heather, when she came in one of the old Cartoon Network seasons, that was one of our highest rated episodes.

DreamWorks Dragons: Race to the EdgeKELLY KULCHAK: Which is great. You’re able to fill in the gaps, introduce new characters, and then you give them this fantastic world to play in, including their own clubhouse.

ART BROWN: Dragon’s Edge is really cool because they find in the third episode they start looking and taking advantage of the Dragon Eye and start trying to find a suitable location for themselves, and they end up each building their own huts, their own places.

DOUGLAS SLOAN: They have a big argument in the episode of what the Dragons Edge should look like, and Hiccup solves it by saying “do whatever you want.” However you want your house to be, you make it that way. So of course, Astrid makes this fortress, Fishlegs has a zen garden with a lava pool.

ART BROWN: For Meatlug and him to meditate. Snotlout has this big “S” on his and it’s him basically holding the hut up, and he has a crank so he can always make his higher. No one can go higher.

KELLY KULCHAK: So they do follow the personalities.

ART BROWN: They do. And they find some dragons that are living on that.

KELLY KULCHAK: How do they find these dragons? This is the new thing you’re introducing, the Dragon Eye.

ART BROWN: Yes, the Dragon Eye is multi-functional, and you learn more about it as it goes. It shows them information about new places, new dragons, more information about their own dragons or dragons they’ve come across before.There’s lenses, as you saw Toothless shoots his dragon fire through a lens. Well there’s more lenses that they find and depending on what dragon fire shoots through it, each lens gives you different information.

DOUGLAS SLOAN: So the combination of the jewel at the end of the Dragon Eye, the lens, and what particular dragon fire is going through it that combine to give you what’s projected on the wall. As we go through the season, they’ll find lenses in caves and all over the place that will give them new information and take them to new places.

ART BROWN: They have a lens they didn’t even know they have. They have this thing and they realize that’s a lens.

KELLY KULCHAK: That would be a terrible thing to fall into the wrong hands.

DOUGLAS SLOAN: Oh my gosh, can you imagine if they did?

DreamWorks Dragons: Race to the EdgeKELLY KULCHAK: That’s great, this fantastic device to expand the world and go out and at the same time it creates this protectiveness.

DOUGLAS SLOAN: And it has evolved. We had this idea two or three years ago, and it had been sitting on our wall as sort of a magic marker Sharpie picture. It had been sitting and sitting and sitting and finally we figured out exactly how to do it. We wanted to do a Da Vinci Code kind of thing and that’s how we did it.

KELLY KULCHAK: The one thing that’s mind blowing about this series is the quality of the animation. Just the look of it is so beyond anything you see on television nowadays. What went into the creating of securing the look and creating the style?

ART BROWN: I think that we wanted to do something different. We wanted to make it stand out. We wanted to give it a different look. We had to come up with new technologies that weren’t available or were cost prohibitive. So our visual effects supervisor David Jones had a lot to do with it, and our vendors got much better at animation and lighting, but things like crowd systems. A thousand dragons, which you just couldn’t do before, we figured out how to do that. We figured out how to do water interaction. Underwater, above water, you could do, but when you’re interacting, going up and down, the wet look and that sort of stuff.

DOUGLAS SLOAN: The animation, the sort of things that are impossible to do. The crowd, water, and visual effects. Any particle-y type of thing effect. Sand falling off.

KELLY KULCHAK: Or snow.

DOUGLAS SLOAN: Or snow, stuff like that is really tough to do. They do that in features because they have all the time in the world to do it and all the money in the world whereas we just don’t have that. David Jones is one of the greatest creative problem solvers I think I have met. He tells us right stuff so that we can challenge and figure out something new and then we will put that in our arsenal. Because once you figure out how to do it, you can do it over and over and over again and it’s not a big deal. It’s just figuring out how to do it and then teaching the vendors how to do it and once they learn how to do it, you’re good to go.

ART BROWN: We write it, our producer freaks out, yells at us.

DOUGLAS SLOAN: Cries, screams.

ART BROWN: Walks out of the room and then David comes in and says we can figure it out.

