Update: Along with a sequel, DreamWorks is now planning a spin-off Cartoon Network animated series for How To Train Your Dragon. See bottom of post for details.

Back in April,  DreamWorks Animation announced that it was moving ahead with a sequel to How To Train Your Dragon, an absolute no-brainer when you look at the almost $500 million it made at the worldwide box office.

At the time of the announcement, we didn’t really have any details other than “we’re making it” and that it would come out sometime in 2013. However, the studio has today officially announced the first details about How To Train Your Dragon 2 (as its being referred to until we hear of another title), including which voice actors will be making a return.

Unsurprisingly, most of the voice cast from the first How To Train Your Dragon will be returning for the sequel, including Jay Baruchel, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, TJ Miller and Kristen Wiig.

The keen-eyed among you will likely have noticed the absence of Gerard Butler’s name – it’s not exactly clear if that omission is on purpose or not. If it IS on purpose then I’d have to say I’m disappointed, as his voice really suited the character of Hiccup’s father. If this were a less significant project then I might understand Butler not returning, as he’s busy with other projects, but then again, this is a sequel to one of the most popular and successful animated films of the last couple of years.

Gerard Butler next to his animated 'Dragon' counterpart "Stoick"

Dean DeBlois, co-writer and co-director of the first Dragon film, will return for the sequel but will take on sole writing and directing duties this time around. Co-writer and co-director of the first film, Chris Sanders, will serve as exec producer alongside returning producer Bonnie Arnold.

Many of us will be wondering what sort of story this sequel could possibly have, with the first one serving as a solid standalone yarn (the vikings and dragons eventually becoming friends). Unfortunately, these new details don’t include a plot outline but there is enthusiastic talk from DeBlois about, “carrying this story forward, into the unknown reaches of Hiccup and Toothless’ ever-expanding world.”

Perhaps the plot could involve some new band of dragons who are coming to destroy the peaceful existence of the vikings and dragons we know, and Hiccup once again having to try and save the day with the help of his trusty dragon. That seems like a good way to move forward with the story, in my opinion.

However, the most important thing is not necessarily the story itself but that they push things forward in a fresh direction without compromising quality (I, for one, don’t want to see just a rehash of the first film’s plot). Shockingly (sarcasm alert!) the sequel will be in 3D again but this is one of few cases where I’m not worried, as the first film utilized the in-vogue technology almost perfectly.

I’m sure DreamWorks is hoping for How To Train Your Dragon to be their next big franchise, in the same vein as Shrek and that’s exactly what it will likely become. We can only hope – if they make as many of these as they did Shrek movies – that they keep the quality high all the way through and don’t drop the ball by the third film.

Update: Not long after the first details emerged of the How To Train Your Dragon sequel, Deadline is now reporting the news that DreamWorks has signed a deal with Cartoon Network to make an animated series based on the movie(s).

There’s currently no details available about what the plot will be or how exactly the series will relate to the movies (never mind wondering about a story for another film – how can they string it along week-on-week? ). However, we do know the show will air sometime in 2012 in preparation for the release of the second film.

How To Train Your Dragon 2 will hit theaters sometime in either 2012 or 2013.

Source: DreamWorks Animation and Deadline