5 Things You Didn't Know About 'How to Train Your Dragon'

Which main character wasn't actually in the original books?

Hiccup rides Toothless
Hiccup rides Toothless.


Robert Cianflone / Getty Images

With a global box office haul of nearly $500 million and a Tomatometer ranking of almost 100%, 2010's established itself as one of the most critically and commercially successful animated movies of the decade. Even if you’ve already seen it dozens of times, there are still a few things about this DreamWorks film, that you might not know:

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Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois Were Not the Original Directors

When DreamWorks Animation first set out to make a movie out of Cressida Cowell’s 2003 children's novel series of books, the studio hired Peter Hastings, a filmmaker with one credit to his name (2002’s The Country Bears), to direct the adaptation. After spending several months working on the film, however, Hastings was let go because DreamWorks felt that the movie was skewing only to young audiences (as the Los Angeles Times noted, it “played more to the SpongeBob SquarePants crowd than followers of Harry Potter.") Lilo & Stich filmmakers Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois were hired to transform How to Train Your Dragon into a movie with appeal for all ages, which clearly paid off.

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Astrid Was Invented for the Movie

One of the most engaging elements in is the charming romance between Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and Astrid (America Ferrara), which is why it’s especially surprising to learn that Astrid didn’t even exist in the 2003 novel that inspired the movie. But, as producer Bonnie Arnold reveals in the film’s production notes, “we felt like it was important to have a strong female character in the story, something for our female viewers to latch on to, and aspire to.” Though originally designed as a love interest for Hiccup, Astrid eventually became a compelling character in her own right – as, explains Ferrara, "She’s that girl on the reality show who shows up and says, 'I'm not here to make any friends - I’m here to win.'"

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Toothless' Voice Was Inspired by Humans and Animals

Though plenty of work went into finding just the right performers to voice characters like Hiccup and Stoick (Gerard Butler), How to Train Your Dragon’s biggest voice-related challenge was in coming up with a suitable sound for Toothless. Supervising Sound Mixer and Sound Designer Randy Thom worked hard to ensure that every dragon in the film sounded different and distinct from one another, yet, as he explains in an interview with SoundWorks Collection, “Toothless was the biggest challenge for us in terms of the vocalization, because he had to have so much variety just within his own voice. [Toothless is] mostly a combination of my voice and elephants and horses, maybe a tiger here and there. It’s lots of stuff.”

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Roger Deakins Was Hired as a Visual Consultant

In their efforts at giving a more epic and cinematic feel, Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois turned to thirteen-time Oscar nominee Roger Deakins to beef up the movie’s visuals. Deakins, who has worked with filmmakers like the Coen brothers, Sam Mendes, and Ron Howard, used his years of expertise to assist with everything from the "camerawork" to the lighting to the lens choices, which ultimately ensured that How to Train Your Dragon, says DeBlois in the production notes, “feels - and kind of lives and breathes - like a live-action film, in the best possible sense. And one that’s been rendered with the kind of poetic simplicity that only Roger can really bring to the mix.”

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The Film's Setting Was Inspired by Real-Life Locations

To create the movie’s fictional setting of Berk, the filmmakers embarked on a series of trips to a variety of real-life locations. Production designer Kathy Altieri took her team up and down the Pacific coast in search of inspiration for the movie’s watery locations, while co-director Dean DeBlois relied heavily on his knowledge of Iceland to capture the film’s bright, vibrant visual style. DeBlois’ goal, he explains in the production notes, was to find “a balance between a place that would be very hard-going if you lived there, and somewhere that you would absolutely want to visit - just because you know that the sights and the sensations of standing there, on those windblown cliffs, with the raging sea, would be unbelievable.”