KELLY KULCHAK: That’s an overview of the show. I’ll open it up for questions.

DreamWorks Dragons: Race to the EdgeQ: How many episodes are there and are there multiple seasons that are coming out?

ART BROWN: What I can tell you is the first 13 premiere on the 26th. I say the first 13, so we’re not going to leave you hanging. There are more seasons. I don’t know how much we’re at liberty to say. There’s a lot coming.

DOUGLAS SLOAN: The first 13 will premiere June 26th and you’ll be able to binge watch all 13 at the same time. One thing we should say is that you will not hate your children for making you watch this show. I promise you. I’ve been doing this for 25 years, and I don’t think I’ve ever written a show with the idea, “What would a kid like?” It’s, “What do I like?” because I’m a big kid. What would a family like, what could they watch together, what could they learn from? That’s a big part of the show we’re really proud of.

ART BROWN: That’s our benchmark. Do we like it? We’ve had a lot of parents come up to us and say, “Thank you. I appreciate it so much.” We really work hard at that.

DOUGLAS SLOAN: That’s not always the case, trust me.

Q: Are there going to be love interests for any of the other characters in the series?

ART BROWN: There will be a love interest. Yes, and it’s very very adorable and very cute, and it’s unexpected.

DOUGLAS SLOAN: Completely unexpected.

Q: Is there going to be something that shows up at the Universal theme parks?

ART BROWN: That would be awesome. That would be a higher question outside my pay grade.

DOUGLAS SLOAN: There are much smarter and higher paid people at DreamWorks that can answer that.

ART BROWN: But I would ride it.

DreamWorks Dragons: Race to the EdgeQ: How difficult was it to get Jay Baruchel and America Ferrera to come back?

DOUGLAS SLOAN: Jay had a meeting in the very very beginning and said emphatically no one will play Hiccup but him. He loves this show, he loves the character, and it’s not like it’s a really hard job. He’s directing a movie right now, Goon 2, and he is still able to record our show. America, I think, was pretty much the same thing. The thing about this show, bringing up the actors, is that they really do make all the difference in the world. Without T.J. Miller playing Tuffnut, forget it. Without Christopher Mintz-Plasse playing Fishlegs, forget it. It’s just really, really difficult, and Jay and America are really really important, and they were happy to come aboard, and they’re always happy to be at the records. It’s awesome.

ART BROWN: Jay is awesome because Jay is a writer and a director. He knows the character he’s lived so well. In record sessions, we give the actors a lot of room to play. Especially T.J. T.J. will just riff for 10 minutes and we’ll sit there and the whole room is cracking up and 9 minutes we can’t use and then that’s it right there. So all these guys, Jay included, Chris Mintz-Plasse, everybody, we encourage it. We encourage them to do their job, bring to the show what they do.

DOUGLAS SLOAN: On the other side of it, we weren’t able to get Jonah Hill to do Snotlout, so we searched, we read probably 500 actors for that role, and found this guy Zack Pearlman who doesn’t sound like Jonah, doesn’t act literally like Jonah so much in the movies, but he’s fantastic in his own right, so we were really lucky in that regard.

ART BROWN: We thought it was more important to find a good actor than a sound alike for Snotlout, and it worked out great for us.

Q: Kids will be happy with bad animation. How do you make the decision on the cutoff where you can’t put in time to expand on the quality?

ART BROWN: With this franchise, there’s a level of expectation we believe. It started at the beginning where it was something that really drove us. The main thing with the younger kids is the comedy. We really work hard to not making it jokey but making the comedy come out of the characters, but we push it. That’s our job. Our job as showrunners is to push and push and push to make the best until they tell us that’s it. Time is another thing. With a TV show, it’s got to air, so we’ll have episodes that are really big fight scene episodes this season, and then we’ll have what we call “bottle shows” which are much smaller, maybe less characters in one area.

DOUGLAS SLOAN: And we do have what we call The Box. The Box is you get X amount of shots, X amount of characters, and X amount of visual effects and camera moves, so we can’t go outside of The Box. So that’s where it absolutely stops.

