DreamWorks, The Latest Animation News

‘How to Train Your Dragon 3’ Pushed to 2019 + Official Plot Synopsis!

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Man, it’s been a while since we had any news updates about a popular animated film franchise. No, not the one about a family of superheroes or the one about toy bricks. I’m talking about a series of movies where humans ride the skies on the backs of….wait for it:


This week, in one of the bigger news stories in animation to break in a while, it was learned that once again, How to Train Your Dragon 3 is delayed.

Moved from its prior launch date of May 18, 2018, How to Train Your Dragon 3 will now fly into theaters on March 1, 2019. For now, it remains the only movie slated on its new date, a week or so before the release of Marvel Studios’ Captain Marvel. How to Train Your Dragon 3 joins The LEGO Movie 2 and Toy Story 4 in what might be considered a ‘holy trinity’ of hotly-anticipated animated sequels

Now, I know what you’re thinking, and I’m speaking directly to the Dragons fans who still read the website: pushed back, again? Yes, you have a much longer wait for the movie now. But get this, and once more this is something that I feel has turned me into a broken record: animated movies get delayed all the time! Rarely – if ever – does a studio set a release date for a film that’s absolutely set in stone. Depending on where the film is in the production process, animated films primarily get pushed back because they either need more time to cook or the studio needs the movie out of a very competitive spot.

In the case of How to Train Your Dragon 3, it looks like the former is happening. Common wisdom in the industry is that if a film is pushed back nearly a year (in this case, eight or nine months), then the story elements still need to be locked down completely before they move forward. Luckily, reputable reports state that writer/director Dean DeBlois is still on board, so there are no earth-shattering changes to the film’s creative team (that we know of).

What’s more, delays aren’t completely indicative of an animated film’s quality. Kung Fu Panda 3 got pushed back a bunch of times and it still gave us a satisfying concluding chapter of the current trilogy when it came out earlier this year. But, at the same time, there are also behind-the-scenes horror stories like The Good Dinosaur, in which various rewrites, a revolving door or directors, and a drastic re-cast of actors turned out a film that didn’t match Pixar’s usual standards. Unless I don’t have a very good ear for rumors in the animation industry, no such issues have cropped up regarding How to Train Your Dragon 3. Last I heard, Cressida Cowell (author of the original novels) visited DWA’s Burbank headquarters to check up on the film (and apparently she liked what she saw).

Speaking of the film itself, there’s one little thing that makes this extended wait worth it: we finally know what the movie will be about!

The log line (provided exclusively to Deadline) reads: “As Hiccup fulfills his dream of creating a peaceful dragon utopia, Toothless’ discovery of an untamed, elusive mate draws the Night Fury away. When danger mounts at home and Hiccup’s reign as village chief is tested, both dragon and rider must make impossible decisions to save their kind.

On a surface level, it sounds like Dean is finally playing off one of the franchise’s longest-running plot threads: the possible discovery and confirmation of existing Night Furies. Despite this being the first official piece of story info for the movie, the log line is decisively vague on other key details. How much time has passed since How to Train Your Dragon 2? Will Drago Bludvist return? Is Hiccup interacting with other tribes now that he is the Chief? Are we even sure that this “untamed , elusive” mate is really a Night Fury? We probably won’t be getting those answers until we inch that much closer to 2019.

I’ll say this again, for the ones who get scared witless when they hear the word ‘delayed’: delays are (for the most part) not an indicator of declining quality. If this were the case, then most of your favorite movies from Pixar, Disney, DreamWorks, and a whole host of other studios from the past six years would all turn out to be critical (and commercial) flops (yes, that includes How to Train Your Dragon 2). Coincidentally, as DreamWorks Animation spent the past six years bunny-hopping across three major studio handlers (Paramount, 20th Century Fox, and Universal), the Dragons franchise has been one of its strongest and lasting assets, a fact that won’t change because DreamWorks Animation decided that DeBlois and company need more time to make the best movie possible.

I don’t know about you, but I’m fine with waiting for a great movie. Or would you rather have a mediocre movie, delivered to you faster?

What do you think? Do you have any thoughts on this development?

Edited by: Hannah Wilkes

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About Brandon Smith

Brandon is your average nerd with a love for nerdy things (games, comics, anime/manga, etc.). He also loves reading and writing and plans to be an author someday. For now, he writes with passion and curiosity about the world of animation. He lives with his family in North Carolina and is currently attending college.
  • Ryan Prieto

    Well that sucks, but I would rather DreamWorks have the time, they need to construct the story they feel worth telling, with all the quality they are known for. That does seem ages away though. Granted there is quite a bit off stuff to keep us entertained in the mean time. Perhaps we will get to see some baby Toothless as well, so I am pretty excited.

    • Manuel Orozco

      I agree and it would be cute to see some Baby Toothless.

  • Phin68

    That puts How to Train Your Dragon 3 in the same year as Shrek 5. Could be an amazing year for DreamWorks money-wise.

    • Manuel Orozco

      I’m looking forward to HTTYD 3 than Shrek 5.

      • That’d most likely the case for most people.

