The How to Train Your Dragon movies have been one of the more successful film franchises of any kind in recent years. All three films have been overwhelmingly popular with fans and have done quite well at the box office. While the creators of the series make it look easy, franchise director Dean DeBlois says it's anything but, as when he closes himself off to work on the story of each film, it feels like it's all going to fall apart. According to DeBlois...
But there is always a moment where we isolate ourselves from everyone else, and it’s just the two of us, in the case of the first film, or alone on the second and third, where I just work with an outline and kind of hammer that out in the most classic way possible. Just with pads of paper and lots of crumpled sheets in the trash. We’re trying to work out the structure of the story. Then we take that outline and transcribe it into script pages, fleshing it out and really developing character and plot that way. It’s a lonely and difficult process for me, because it’s full of self loathing and procrastination, and just feeling like a failure.
Considering what a success every movie has been, it's hard to imagine somebody feeling like a failure, but that's what Dean DeBlois tells Cartoon Brew. At the same time, each story is created from scratch, and there's no guarantee that just because you made one good movie, the next one will be any good. While you're writing it you can't be completely sure that your ideas will work, and the more success you have, the more you second guess yourself.
As both the writer and director of the How to Train Your Dragon series, there's nobody else to help you or to even tell you that you're on the right track. Dean DeBlois worked with collaborators on the first movie, but the second and third were all him.
Luckily, whatever magic that struck on the first movie hung around on the two sequels. All three films were massive hits and the newest one, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is being praised for the way it brings the series to a close. Ending a franchise has to be tough, it has to be done in a way that those who have been following from the beginning feel like it's all been worthwhile. Lots of stories that start out great have difficulty sticking the landing. Not this one.
Of course, now that Dean Deblois has ended the story, he has to find a new story to tell, which likely means the process will start all over again. Of course, we know that the How to Train Your Dragon movies were no fluke, so we can be confident that wherever he goes, a good story is likely to follow.