ART BROWN: The big expense in animation is not really the effects, it’s more shots and character count. Especially our show because you have five kids, five dragons, one two-headed dragon, you got eleven characters, if you have them all in one shot, that gets expensive. That gets expensive to animate to render so you know we try to keep those shots to a minimum and make sure the directors are keeping the character count down. That’s a huge thing for us.

DreamWorks Dragons Race to the EdgeQ: Is it possible to make more shows?

ART BROWN: It’s always possible to make more shows.

DOUGLAS SLOAN: Anything is possible, my friend.

ART BROWN: If the fans want it, if the fans dictate it. If the fans want the show to continue, I think they do.

DOUGLAS SLOAN: Let’s put it this way, how many shows have you seen where they made more than they shouldn’t have?

Q: Are you thinking of doing a show after the second film or after the third film?

ART BROWN: We’d love to. That’d be awesome. A lot of it depends on, again, how the franchise is, where it is, how it goes.

KELLY KULCHAK: What’s so great about these guys is they work closely the the feature writer, so they’re not stepping on the toes of the feature. This is not a retread of what they have been watching on the show for two years. It’s something that when you watch the feature, you want a brand new experience, so really the future of the series dictates on where the third feature is, how that plays out and what would go after it, but it’s a big conversation.

DOUGLAS SLOAN: And it really does depend on how the franchise is doing. Is it still viable; is it still relatable, are people still watching it? The great thing about family entertainment or kids entertainment is you get a whole new group of kids every year. A whole new group can discover it, and the great thing about our show is it doesn’t become dated because it’s not set in a time that can become dated.

Q: Since the show takes place between the two movies, do you have an end point?

ART BROWN: What we do know is that when we get to the third movie time-wise, we will have ended at the beginning of where the second movie started, so we will close the loop on certain characters, make sure that there aren’t any loose ends. Unless Dean wants to use somebody that we introduced in the show, you never know, and that’s great with us if he does. If not, we close it out. We have Alfred Molina coming in as one of our big bad guys. He’s fabulous, he’s amazing, so it depends.

DOUGLAS SLOAN: We’re pretty close to the end of the writing phase, so we’re a couple episodes away from closing the loop. We’re right there.

KELLY KULCHAK: You can’t kill everybody.

DOUGLAS SLOAN: You can’t kill everybody, although some days you feel like it.

ART BROWN: Some things you let it go away and not worry about it and some things you need to finish off. The Dragon Eye is something we will have to conclude.

DOUGLAS SLOAN: Astrid and Hiccup will have to be together. Our villains will have to go off into the sunset because when the second movie starts, it’s peacetime.

ART BROWN: And backtrack from there.

KELLY KULCHAK: How they go and where they go…

DOUGLAS SLOAN: How they go where they go is an excellent question.


PRESS ROUNDTABLE

DreamWorks Dragons: Race to the EdgeQ: Could you tell us about the move to Netflix?

ART BROWN: There are two great things about Netflix. The first is that they give you a lot of freedom to do what you do. They really let the producers produce, and that’s how we work anyway. We encourage all people. We promote people up, we promote from within, we encourage people to do their jobs, and Netflix gives us that freedom to do that. The other thing is the way the Netflix model works. The kids, as you know, like to watch stuff over and over and over again. But having it week to week is a long time to wait, so being able to watch thirteen episodes at a time like a long movie is really great.

DOUG SLOAN: You can tell by the quality on Netflix that they really do allow their producers and their writers to achieve their vision, and we definitely had a vision for the show we wanted to achieve, and they let us go with it. They trusted us, and it came out exactly how we wanted it to come out.

ART BROWN: With networks, there’s a lot of cooks. It’s interesting with Netflix when they give you that that trust, when someone instills trust in you, it makes you more trustworthy. You feel a higher responsibility to make a great program for them.

Q: The binge watching phenomenon can alter how you tell your story. How are you taking advantage of that?

ART BROWN: It has allowed us to be more serialized, which is really cool, and one of the things that we always fought for since the beginning was kids remember everything. They know the shows better than we do, so we would always fight that we don’t have to re-explain something in the show. Those sorts of things.

