How to Train Your Dragon - The Hidden World
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Universal Pictures

How Guillermo del Toro helped save How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

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Nov 16, 2018, 2:25 PM EST

After moving away from the source novels by Cressida Cowell, the How to Train Your Dragon series needed to evolve its fantastical universe where Vikings and dragons worked side-by-side to a place that felt both natural and final for its third chapter, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. That film, from series writer/director Dean DeBlois, will be a farewell to its established characters while introducing a few new ones.

But it has faced its share of production hiccups (pun intended) along the way to finding its place as a satisfying conclusion.

There’s a new big bad, a new draconic love interest, and plenty of closure. But DeBlois needed some help to get to that place. Speaking to Total Film about the trilogy’s final entry, the filmmaker explained that the film, which will primarily occur a year after the second film but also play with timelines, didn’t start off in the right direction. “The script was beginning to feel like HTTYD2: Part 2, instead of a standalone movie,” DeBlois said. So who better to turn to than the Oscar-winner in charge of HTTYD’s spiritual cousin at Dreamworks, Trollhunters?

Guillermo del Toro “read the script and said, ‘To me, it feels like a bunch of studio notes. Just go be a fanboy and write something fresh!’” That was the kick in the pants that DeBlois needed. The freedom to abandon any clinging dependency on the second film and write an original ending? Well, DeBlois “did exactly that.”

With so many opportunities for where the franchise could go — DeBlois described it as a Star Wars-like universe with unlimited creative potential — finding the right narrative lane is tricky. So having a friend to check your work and keep you honest is always going to be to the final product’s benefit. Doubly so if that friend is as legendary a filmmaker as del Toro.

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World finishes the story of Hiccup and Toothless on Feb. 22, 2019.