        • Manuel Orozco

          Besides I thought Shrek was done after Forever After.

  • TripleStrykeLover

    This is the worst choice of Universal. I’m a huge How to Train Your Dragon fan and now they moved it three years later?! Guess I’ll have to survive 24 months.

    • Manuel Orozco

      I feel your pain

  • Manuel Orozco

    The wait is becoming complete insanity! I was looking forward to having the final chapter in 2018 but 2019 sounds crazy. HTTYD 2 despite it’s darker tone and less time to answer developments of the five year time span lived up to the original’s thunder. I want this sure to be epic farewell for Hiccup and Toothless to be more Kung Fu Panda 3 and less Good Dinosaur! A product that took years of work is ten times better than a rushed edit.

    • Yep, it better be good. The synopsis isn’t really anything to be excited about and sounds pretty cliche really. I’m looking forward to a good movie of course, but I’m a little cynical at this point.

      • Manuel Orozco

        I’m more on the cautiously optimistic side.

      • brandon

        I get that you feel that way, as the logline isn’t much to go on. But consider that the HTTYD franchise has dealt with familiar tropes and cliches before. The core story of the first film is a very traditional ‘boy and his X’ story, but it now stands as one of the best-executed examples of this trope. The second film is a variant on one of DWA’s favorite tropes: the long-lost parent(s). And yet, that was spun into a very mature take on familial themes and featured a rare (for feature animation) portrayal of an adult relationship (Stoick and Valka).

        It’s almost a pattern that people don’t really notice. The franchise is unusually great at taking well-worn tropes and themes and spinning them into delightfully complex stories that give your more than what you might assume from a simple synopsis.

        • Manuel Orozco

          One thing for sure, this franchise is full of surprises.

  • I honestly never realized until now how many popular animated films get delayed, thanks for bringing that into the light!!
    I guess the only thing is the bummer is having to wait a little while longer, I just love these movies so much and the second one was just so emotion driven! So excited ^.^

  • Dan Siciliano

    Um…I was thinking….if this is going to be the end of the “Dragons” series, do you think that at the end, the Viking people on the island of Berk would convert to Christianity?

    • Manuel Orozco

      This most likely will be the end

    • brandon

      While the HTTYD franchise has never shied away from references to Norse mythology/religion (or paganism), I don’t think they’re too concerned about following religious history to the letter, and I say that because the HTTYD franchise has more or less presented itself as a fantasy version of the Viking period, with no real slant towards any kind of real-world history.

    • lillypad2114

      The Vikings were not converted to Christianity until the end of the Viking age would have been 1300. According to what I found Hiccup and the isle of Berk is taking place between 1100 and 1200 there for Christianity would not reach their shores until the next generation and possibly even the generation after that. ut was the Viking king Olaf who United all the Viking tribes under Christianity.

  • Well, this is supposed to be the finale. Any more time to work out the kinks is good even if I WANT to see it sooner. DW’s is going through some rough patches right now, let’s be glad they haven’t scrapped the project altogether.

    • brandon

      Yeah, rough patches. Like landing a financially-secure home that may actually be a natural fit for them as a mini-studio. And a recent film that’s getting good reviews and turning a steady profit at the box office.

      Yep, those are some ‘rough’ patches all right!

      • Well, there was the firing that happened. That’s what I meant.

        • brandon

          Unfortunate as that is, that’s standard protocol during mergers and acquisitions. If you’re a mini-studio like DWA, there’s virtually no way to avoid lettIng people go under those circumstances.

  • lillypad2114

    I just hope this delay means that they will really be fulfilling Dean’s vision of ending the franchise on such a beautiful and Bittersweet note making it more like a Pixar movie and less like an illumination Studios. Also as long as they throw in a Hiccstrid wedding I’m okay with waiting a couple more years.

    • Manuel Orozco

      Now that is one wedding I would like to be invited too.

  • Firecat

    What do you mean, “current KFP trilogy”?

    • brandon

      DWA brass (including former CEO Jeffery Katzenberg) had previously voiced plans for KFP as a six-film saga.

      Now that DWA is with Comcast, who’s looking to double-down on the studio’s biggest properties, the prospect of a second KFP trilogy isn’t too far away.

      • Firecat

        That’s called a hexology.

        Consider how poorly 3(500 million dollars)did at the box office compared to 1 and 2(both at least 600 million dollars)

        That might complicate sequel stuff a bit.

        • brandon

          Not in Comcast’s eyes, it won’t. So long as the franchise is still making money, they will figure out a way to get more KFP sequels.

          • Firecat

            Well, I still see Dreamworks as the higer power over KFP and other franchises more so than Comcast.

          • brandon

            The way the deal was set up, DWA may retain creative control as a mini-studio, but Comcast now has the final say regarding ‘big’decisions like greenlighting sequels and such. At least, that’s how I remember it.

        • brandon

          The actual BO total for KFP 3 is $519 million. In spite of lower domestic totals, that’s enough for Comcast to at least think about more KFP films.

        • k

          Supposedly the studios gets less money from over sea markets then in the US. The worst being China get this the US studios gets less then one forth of the box office and China was the biggest hit for KFP. So yeah it seems kinda iffy.