DOUG SLOAN: Or a character. They’d say, “we haven’t seen this character for ten episodes.” Well guess what, the kids know exactly who it is, they know exactly what they did. It’s really the perfect perfect way for kids and families to watch television because it gives them a nice long storyline. With the phenomenon of binge watching, I have found the best shows that do it don’t dwell on one story for episode after episode. They wrap stories up quickly and move on to other ones, and I think that’s what we try to do as well. We try to bring in new villains, bring in new characters, bring in new dragons and switch it up as much as we possibly can.

ART BROWN: Even though it’s more easily producible on a serialized nature with Netflix, we still have stand alone episodes that really close out the story in that episode. There will be a couple little moments that you’re reminded of the overarching villains. Hiccup’s objective and his goal to explore and the villain, who really drives the narrative. There are shows where we don’t necessarily touch on that but still forward the idea of kids growing and learning and Hiccup and Toothless becoming closer.

DOUG SLOAN: Sometimes we’ll get a crazy idea like we want to do an episode where they all sing, for example, and our bosses go, “Never in a million years.”

ART BROWN: They’ll say it’s not a musical.

DOUG SLOAN: It’s not La Cage aux Folles. We’ll be fine. We ended up being able to do stuff like that, and those are the stand alones. The ones that fit nowhere and are crazy and you never imagine being able to happen.

DreamWorks Dragons: Race to the EdgeART BROWN: There’s an episode in the first 13 where Fishlegs accidentally gets hypnotized into thinking he’s this superhero kind of guy named Thor Bonecrusher, and so it’s really a departure. That’s the fun of that, we can do that, we can do a departure. There’s an episode where Tuffnut gets bitten by a dragon and they’ve never seen the bite before, and he thinks he’s turning into a  were-dragon.

DOUG SLOAN: So he gives away all his stuff and locks himself in a cage until he is going to turn. Episodes like that couldn’t possibly fit into the overarching narrative but we want to tell those stories. A lot of them are funny, they’re comedic stories, and that’s sort of been really really important to us this year is to make it as funny as we possibly could.

ART BROWN: When you’re with the characters for a long time, like the twins for example, you have to move on from them hitting each other in the head. That stuff is funny, but they have to grow. They’re always up to something bizarre. We’ve had them invent gravity.

DOUG SLOAN: Ice cream.

ART BROWN: Things they had no idea they’re doing, and they become sort of these savants.

DOUG SLOAN: Who would put frozen milk on a stick? It’s outrageous.

Q: You know the point you’re going to, the second movie. In terms of storytelling, is that a process you have enjoyed? Knowing where you end up?

DOUG SLOAN: Yeah, I think it’s really actually great. It’s almost like bowling with bumpers because you know you can’t go here, here, here. You can’t bring in Hiccup’s mother. You can’t do any of the stuff they’re doing in the second movie. You can’t do something that upsets the movie or changes it in any way. So you really do have a guideline as to where you can go and where you can’t go. When we did it earlier it was hard because we didn’t know what the second movie was about, and it was constantly evolving, so the series had to constantly evolving behind it, but now–

ART BROWN: And it’s cool because you have a line that you’re going to, but you get to do all this. There’s only a few ground rules really. You can’t introduce them to stuff they don’t know about yet in the second movie, and anything we do introduce, like the Dragon Eye, we have to get rid of it or else they’d be using it. The mom and Drago, stuff like that. Other than that, they’re out in another area, and we’re free. Every once in a while if we’re not sure, we’ll e-mail Dean or go out to dinner with him and say hey, are you cool with this? And 99% of the time he’ll say yeah. Or maybe he’ll say can you adjust it just a little bit because I’m going to touch on something in the third movie or I’m thinking about it.

DreamWorks Dragons: Race to the EdgeQ: Does the author have any involvement in the series?

ART BROWN: Cressida? Not in the series, no. Doug was over in Annecy.

