By Bill Desowitz | http://billdesowitz.com July 19, 2013 at 3:20AM
Thursday's DreamWorks Animation Comic-Con panel touting Turbo, Mr. Peabody & Sherman, and How to Train Your Dragon 2 turned into a lovefest for next year's sequel helmed by Dean DeBlois. There were plenty of thrills with new footage and surprises with the announcement of Game of Throne's Kit Harington joining the voice cast as an arrogant dragon hunter along with Cate Blanchett as a reclusive vigilante and Djimon Hounsou as the maniacal baddie bent on world domination with an army of dragons.
Harington, in fact, joined DeBlois on stage with fellow DreamWorks directors David Soren (Turbo) and Rob Minkoff (Mr. Peabody & Sherman) and chief creative officer Bill Damaschke. He proclaimed that voice work is very liberating even though he initially had trouble finding the right voice, going from a Scandinavian accent to a more heightened Cockney like his own.
The first clip was an expansion of the high-flying teaser (actually the second scene in the movie), which reintroduces Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) as a nerdy, adventurous teenager in the mold of Luke Skywalker (complete with Viking leather gear), enjoying the ride of his life atop his dragon pal, Toothless. Only Hiccup comes crashing down to earth and discovers a new region and a dangerous threat. In fact, DeBlois admitted the importance of The Empire Strikes Back as a pivotal inspiration for this second in a trilogy that concludes in 2016.
The second clip introduces a mysterious and exotically dressed dragon rider, who kidnaps Hiccup, sending Toothless crashing into the water and screaming for his friend, and concluding with Hiccup's mask floating to the surface.
The crowd of 1,000 cheered and DeBlois humbly suggested that his desire is to make good on his ambition to revisit the wonderful movies of his youth and to achieve a sense of dramatic richness in animation. He only took on the sequel with the promise of turning it into a trilogy, enlarging the scope of the world (this one reaches into the Arctic) and taking Hiccup through a rigorous rite of passage into manhood with his dragon companion.
"It dials up the stakes but we're very careful to balance with fun," DeBlois emphasized.
From the little I've seen and from what I've gleaned from DeBlois, I believe Dragon 2 has the potential to be the best DreamWorks movie yet. It's certainly the most emotionally and dramatically ambitious.
Meanwhile, Soren showed the crucial moment in which the garden snail (voiced by Ryan Reynolds) demonstrates his turbo power in his first race; and Minkoff screened the thrilling, Raiders-like opening of Peabody in which Jay Ward's genius dog crosses swords with Robespierre during the French Revolution and escapes through the sewer with his adopted human son. The crowd applauded and the scene looked very colorful. Minkoff then admitted that he is now the father of a 10-month-old son and that the movie has special meaning with the bonding of father and son.