Nine Lives

How To Train Your Dragon spreads its wings with a new series of present-day adventures


IN 2019, DIRECTOR DEAN Deblois’s How to Train Your Dragon trilogy came to a close in cinemas. But you might not be aware that the mythology continues to expand on the small screen, with animated short films and television series. The latest, Dragons: The Nine Realms, is the first time the storytelli­ng is set in contempora­ry times, with a younger hero named Tom (Jeremy Shada) who meets and becomes BFFS with a dragon called Thunder.

The new voice guiding this series is writer John Tellegen, a veteran of Dragons: Race To The Edge and Dragons: Rescue Riders. Being asked to join the series by Dreamworks Animation was, he tells Red Alert, both a “dream come true” and a way to really change up expectatio­ns for the mythology.

“Moving ahead 1,300 years, and moving away from Vikings, that’s an interestin­g undertakin­g,” Tellegen says. “We didn’t do it lightly, because we understand the rich history of the franchise. But for me, personally, it was about maintainin­g the same soul as the previous movies and shows.”

It’s set in a scientific community located at a deep fissure research station. Scientist Olivia

Kullersen (Julia Stiles) relocates with her son Tom to the facility, where he has a rocky time navigating his way through the rules and regulation­s. But it’s his exploring that leads to the incredible dragon discovery at the heart of the series.

“Coming off the last film, there’s a hidden world where the dragons existed,” Tellegen says of how they connect old mythology to new. “In our series, our modern kids find this hidden world and explore it. The way I approached this new iteration is to say these are modern-day kids, they have modern-day hopes and modern-day dreams.

“But at the end of the day, when they befriend these dragons they’re pulled into a fight to save dragonkind that’s timeless. And we had a good time creating new dragons with new stories and new powers, as well as feathering in some of the old favourites.”

Tellegen also wanted to create a new protagonis­t that wouldn’t feel like a carbon copy of Hiccup. “Tom and Hiccup are wildly different,” he emphasises. “We certainly knew that people were going to compare the two because it’s impossible for fans not to, but we wanted Tom to separate himself away from Hiccup. So Tom is a bit more self-assured.”

He also wanted the rapport between Tom and Thunder to be just as distinct. “It’s just as rich and deep as Hiccup and Toothless, but in a different way. This franchise has always been about a boy or a girl and their dragon. That’s something that we would never want to get away from because that’s part of the heartbeat of this franchise.”

As for where the story goes next from the episode six finale, Tellegen teases: “Tom is on his own personal mission to uncover his connection to this world. That’s a big part of his personal journey, and finding his own destiny within the show is figuring out not only his connection, but also, what does he do with it?” TB

Dragons: The Nine Realms is on Hulu and Peacock now in the US. UK details are TBA.

It’s just as rich and deep as Hiccup and Toothless, but in a different way

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“I’m warning you, that’s a good way to lose a hand.”

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