DOUG SLOAN: I met her over in Annecy in France last year for the animation thing they had over there, and she’s an amazing lovely woman and she’s just so happy to have her vision and story being told in other mediums. I don’t think she really wants to be involved. It’s not like J.K. Rowling or anything like that.

ART BROWN: I’m sure they had her involved before the first movie quite a bit, but since then, I don’t know on a movie level.

DOUG SLOAN: But in the books, the dragons talked, so it’s such a completely different dynamic.

ART BROWN: We’ll refer back to the books sometimes, though.

DOUG SLOAN: Yeah, Alvin and the Outcasts were in the books. The villain from season one.

ART BROWN: You just referred back to one in a meeting recently, I forgot what it was.

DOUG SLOAN: I’m sure it was brilliant.

ART BROWN: We still will refer back to them sometimes. Anywhere you get inspiration, a kernel of something, is great.

Q: Where’d you get the idea for the Dragon Eye?

ART BROWN: Going forward, we had the Book of Dragons and Bork’s papers and it had been done and done and done and done. We wanted something to propel them into the series, so we had this idea. We honestly refer to shows like Game of Thrones, we pull from stuff all the time, and we started talking about the Da Vinci Code and the Codex and sort of backed in from there. So we literally, like Doug was saying earlier, we had this crude drawing, and we had no place for it in the previous show.

DOUG SLOAN: The initial drawing of it was just a Codex, basically, and you flip it around. Then we started talking about the dragon fire and the lenses, and the jewel it looks through and stuff like that.

ART BROWN: Between the Book of Dragons and the Dragon Eye, it’s like the internet for them. It’s like the Book of Dragons 2.0. What is that, where can we take it, and you get into the power of it and all that sort of stuff.

Q: Does Netflix give you the option to roll it out slowly?

ART BROWN: No. Initially, I think we weren’t sure how many we were going to roll out at a time.

DOUG SLOAN: They talked about five.

ART BROWN: And then they wanted to change it to thirteen for this show and I think for shows going forward.

DOUG SLOAN: I think they want to match their model across the board, but they sort of dictate to us. It’s like a network, they are schedulers. When are they going to air it? They tell us. As long as we can deliver it, it’s fine. The only problem we would have is if we can’t deliver it in that time.

Q: How do you maintain the interest until you get the next set out?

ART BROWN: We’re not like live-action where they shoot, then they stop, then they release, then the writers get back together. We never stop. We’re already getting additional shows prepared, so it becomes more of when Netflix wants to do it as opposed to when they’re ready. That’s what we try to do to stay ahead of the curve, so it’s not such a long time.

DOUG SLOAN: Kids will watch those thirteen probably thirteen times. They will watch those thirteen shows in order. My niece and nephew, I could guarantee you will do that, just watch it over and over and over again because it never gets old.

ART BROWN: And you learn stuff. How many times have we seen those two episodes and you think you’d get sick of it sometime, but even for us, we don’t. There’s so much going on. There’s a reaction from Meatlug that you didn’t catch last time you saw it. There’s so many things we try to put into the show and keep it alive on many levels that it’s always interesting. I said to him at lunch, “Man, I hadn’t seen the second episode in a while and it was really fun to watch.”

Q: Stoick had this water dragon, but he doesn’t have it anymore.

ART BROWN: The Thunderdrum. Yeah, there was an episode in the first two seasons where they came across these orphan baby Thunderdrums, the little ones, and they brought them back to Berk and it was a disaster because no one could control them because they were so loud. Stoick’s dragon mothered them, or fathered them, and there was a scene at the end where they took them and left. He knew that it was important for his dragon to be with the little ones, so we knew going forward Stoick had a dragon in the second movie.

DreamWorks Dragons Race to the EdgeDOUG SLOAN: This goes to your point. In the second movie, Stoick’s got a dragon, so we were given the ability to tell the story of how he got that dragon.

ART BROWN: In this series.

DOUG SLOAN: In this series. And we will do that in the Netflix series. Same with Gobber. He’s got this big, huge dragon and we will tell that story of how he got that dragon.

ART BROWN: And before we had to make sure we got rid of Stoick’s old dragon because we knew he had a dragon in the second movie, so we had to tie that up, which goes to what you have to tie up before the end of the series.

