DeBlois, who steered the original and beloved animated trilogy from DreamWorks Animation, is making his live-action debut as Universal takes a page out of the Disney playbook.
The dragons and Vikings are taking to the skies once again, this time in live action.
Taking a massive swing, Universal Pictures has put in motion a How to Train Your Dragon live-action movie, with Dean DeBlois, the filmmaker behind the original animated trilogy, back in the saddle as writer, director and producer.
The feature project is already steps into the development process. Universal has dated the feature for a March 14, 2025, release. And sources also say the casting process is already underway.
This new Dragon will adapt the trilogy of movies that were made by DreamWorks Animation and released in the 2010s to great acclaim. The first movie, released in 2010, earned Academy Award nominations for best animated film and best score. The second and third notched best animated film Oscar nominations. The trilogy was also a hit with audiences, grossing more than $1.6 billion at the box office.
The franchise is one of the crown jewels of DreamWorks Animation and spawned television series that aired on Cartoon Network, Netflix and Hulu.
Using the books by Cressida Cowell as a jumping-off point, How to Train Your Dragon focused on the special friendship between a young and unheroic Viking boy named Hiccup and Toothless, an injured dragon he nurses back to health. The movies chronicled Hiccup and Toothless’ quest to combat humanity’s prejudice against dragons, the ache of overcoming the loss of a parent, and first love. And uniquely, they did so by consistently aging the protagonists commensurately with the story, becoming a true “coming-of-age” story.
Jay Baruchel voiced Hiccup, with the supporting characters of the Viking boy’s friends, including Jonah Hill as Snotlout, Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Fishlegs, T.J. Miller as Tuffnut and Kristen Wiig as Ruffnut.
DeBlois wrote and directed the first movie with Chris Sanders and then took the reins solo for the 2014 and 2019 outings. (Sanders went on to direct DreamWorks Animation’s 2013 entry, The Croods.)
DeBlois is making his live-action debut with the feature. Helping him make the transition will be veteran movie and theater producer Marc Platt, whose credits range from Legally Blonde to La La Land to Universal’s upcoming adaptation of Wicked. Platt will produce via his Universal-based Marc Platt Productions alongside Adam Siegel, president of Marc Platt Productions.
One of the creative challenges facing the filmmakers is trying to find the balance of making the dragons appealing and friendly, like some were in the original movie, and realistic.
It’s hard to understate the size of the risk Universal is taking. On one level, the studio is journeying down a path already trod by Disney, which has made live-action adaptations of its animated classics a major part of its slate. It’s a strategy that has yielded $1 billion hits, such as Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin, and strong, creative takes such as Cinderella and Cruella. But it has also generated less well-received films such as Lady and the Tramp and stinkers like Pinocchio. And there’s a danger that the latter can tarnish the beloved nature of the classics or characters, although that can be hard to quantify.
It’s unclear whether, in success, Universal would seek to translate other DreamWorks Animation movies into the live-action realm (Shrek or Po, anyone?). This is, however, the first time a live-action remake is being overseen by the same creator as the animated source material.
The studio worked hard on trying to find the right and palatable budget for several months before finally giving the go-ahead for the project.
Lexi Barta, vp production development, is overseeing the project for the studio.
DeBlois is repped by WME and Lichter Grossman.