Dreamworks Animation found a successful franchise in the How to Train Your Dragon series, which launched with the first film in 2010. The film garnered positive reviews from critics and a warm reception from audiences, helping it to a nearly $500 million worldwide box office haul. The studio followed up that success in 2014 with How to Train Your Dragon 2, which outperformed its predecessor at the worldwide box office by over $100 million. That kind of follow-up typically means that a third sequel will be in the offing before too long, and while Dreamworks has made plans of How to Train Your Dragon 3 common knowledge, the studio has recently announced it will be a little bit longer before audiences can welcome young Viking Hiccup and his loyal dragon Toothless back to the big screen.
The third film in the planned trilogy had already seen its initial release date of 2016 pushed back to 2017 and again to a plum summer slot in June of 2018. Even the date in 2018 proved tentative, however, as it was announced earlier this summer that the film would move up a few weeks to May 2018. That positive bit of news was not to be, it seems, as in a press release issued today, Dreamworks Animation announced the release date for How to Train Your Dragon 3 had been pushed back significantly to the first quarter of 2019.
The animated film's new release date is scheduled for March 1, 2019 – a placement that will give it a week's head start on the release of Marvel's anticipated Captain Marvel solo film starring Academy Award-winner Brie Larson. Considering the film was initially slated to go head-to-head with Pixar's Finding Dory before moving to a week before the Han Solo standalone film was released, it seems Hiccup and Toothless are finding it increasingly difficult to find space on the calendar where they aren't facing off against a major box office contender from Disney.
The release of How to Train Your Dragon 3 is part of a new development schedule from Comcast. Dreamworks Animation was acquired by Comcast for $3.8 billion and continues to change release dates and movies in development. Big moves since the acquisition include abandoning Croods 2 and officially announcing Shrek 5. Plans call for Dreamworks Animation to release two movies a year, one an original and one a spinoff or sequel. The upcoming slate has two movies in 2017, one in 2018, two in 2019, and one in 2020. The move of How to Train Your Dragon 3 to 2019 leaves an empty spot in the 2018 lineup according to the new two per year plan.
Nevertheless, the release date change isn't all doom and gloom. This extra time may be just the thing director Dean DeBlois needs. The initial two-year window between sequels seemed daunting, even for someone like DeBlois who has already directed the previous two installments in the franchise. So while it's probably old hat to him by now, the additional breathing room will help ensure the trilogy is sent off in style.
How to Train Your Dragon 3 is now scheduled for March 1, 2019.