Q: Do you ever refer to historical stories and legends of Vikings?

ART BROWN: All the time. All the time we refer to them for ideas, for names.

DOUG SLOAN: Songs.

ART BROWN: All of our songs that we have throughout the show. There are quite a few, I guess.

DOUG SLOAN: We always look through Norse mythology. We mention Odin and Thor and all that. We mention some other gods. Loki the God of Practical Jokes is actually from Norse mythology.

Q: How do you come up with the names for the new dragons?

ART BROWN: With dragons we refer a lot to the animal kingdom. We try to always keep them grounded in reality. Some of the dragon names, we get inspiration from that. Some of the stuff is from the Book of Dragons. Sometimes we’ll say this piece of this dragon is cool, and we like what this dragon does, so we will mix and match.

DreamWorks Dragons: Race to the EdgeDOUG SLOAN: A good example is the Snow Wraith. The dragon in episode two was originally called the Snow Fury, but as a franchise, they didn’t want to put the “fury” in there because they didn’t want to tie it to Toothless, so we came up with Snow Wraith.

ART BROWN: And we changed the model of it so it didn’t look as much like a night fury, and then we ended up giving it this heat vision. Sometimes it comes through the story telling. How is it going to find the kids, how is it going to be more interesting, more scary. We wanted that scene where it was right there growling in their face and how does it do that without being able to see them , which gets you to, maybe because it’s in the snow all the time that’s how it sees.

DOUG SLOAN: The Songwing was a dragon that already existed and was called the Songwing. It was called the Songwing originally, and it was a terrible name for it because it killed everybody, so we made it part of the episode where Tuffnut says “I wouldn’t call it a Songwing, I would call it a Deathsong because it kills everybody.” So that’s how we shared that.

ART BROWN: A lot of times a new dragon will drive the story. Sometimes the story will drive us to a new dragon. As we go further and further into the series, the stuff that they had is no more, so we’re tasked more often with creating and spitballing new dragons. We know that half our episodes are going to have new dragons so we know how many we have and we know when to release them.

Q: So you bring in the new dragons, who is going to decide to name them?

ART BROWN: You always want to mix it up. The Catastophic Quaken, which is in one of the first thirteen, they’re in the midst of this thing attacking them and rolling up like a ball and Fishlegs is like “I’m thinking Catastrophic Quaken” and it’s like, “Now? You want to name it now?” So sometimes it’s that.

DOUG SLOAN: That’s a good question because it’s always a challenge to name a dragon and not make it seem like oh, now we have to name the dragon. How do we make it happen without it seeming like a completely idiotic moment? We got to come up with a clever way to do it.

DreamWorks DragonsART BROWN: Yeah, you got to change it. We just had a note session before we started today with that exact thing. We had to name a dragon, and we were discussing with the writers, we needed to do it in a different way because it didn’t feel right, but it’s necessary because you need the name and you want to call it something for the rest of the show and the toys and all that stuff.

DOUG SLOAN: Especially now that they’re discovering new dragons whereas in the old show before they would find dragons, and say it’s a so-and-so, it’s in the Book of Dragons, but now it’s not in the Book of Dragons. They’re just wild dragons.

Q: At any point in the show do they ever get mad at their original dragon and try to find a new one to own?

ART BROWN: No, we don’t have that happen.  We have episodes where they think maybe their dragon has gone feral or has left them. There’s an episode early on where Hookfang was sick. Snotlout’s usually a funny person to make that happen to just because he’s Snotlout, but the kids love their dragons. They would never initiate that.

DOUG SLOAN: It’s like if you had a dog or a cat or something and you love your dog, you would never in a million years get rid of them.

ART BROWN: The bond between the kids and their dragons is so strong and that’s a great thing about the show, you get to really get into the personalities of the dragons, and their relationships with the kids. We have just found so many fun personality traits in this series going forward. You saw in the first two episodes how much more, for lack of a better word, animated, Toothless is, and communicative with Hiccup. I think those are the things we really strive for in all their relationships with the dragons.

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