Dissecting the Dragon 2 Cave Scene

The Valka (Cate Blanchett) reveal in the dragon cave is one of the crucial scenes in the Oscar-contending How to Train Your Dragon 2 (watch the clip below). Thematically and visually it embodies everything that’s significant about Dean DeBlois’  ambitious vision for the trilogy, and it couldn’t have been possible without DreamWorks’ new Apollo platform (including Premo animation software and the Torch lighting and renderer).  I discuss the scene in a roundtable discussion with DeBlois, animation supervisor Simon Otto, production designer Pierre-Olivier Vincent, and VFX supervisor Dave Walvoord.

Bill Desowitz: Let’s start at the beginning with the advent of the scene.

Dean DeBlois: It was part of the original pitch that there would be this masked, mysterious character that actually, when disguised, is unrecognizable as a woman, and Hiccup was excited and interested in the idea that there would be another dragon rider out there doing benevolent deeds in the face of all these trappers and Drago’s maniacal plans to have a dragon army. But it was always meant to be a mid-second act reversal that Hiccup would not only find out who this person was but had the shock of seeing his mother in front of him for the first time. And we had played with the idea that she would be quite feral, 20 years living with dragons, and there would be a lot of animalistic behavior in the way that she moved and sniffed him out. It’s a shocking reveal but it comes with all of this wonder because Hiccup meets the other part of his soul and someone who’s completely immersed in this dragon world but completely free to her own will and not bound to being home and being a chief. And then, of course, there would be a lot of questions.

Dave Walvoord: A funny thing: When we screened the movie, every time the audience remarked on that scene with the fire change. And nobody ever talks about that at screenings, or notices lighting. We were pushing it so much we didn’t care that you didn’t see everything. You can still read the acting but we were willing to sacrifice some of the reads ahead just to make that last moment when it happens as big as possible. I think that’s why it works so well.

DD: It was also a chance to explain this Dragon blade that Hiccup carries around because until then he pulled it out and fired it up but there wasn’t an explanation, so visually, popping it open and revealing that it has the two canisters — one administers gas and the other is a flammable saliva — it’s a cool use of it where we get to see Hiccup deploying it as intended when surrounded by hostile dragons.

Read the rest at Animation Scoop/Indiewire.

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Below the Line, Clips, Movies, Oscar, Production Design, Tech, VFX, Virtual Production

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