Director Dean DeBlois originally planned for DreamWorks Animation’s How to Train Your Dragon movie series to end after the third film -- the followup to this summer’s How to Train Your Dragon 2. The franchise, built around the story of Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and his dragon, Toothless, has been successful both critically and financially, even leading to an expansion into television (DreamWorks Dragons originally aired on Cartoon Network and will continue on Netflix). There was also talk, spearheaded by DreamWorks Animation head Jeffrey Katzenberg, that the series would extend to four films after the release of How to Train Your Dragon 3 in 2017.
Though another film would benefit DreamWorks Animation -- the sophomore outing of Hiccup and Toothless is so far the highest-grossing animated movie of 2014 -- DeBlois recently said a fourth installment in the series won’t be happening; but spinoffs are another story.
In an interview with Collider, DeBlois explained he was still dedicated to his original vision of a Toothless and Hiccup story that would span three movies:
"I think I’ve talked [Jeffrey Katzenberg] down from that (laughs). There may be spinoffs to come, but my involvement and my dedication to completing a story that has a reason for being and a strong sense of integrity and three chapters I think is in place and intact. Everybody seems to be in agreement that we’re moving in the right direction."
In terms of How to Train Your Dragon 3, DeBlois said the movie is on track, despite last month's announcement that the release date had been pushed from summer 2016 to the following year. The director explained that each How to Train Your Dragon film takes three years to make, meaning a 2016 release date "was a little ambitious" to begin with.
DeBlois is currently working on the screenplay for the third film, the final act in Hiccup’s coming of age story that has acted as the main through-line of the franchise. Additionally, the threequel will delve more into the mythos of the dragons, as well as Toothless' own story:
"I’m also playing with the idea of what happened to the dragons and why they are no more, as suggested by Cressida Cowell’s books. So the whole mystery of where did they go? Did they come back? What transpired? I think it’s all compelling stuff and it’s definitely a story that’s gonna have a lot more Toothless emphasis in it. We continue to get more insight into the dragon world and shed light on their intelligence and all the aspects that we’ve been slowly cooking over the last two films."
About the villain of the third film, DeBlois was less forthcoming, though that may be because it’s an aspect of the film that hasn’t been fully realized yet. Originally, Drago (Djimon Hounsou) was to appear in Dragon 2, then be the primary antagonist of Dragon 3, but his storyline was (seemingly) finished in the sequel.
Although news that How to Train Your Dragon 4 is less of a possibility than previously thought may disappoint fans of the movies -- or fans of Cressida Cowell’s 11 books in the series -- DeBlois’ comments on Dragon 3 emphasize the care and effort he has put into the trilogy, which will hopefully also be evident in the final installment.
While a fourth How to Train Your Dragon movie from DeBlois doesn’t seem to be happening, spinoffs from the film series are apparently a possibility. Whether or not the director will be involved remains to be seen, but if he isn’t, it will be difficult to predict what fans can expect from any spinoffs. However, given the largely positive reception of DreamWorks Dragons, spinoff films may be just as successful as the original series.
How to Train Your Dragon 3 will fly into theaters June 9th, 2017.