How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

There May be Spoilers Here

I saw this movie this weekend, and I have to say, I was thoroughly impressed with how it handled what it was meant to do. However, I suspect that anyone who has not seen everything in the series would describe the movie as empty or lacking. Now, by “everything in the series”, I mean Everything.

  1. How to Train Your Dragon
  2. Dragons: Riders of Berk
  3. Dragons: Defenders of Berk
  4. Dragons: Race to the Edge
  5. How to Train Your Dragon 2
  6. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

The above list provides the in-story chronological order of events… The third movie had a host of references to 2, 3, and 4. Anyway, the movie made a good close to the series, and in that sense, felt complete. However, I would never watch it by itself, and I would advise anyone who hasn’t seen everything (especially 2, 3, and 4) to watch those first, otherwise, there isn’t much to get out of it.

On the other hand, if you have seen everything, you might appreciate what the writer’s did.


I realize this post was more of a review, but that’s because I wouldn’t suggest analyzing it. I suspect this feel of “emptiness” is a result of what Jim said here about a missing RS: How to Weave Throughlines Together to Create a Single Plot.

On the other hand, I wonder whether the entire series as a whole might have a complete story, having ended Hidden World the way they did…

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I was an animator on the first film and heard Dean pitch his vision for all three films way back when. So I’m super familiar with the series—and still felt that Hidden World was sorely lacking.

Dean’s original pitch for the series was amazing—it changed a bit because of external factors, most of which were outside of his control.

2 was weird because it was an argument FOR violence.

3 didn’t have an argument.

You can wrap up a series while still telling a complete story, and not have to make everyone watch all of the supporting material. All you need is a self-contained storyform.

HW didn’t have it.

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I fully agree, and I won’t deny that I was a little disappointed by there not being one. However, I also expected it after what happened with both the second movie and the rather rushed feel of the last few episodes of Race to the Edge. I still feel like it closed off the series fairly well, though.

In any case, the first How to Train Your Dragon still takes the #2 spot in my list of most favorite movies of all time. (The Lion King, due to rather nostalgic reasons, takes #1.)

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Oh wow - better than Shawshank Redemption or Spider-Verse?? That’s crazy talk!

I loved working on the first film (my reel is here if you’re interested) - Chris and Dean wrote the entire story in about a month. The studio spent 7 years trying to develop the book into an animated feature with no success. They finally decided to hire the two of them a year before the film was supposed to come out. They rewrote the entire thing from scratch in a month and then we animated the entire thing in 9 months (9 months of 6 days a week!).

Dean was a Blake Snyder fan - he’s even pictured in one of Blake’s books (the Save the Cat! paradigm). The first pitch he gave to us at the studio was basically the 16 beats of Save the Cat with really awesome drawings. Dean made no attempt to keep his preference for structure a secret and was happy to talk story structure anytime. In fact, we had a lecture by Guillermo Del Toro one day where Del Toro said he hates structure and can’t stand anyone who brings it up, and then the next day Dean got up on stage to say, well yeah, you might hate it - but here’s how well structured your films are :laughing:

The interesting thing from a Dramatica/story structure point of view is this:

Chris and Dean worked together to write the first film–and you can see it, especially when you compare the it to the later films in the series.

The first film is a complete story, with all four Throughlines accounted for - logically concise and emotionally fulfilling. Dean took care of all the Overall Story stuff, Chris took care of all the subjective emotional stuff.

After the first film, the studio split them up to work on different projects because obviously, that’s what you do when you want more and more success :roll_eyes:

Dean made the next 2 Dragon films without Chris and it shows - little to no, or confused, subjective story. GREAT objective story.

Chris went to work on Croods - little to no, massively confused, objective story. GREAT subjective story.

It’s really fascinating to see how it all played out. They both saw each other’s blind spots and were able to come together to create something quite wonderful. True collaboration.

The films they did apart are great examples of what happens when you don’t account for all Four Throughlines in a narrative.


Thanks for sharing @jhull. Such fantastic real world insights.

Love the demo reel too!


I was initially excited about 2 because the idea of Stoick’s old approach being more appropriate in a new context was interesting – it would really have given the world of Dragons some multi-dimensional breadth. I was disappointed that the storyform ultimately didn’t deliver.

Without the storyform (or acceptable givens for the storyform), one is just left with a pre-formed opinion on the apparent message.

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