Last week, I spent two days on the DreamWorks Animation campus in Glendale, soaking in the creativity and getting an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the new series, Dragons: Race to the Edge, which will drop its first thirteen episodes on Netflix this week.
This new series takes place three years after Dragons: Defenders of Berk but a year and a half before How to Train Your Dragon 2, and features the dragon riders expanding their horizons further away from known Berk.
Dragons: Race to the Edge is more elaborate and features more unique dragons, more incredible effects, and more amazing stories. Audiences of all ages can enjoy this series with funny jokes, great storytelling, and epic adventures created to entertain three main audiences: longtime Dragons fans, full families (including older siblings and adults), and new fans just discovering How to Train Your Dragon.
Although the author of the book series, Cressida Cowell, has little involvement with the adaptations of her work, executive producer Douglas Sloan recalls meeting her:
“I met her at Annecy, in France, and she was just so happy to have her vision and her story told in another medium.”
This new medium, television animation, for Cowell’s story allows the readers and film fans alike to immerse themselves even deeper into the Dragons’ world and learn more about their favorite characters, favorite dragons, and favorite places around Berk.
Episode 1, “Dragon Eye of the Beholder, Part 1,” starts the series off with the escape of Dagur the Deranged. As Hiccup and the Dragon Riders lead an extensive search, they discover a mysterious new object, one that could change everything.
In “Part 2,” Hiccup and the Dragon Riders search for the purpose of the Dragon Eye, and their questions lead them to Glacier Island. This island is the home of the Snow Wraith, a dragon that holds the key to the Dragon Eye’s mysteries.
The Dragon Eye is a brand-new artifact in the Dragons’ world, one not included in the feature films. The concept behind this new object came from a rough sketch of something similar to a codec on a whiteboard:
“We wanted to create something to propel them into the series. We pull from stuff all the time, and we started thinking about the Da Vinci Code, and the Codec,” starts Art Brown, executive producer.
“Our rough sketch, on our whiteboard, was basically a codec, and then we started talking about lenses and dragon fire,” finishes Douglas Sloan, also an executive producer.
Also new to the series and unmentioned in the feature films is one of the new dragons: the Snow Wraith. New dragons are of primary interest to viewers, according to the executive producers, along with new characters.
“A new dragon will drive the story or the story will drive us to a new dragon, you always wanna mix it up,” says Brown.
This fearsome dragon can create its own blizzard as a form of camouflage, has infrared vision, and uniquely shaped teeth. Its notoriety for the Dragon Riders begins with Gothi’s own past, as she shares a history with the terrifying Snow Wraith.
The Snow Wraith was originally called the Snow Fury, but the obvious connection to Toothless was undesirable, according to Douglas Sloan. Consequently, even the design of the Snow Wraith had to be altered to resemble less of a Night Fury and be more of a unique dragon, according to Art Brown.
Other new dragons include:
The Catastrophic Quaken,
The Death Song,
And the Night Terrors.
The two pilot episodes, directed by Elaine Bogan (one of several directors who cycle through the director’s chair), portray a show that has matured visually and in terms of development.
Bogan says, “It looks like a completely different show, it’s more simplified. Now that the kids have grown, the stories have grown, it fits to have a more mature looking show.”
The animation has advanced, although it has yet to reach the level of the films, with more texture, more complex animations – like snow, fur, and water interaction – and more emotional display from the characters themselves.
In addition to this new level of TV animation, the characters and dragons have grown more complex. The Dragon Riders are the same characters we know and love, but they have grown up, slowly reaching for the maturity we know they have in the second film.
As Art Brown, executive producer, aptly put it: “Like with the twins, you have to move on from them hitting their heads, they have to grow.”
The shift from Cartoon Network to Netflix allowed for expanded limitations and more room for the creators to explore the characters, the setting, and the story. Brown and Sloan are ecstatic with the new creative environment Netflix provides for the show.
“They [Netflix] gave a lot of freedom, they let the producers produce… We encourage people to do their jobs, and Netflix allows freedom to do what we want,” says Brown.
“The Netflix model allows producers and writers to achieve their vision,” says Sloan.
With a new, more serialized approach, the show has significantly less re-explanation, more room for the real story structure, and no more transitions for commercials.
“It’s allowed us to be more serialized…. Kids remember everything, we could always fight for – we don’t have to re-explain everything,” Brown explains.
“We haven’t seen this character in ten episodes but, guess what? The kids remember,” Sloan adds.
The first thirteen episodes will drop this week on Netflix, primed for all binge-watching needs, and ready to be watched over and over again.
Stay tuned for exclusive looks at new Dragons apps and a test-drive of Oculus Rift featuring a flight with Toothless the Night Fury! And check out Brandon Smith’s Dragons TV Recap for the upcoming Race to the Edge!
Are you excited for the new Dragons: Race to the Edge? Will you be binge-watching the first thirteen episodes?
Edited by: Hannah Wilkes