Behind The Scenes: Dreamworks’ How To Train Your Dragon 2 Animated Movie

How To Train Your Dragon 2


Our family is super excited for the release of the new animated film How to Train Your Dragon 2! Dreamworks has been hard at work to present the second installment of the How To Train Your Dragon series. I was thrilled to catch an exclusive prescreening and also get a hands on behind the scenes look at how the movie was made.  I know I am a guest here so you may not know I actually went to school for animation many years ago and I have a great appreciation for animated films.


Dreamworks How To Train Your Dragon 2 Press Day Panel


I was thrilled to participate in an interview with animators and directors of How To Train Your Dragon 2 for so many reasons, but especially because I wanted to hear all I could about Apollo.  Apollo is a new animation technology used only at Dreamworks.  For those of you who appreciate the art of animation you are going to LOVE this!  If you have never really paid much attention to animation, hang around and listen, I bet when you watch the film you will find it really interesting.


How To Train Your Dragon 2 Press Day Animation


So computer animation is here to stay, in all honesty that pained me for many years.  I grew up on classic hand draw animation and while there are obviously so many benefits to computers, I felt some of the life and heart had been compromised with the craft.  While there was so much technically you could do with computers, movement of the characters always lacked a fluidity that traditional animation offered.  Textures and effects were amazing, but the soul of the character seemed harder to find; my theory was always that the pencil was gone.  Turns out I was right.

Director Dean Deblois said in an interview “Apollo puts the pencil back in the animator’s hand.”  It only took a few minutes into the screening for me to notice that this new technology was not just about effects but something also much more subtle that I am not sure everyone could even put a finger on, but I bet you will notice the characters seem to move more fluidly and more realistically than ever; they seem more authentic and soulful.  It made my little animation student heart sing.


How To Train Your Dragon 2 Press Day Demonstration


So what is Apollo?  Apollo is a new, state of the art animation software that was created in house at Dreamworks Animation.  For now, Dreamworks is the only studio using this software and How To Train Your Dragon 2 is the first movie that uses it.  Directors and animators compared Apollo to the classic stop motion Claymation where animators would mold each shot. DeBlois said that Apollo “doesn’t necessarily make the process any faster, what it does is it allows them (the animators) to go back into it and refine it.  And they have so many more controls under the skin than they used to have.”

I asked “Had {Apollo} been developed prior to starting this film?  Or was it something that was kind of working along and you were able to do cooler things like than what the script had originally set up?  Did Apollo change your script?”




The director’s response was awesome! “I wrote the script without considering what we could afford because I knew we’d probably scale back after that.  So the intention was to go really big and broad with the scope.” He went on to explain that he knew Apollo and other technology was coming and that it was going to be available to one of the upcoming films.  He explained that it turned out that Dragons was the next in line, the lucky film that got to take advantage.  He shared that Apollo made it so they didn’t have to scale back their budget and what they wanted to do artistically in the end.

If you love animation and technology you are going to love to see the effects in this film.  Water, fire, hair, cloth, the textures are unlike anything I have ever seen.  I was honestly so impressed by how much more lifelike characters were in this movie!  Watch the way they move, each character’s gate is unique.  Expressions and subtle movements I had missed in previous years are back again!  I cannot wait to see this movie again and I can’t wait to see what is in store for animation in the future!
One blogger compared How to Train Your Dragon 2 to the first computer generated films of the 90’s and asked “I’m curious if there is anything that you still couldn’t do and basically how you’re looking to keep pushing that boundary further as you keep going?”


How To Train Your Dragon 2 Movie


Director DeBlois answered with something very cool. “It’s a really good question because I was thinking about that same thing.  I was actually wondering what we can’t do at this point.” *pause for dramatic effect* “And I’m not sure.  I think if we can imagine it, if we can come up with a visual in our heads, we can actually create it now.  There doesn’t seem to be a boundary anymore.”


Check out the How To Train Your Dragon 2 trailer here!



Seriously, it is such an exciting time in Animation right now! Check out the new Apollo technology when you see How to Train Your Dragon 2 with your family, out in theaters Friday, June 13, 2014!


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Kate lives in San Diego with her husband of 11 years and three kids. She blogs at Catching Up With Kate about family life, travel (especially Disney), eating healthy (ish), and adoption.

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