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‘How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World’: DreamWorks’ Gorgeous Dragon Romance Is a Gamechanger

We got a sneak peak at the memorable dragon courtship scene, which DreamWorks unveiled Thursday at the Annecy Animation Film Festival.

“How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World”

Animation

Toothless finds true love when he encounters the albino Light Fury in “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World,” and that’s when everything changes between dragons and humans in DreamWorks’ final installment of the trilogy directed by Dean DeBlois.

The courtship ritual scene between the two dragons debuted at Annecy on Thursday. It’s enchanting, funny, and gorgeous thanks to a new pipeline at DreamWorks.

“It’s meant to be a companion piece to the ‘Forbidden Friendship’ in the first movie [when Hiccup and Toothless first bonded as Viking and dragon],” said DeBlois. “It tests Hiccup [Jay Baruchel] in the role of rookie chief, while at the same time complicating his self worth by having Toothless being called to the wild by his discovery of the Light Fury, a close variation of his species.”

“How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World”

Light Fury uses her special cloaking ability to sneak into camp on an island where Hiccup and Toothless have stopped on a journey to find The Hidden World, the mythical origin place of dragons. Fascinated by Toothless, she lures him to a secluded beach, where she initiates a courting ritual. But Toothless responds awkwardly because he’s been tamed by Hiccup, while Light Fury is wild and elusive. It makes for a beautiful dynamic.

“We tried to push it early in production, this lovely character interaction, driven by [John Powell’s] music, without dialog, that we didn’t want to rush,” DeBlois said. “I wanted to protect its length and find trims elsewhere. It was allowed to breathe and will probably stand out as pure, imaginative, character [animation]. There’s a lot of story to tell, and, inevitably, animators will be begging to redo scenes here because they’ve learned so much about the characters.”

DeBlois has spent a decade on the “Dragon” trilogy (he co-directed the first with Chris Sanders after they made Disney’s “Lilo & Stitch”). And when he took over the sequels, he envisioned a “Star Wars”-like hero’s journey for Hiccup, in which we learned how humans and dragons briefly co-existed before being permanently separated.

“How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World”

Meanwhile, technology has once again improved the look of “The Hidden World.” “There is such rich texture and sophistication because now we’re rendering with a path tracer [Moonray}, so we get such naturalistic-looking lighting,” DeBlois said. “We can calculate bounce and how light actually behaves. It’s freeing and challenging because you can make environments look so [vivid] and detailed from every aspect of the frame. But how do you still hold onto theatrical lighting so you’re guiding the eye?”

DeBlois praised Chris deFaria, president of DreamWorks Animation, for pushing Moonray ahead of schedule to benefit “The Hidden World.”  It’s part of a new pipeline that sits between Premo (the Oscar-winning character animation software) and Moonray, and driven by Houdini from Side Effects, which covers all major areas of production. “So much time is spent in the finishing of animated shots, adding subtlety because it reads now,” said DeBlois. “And it allows for working between departments in a way that was never possible before. It becomes one global conversation.”

“It allows us to get so much more with so much less,” added deFaria, “A shot will live a lot longer with a group of people in one area. The end result is that this is going to be a path toward Pipeline X, a more flexible pipeline, anchored by those two pieces, Premo and Moonray, and capable of bringing in any third party tools. It’s all part of the master plan.”

“How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” opens through Universal Pictures March 1, 2019.

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