Hypable: And we see a little bit of that in the trailer with this very menacing figure, who reminds me a lot of the character design of the enemy in Mulan. Do you have any influence from Disney movies within your film?
DD: Oh sure, I worked on Mulan! We were deliberately trying to avoid any direct relation with that guy. He actually has a lot more in common with the James Earl Jones character in Conan the Barbarian. With the long hair… But he really is designed to feel exotic, and to feel of a different part of the world, without being specific.
Hypable: There’s one character that completely blows me out of the water whenever I see her gorgeous character design, and that is Astrid. She is a great person to look at! She has everything you could look for in a heroine and more. Jay, what is your favorite characteristic of Astrid?
JD: Just that she’s the alpha male, that there’s nobody tougher on that island, that there’s no one who’s more definitive and can take charge. She plays wonderful counterpoint to Hiccup’s shit — Hiccup-ry, his Hiccup-ry. I love how ballsy she is, and I love how fierce she is. I love how there’s no preamble that’s required. She doesn’t need to explain “Yes, I am the island girl.” You know, who gives a shit? She needs to know that she does what she does, and she can beat the crap outta anybody.
DD: But she’s also, we get to see a little more in this “five years later,” we’re suggesting that they’ve had a relationship for five years, and now they’re [Hiccup and Astrid] comfortable as girlfriend and boyfriend. Ultimately, she’s his conscious in a way. She’s a few steps ahead of him, in a way, in realizing that they’re no longer kids, and that they have to embrace adulthood and responsibility. She’s probably the only person who can have a frank conversation with him [Hiccup] to tell him that he’s acting like a kid, and that he needs to grow up.
JB: And she gets to play shrink for him too. With Astrid is where we get to hear Hiccup at his most earnest.
Hypable: I think that another character that can work as a shrink is perhaps Hiccup’s father and maybe even his mother. How will the roles of Hiccup’s parents change Hiccup in this film?
JB: He just starts to piece together a bit more of his origin myth. He starts understanding who he is, and why is he the way he is. He kinda, throughout the movie, comes to the same realization that all of us do which is that we are each both of our parents and neither of them, if that makes any sense. We have to forge our own way, and find our own being. He’s equal parts both of them, and they are at odds, those two sides. But through him, they find a cohesiveness, and then some. Basically, he takes the best aspects of both, without any of the failings.
Hypable: To close off, a fun question: If you had a dragon in real life, would you treat it like a dog, cat, or…Where do these dragons relate to real-life pets?
JD: I would treat it like a cat. I’ve maintained that my cat looks a great deal like Toothless. I would just do a lot of baby talk, and embarrassing stuff.
DD: I have three French Bulldogs, and there’s a lot of their behavior in Toothless as well. He was deliberately designed to mirror a lot of cute aspects of cats and dogs, because we wanted people to see their pets. This counterbalances the ferocious qualities that he has as well. So we watch a lot of YouTube cat videos. We like to pull little traits that we can transplant into his behavior.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 opens in theaters June 20, 2014. The film includes the voice cast of Jay Baruchel (Hiccup), Jonah Hill (Snotlout), Gerard Butler (Stoick the Vast), Kristen Wiig (Ruffnut), America Ferrera (Astrid), Kit Harington (Dragon Prince), and Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Fishlegs).