      • Manuel Orozco

        I won’t more KFP despite believing the latest one was a near full circle moment. They just need to use their storytelling wisely.

        • Firecat

          Well, God willing, should it happen, they BETTER not ship Po with anyone. That’s the story-ruining cliche to beat all story-ruining cliches.

          • Manuel Orozco

            I won’t mind a little romance.

          • I was hoping they would end it with the third film, but if they are planning 5-6 films, I think it’s fair to expect a romance. There isn’t much else that can be done otherwise.

          • Manuel Orozco

            And Po adjusting to a new life as master

  • So 2019 is pretty much this film vs Toy Story 4 vs Lego Movie 2………. And if Shrek 5 and Frozen 2 end up in 2019, it’ll be an interesting year.

    I think what happens with people’s worry about pushbacks is the countless pushbacks for some of these films. One pushback is seen as normal, but countless has people giving the film a side eye.

    • Manuel Orozco

      2019 sounds like a crazy year planned for animation fans.

      • I don’t know specifically, but since nothing has been announced by WDAS until 2018 (and with the D23 Expo being this upcoming year), the 2019 film will most likely be revealed. It’ll be cool if it opened a month before Wicked.

        • Manuel Orozco

          I’m just saying because Idina Menzel is the original Elphaba for crying out loud. It wasn’t for Wicked, she would have not been Elsa in the first place. You could be right about D23 2017 and that will most likely be when round 2 of Frozen mania will begin.

        • Manuel Orozco

          Speaking of Idina Menzel, I was thinking her, Celine Dion or Josh Groban would sing an end credit song if John Powell plans to write one.

    • brandon

      I’ve updated the article to reflect that information, but that’s interesting. 2019, like 2017, is shaping up to be a sequel-heavy year, with the ‘holy trinity’ (HTTYD3, TS3, and LEGO Movie 2) leading the way.

      I don’t know. I guess it could just be that I’m speaking to a younger crowd that isn’t used to this phenomenon (unlike the folks on Cartoon Brew), but for a medium with such a rigid production schedule, it should be expected that an animated film might shift dates a number of times before it finally sees the light of day.

      • Manuel Orozco

        Holy Trinity is a nice way to put it

      • The “Holy Trinity”, interesting. It might end up being like 2010 all over again regarding the awards.

        I never took into consideration the age gap between the younger and older crowds of animation reacting to these type of news differently.

        • brandon

          Exactly. On Cartoon Brew, the reaction to HTTYD 3’s delay is of disappointment, but no one in that crowd is surprised.

          A lot of times on this website, I find myself having to explain a lot of the minutia and mechanics of the industry to our readers. As far as they are concerned, this is all new for them. They aren’t industry veterans with years/decades of experience in the field. The majority of the time, I’m speaking to teens or young adults who are coming in with fresh eyes.

          So yeah, that’s how it works out.

  • Jeremiah

    Movie’s come with they come. The important thing is this is not only good, but truly great.

    Lovely, encouraging article, Brandon.

  • Good god, I just realized I’ll have applied for colleges (and hopefully gotten in) by the time this movie comes out. Now that’s a bit of a scary thought….

    • Manuel Orozco

      Well I was a sophomore in high school when the first HTTYD installment was released.

  • I can’t believe Toothless might meet another Night Fury.

    • Manuel Orozco

      I’ve been wanting this to happen a long time.

  • I’m not concerned about this. As you said, release dates change all the time. And since this is just a release date change, and not a directorial change, I have no major concerns. Especially considering the trouble DW has been through recently, this isn’t surprising.

  • HiccStridForever92

    I have not been checking this website lately so I only just read the article now, and responding. I am disappointed about the delay, but I agree that it is better for those working on the film to have more time to work on it, and to make a great film, then to rush them and have a not so good film. On the subject of the Dragons franchise, I am much more frustrated with the delay of Season 4 of Race to the Edge, as it is annoying to have to wait longer normal for another season, especially when we have been sitting on a cliffhanger since June. Also, I have question about what is going on with the Dragons TV recap. I loved those recap articles, and after only one episode was one for Season 2 of RTTE, the articles stopped. I know you had problems but I would love to see recap articles for the rest of Season 2 of RTTE and Season 3 of RTTE. I think having something like that to read will be helpful as we wait for a date for Season 4 of RTTE to be announced.

    One thing that helps me with the long wait is having other things be done like RTTE, and the three upcoming graphics novels, with The Serpent’s Heir coming out next month.

  • Karissa Meno

    I could wait for a fantastic movie I hope hiccup and toothless don’t part ways cuase that’s what I heard and that there well be no more dragons. Please front let this be the end of the dragons. What I’m really hoping is to see more hiccup and astrid moments like marriage or even childs

  • Karissa Meno

    I could wait for a fantastic movie. I’m really hoping that hiccup and toothless don’t part ways cause that’s what I heard. And that these well be the last of the dragons. This are plots that I heard. I just hope there not true

    • Manuel Orozco

      I know this will be the end of Hiccup and Toothless’s story but I hope they don’t part either.