By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com February 8, 2011 at 2:29AM
Much to our surprise, we flat-out loved last year's "How To Train Your Dragon," easily the best film so far to emerge from DreamWorks Animation. Indeed, this writer put the film -- a thrilling, moving, beautifully crafted piece of entertainment -- on his Top 10 list for 2010. With the picture taking a handsome $500 million worldwide, it's no surprise that sequel-happy DreamWorks swiftly green-lit a follow-up, to be helmed by the co-director of the original, Dean DeBlois.
DeBlois is currently at work on a second draft of the screenplay, which will draw on more of the nine books in Cressida Cowell's series that served as source material for the original, and he spoke to The Hollywood Reporter at the Annie Awards over the weekend, which the film swept, to hint at the direction that the sequel might be going in. It sounds like there's going to be a much wider scope this time out.
DeBlois says, "It's going to be quite epic. We are treating "How To Train Your Dragon" as the first act in a much larger story. As we head into this one, the world expands...There are no longer restrictions to this tiny island in the North Sea. They have the entire Northern hemisphere within their grasp."
Somewhat predictably, the film's designed as the middle entry in a trilogy, which will follow Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) "on his journey of becoming a man and the ultimate leader of the Viking clan," in the words of producer Bonnie Arnold. DeBlois relates "The only way of tracing the story is to draw on elements that were in the first movie and set up elements for a third movie, so it doesn't feel like a random adventure with the same five or six characters. This truly is a second chapter in a larger story."
It gives us some pause, considering it seems to be heading down the more-is-more approach that undoes so many modern sequels, but DeBlois insists that the heart that made the first film so special won't be forgotten: "Everything is much bigger with still the heartfelt qualities that made the first one resonate so much with audiences."
With the first film's co-director Chris Sanders ("Lilo and Stitch") away working on next year's caveman animation "The Croods," with Nicolas Cage and Ryan Reynolds, this is by no means an easy follow-up, but it sounds like DeBlois is aware of what made the first film work, and hopefully lightning will strike twice. All the original cast, including Baruchel, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, T.J. Miller and Kristen Wiig, are signed to return, and the currently untitled sequel will hit theaters in 2013.