How to Train Your Dragon fans haven’t had to sit around and twiddle their thumbs while waiting for the next film to come out, thanks to the Dreamworks Dragons animated series. Starting with The Riders of Berk and then The Defenders of Berk, the adventures of Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and Toothless moved to Netflix with Dreamworks Dragons: Race to the Edge.
To celebrate the newly released Dreamworks Dragons: Race to the Edge Season 2 on Netflix, I spoke with executive producer/writer Art Brown about the new characters, dragons, and what to expect going forward in the How to Train Your Dragon franchise.
I just binge watched Season 2 and really enjoyed it, and I’m curious about a few of the creative decisions. Namely, I really enjoyed the pairing of Tuffnut (T.J. Miller) and Astrid (America Ferrera). It was a very sort of unorthodox idea, so you can you tell me how that pairing came about?
Art Brown: That’s a great questions! We love that two part-er [episode]. We get the ability in a series to explore not only our characters and their specific dragons, and deep in those relationships, but we get to do that. Pair off people that we wouldn’t normally pair off. It’s very exciting for us to do that because, like in that situation they are forced to be together and forced to learn from each other, whether they want to or not.
And even Ruffnut (Julie Marcus), there is some very powerful stuff going on with Ruffnut and Astrid. It’s a cool opportunity to see a different side of Astrid and also a good opportunity to see the true value of the twins. As funny and wacky as they are, they have their own way of seeing things, their own way of doing things. And that stuff is always fun. We talk about it a lot in the writers room, “What haven’t we seen? What would be fun for the fans to see?” And that was definitely one of them.
Since Race to the Edge is the bridge from the first film to How To Train Your Dragon 2, we know that Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and Astrid become a “thing.” It seemed like there was some growth, but maybe not as much we would have expected in Season 2. Is that something you’re planning to show in Season 3 or beyond, potentially?
Art Brown: Yeah, I think each season will bring that story line closer. You know, we sort of talk about it like it’s the Ross and Rachel of Friends, but in out world. It’s something that we definitely will be moving forward on, and definitely the fans want to see it.
You know, it’s fun to make it a slow burn. There are some big episodes coming up, and we will not disappoint in terms of that relationship and any relationships that are at the beginning of Dragons 2. We will land you at the beginning of Dragons 2, where everybody is emotionally.
Is there a rough outline of where you want to take the series before you get to a point where you have to just stop because you’re at the second movie?
Art Brown: Yes, we know what we’re going to squeeze in. The first season was really exciting and cool, and this season… they’re such cool episodes, and then you think about the next season. And you’re like, “Ah man, I can’t wait until the fans see the next season, because they have no idea what’s coming.”
So there is a lot of fun stuff, a lot you don’t see coming. A lot of new things that have nothing to do with the movie, and then obviously a lot of things that relate directly to the movie; such as the Astrid-Hiccup relationship. You know, the Snoutlout-Fishlegs-Roughnut triangle. We will deal with that as well, so you’ll know why that’s going on in the beginning of Dragons 2. All that sort of stuff.
You’ve got some new villains in Season 2. We’ve got Ryker (JB Blanc) and Viggo, played by one of my favorite actors: Alfred Molina. Did you have him in mind when you created the character? How did you sort of put together these two brothers that are very different?
Art Brown: What we wanted to do was something different with our bad guy, and I think it started with Viggo just as a character. We wanted to create someone who challenged Hiccup in different ways. So someone who was more measured, who was more intellectual, who was strong and powerful, but challenged Hiccup on a completely different level that he’d never been challenged before.
And that’s sort of where we started with Viggo, and we wanted to bring him along slowly. So we came upon the idea that with him, a good match for Viggo would be having some sort of henchman and we thought it would be really cool if it was his brother. So you had this dynamic between these two brothers. One was sort of the bronze and the meanness and that more typical guy you would expect doing the dirty work, but with this really intellectual business man behind it.
Once we started creating the character, we started talking to casting about possible people to play the role, and Alfred Molina came up and we were just like, “Would he do it?” And we made him an offer, and he said yes. And he is an amazing dude, he’s the coolest guy on the planet. He’s just so gracious and awesome to work with, and he loves doing his character. He says it every time we’re with him. He’s a pleasure, and it’s been a lot of fun working with those guys this season.
Next season they really come to the forefront. It’s exciting what happens not only with Viggo and Hiccup, but also with Viggo and Riker, because they have some sort of love-hate relationship, those two.
Are we done with the previous “big bad” villain Alvin (Mark Hamill)? Or are there more tales left in the tank for his character?
Art Brown: I will say that Alvin will be back… at some point. Alvin will be back.
What’s the thing you’re most proud of that you’ve added to the overall Dragons mythology. What have you brought to the table that you think is the most cool?
Art Brown: Well, I think that [co-executive producer Doug Sloan] and I have really strived to bring humor to the show, particularly in and around our supporting casts. I think that, and strengthening the relationships between the kids and their dragons. You know those two things, from a writing perspective I think those are the best.
The movies are epic, right? Not to say we don’t have some epic shows in our series, but you know, the movies are EPIC, they’re HUGE, man. Being so epic, they don’t necessarily get to be as downright ridiculous and funny, and I think that we really push ourselves to make the audience laugh and to bring humor to it.
And the other thing is on a visual level. We came into this and we wanted to be able to stand up against the movies, knowing the difference in budgets and all that sort of stuff, and what you can actually do on television. We’ve created a lot of systems and things to enable us to do water interaction or crowd systems. And that we are really, really proud of: the production value given that this is a multi-episode show going up against or being compared to [the movie], that’s something to be proud of.
Absolutely. I agree, and I love the music, I feel like it’s very well done on the show. You never feel like you’re watching a watered down version of the story. You feel like you’re just seeing an extension of the films, and I really appreciate that.
Art Brown: Yeah! Thanks man, thanks! John Paesano, our composer, has done a terrific job and every time we do a show review, it’s such a difficult show to score because you have battle scenes, comedy going on in battle scenes. These big beautiful shots in motion. In one scene you can be traveling a gamut of emotion and the score has to be able to support that, and he does. Each time, he tells us, it’s like making a little mini movie. It shows, because he’s done a fantastic job for us.
Dreamworks Dragons: Race to the Edge Season 2 is now streaming exclusively on Netflix.