‘Dragon 2’ Director DeBlois Animates Whistler Fest Scene

Helmer to receive Trailblazer in Animation Award

When Dean DeBlois wrote and directed the “How to Train Your Dragon” pics (along with Chris Sanders for the first film), he was looking to take some creative risks and defy convention.

It paid off; the series is a box office and critical success, and for his work, DeBlois will receive Whistler Film Festival’s Trailblazer in Animation Award on Dec. 6, as well as take part in a Variety Contenders Conversation.

See Also: Canandian Indies Embrace Whistler Fest’s Impromptu Market

DeBlois is also leading the charge to harness new computer technology to enhance animation. “How to Train Your Dragon 2” is the first film to take advantage of DreamWorks Animation’s Apollo software, an overhaul of tools ranging from animation to lighting, and a new cloud-based system that makes an unprecedented amount of computer processing power available on demand.

This allows the creation of simulation algorithms that can spawn anything from hair and fur movement, to fat jiggle. Details that were once difficult or impossible to animate are now within reach.

“It really comes down to just the limits of our imaginations,” DeBlois says. “Now (animators’ work) goes directly from thought to creation without having to wait for those exhausting renders and counterintuitive tools.”

Popular on Variety

In “Dragon 2,” a key epic battle scene involving hundreds of dragons would have been impossible without Apollo.

“It allowed the artists to work in a very intuitive way,” says DeBlois. Instead of having to work with spreadsheets and graphs, the artists are able to manipulate images in real-time with a stylus and a tablet, a quicker and more dynamic approach. “They are drawing again and their thoughts are being communicated through their hands — it’s such a pleasant and exciting way to work,” he says. That’s a relief for animators, and it allows for bolder choices and experimentation.

And it’s just the beginning. “I don’t think we’ve seen the limit of it yet,” says DeBlois. “It means that anything is possible.”

New tools developed for one film become part of the toolkit for future films and future animators. “It just becomes an expanding toolbox all the time,” he says.

For all that technology, though, DeBlois cautions that artistry comes from the animators, not the tools.

“You can’t replace talent with computing power.”

What: Film Festival
When: Dec. 3-7
Where: Whistler, British Columbia, Canada
Web: http://www.whistlerfilmfestival.com

More Film

  • Leaving Neverland HBO

    HBO Seeks Dismissal of Michael Jackson Estate's Suit Over 'Leaving Neverland'

    HBO urged an appeals court on Friday to throw out litigation brought by the Michael Jackson estate over the 2019 documentary “Leaving Neverland.” HBO and the Jackson estate have been locked in a legal war ever since the premium cable network agreed to run the documentary, which chronicles child sexual abuse allegations against Jackson. The [...]

  • Denzel Washington

    Film News Roundup: Denzel Washington-Rami Malek Thriller Set for Early 2021 Release

    In today’s film news roundup, a Denzel Washington-Rami Malek thriller gets a release date, “Escape Room 2” gets moved, Paramount sets a double feature, “So Cold the River” wraps and the Sonoma Film Festival unveils its lineup. RELEASE DATES Warner Bros. has set the Denzel Washington-Rami Malek police thriller “The Little Things” for a Jan. 29, [...]

  • WGA Agents Contract Tug of War

    Writers Guild Says It Helped Negotiate 100 Deals for Agent-Less Members

    The Writers Guild of America has asserted that it has assisted in negotiating more than 100 deals in recent months for members without agents. The missive from the WGA West board of directors comes nearly a year after the guild leaders ordered their 15,000 members to fire their agents if the agents had not agreed [...]

  • the jesus rolls

    Émilie Simon Contributes Flamenco/Gypsy Vibe to John Turturro's ‘The Jesus Rolls’

    For French musician Émilie Simon, the flamenco-meets-gypsy vibe writer-director John Turturro was seeking for the soundtrack to his movie “The Jesus Rolls” turned out to be in her musical and genetical DNA. “This music originally comes from where I grew up in the south of France,” says the 41-year-old electronic musician, who has released five [...]

  • My Hero Academia Heroes Rising

    'My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising' ADR Director on Adapting the Anime for a U.S. Audience

    “My Hero Academia” has officially Detroit Smashed into North American theaters. Sony Pictures Television’s Funimation released “Heroes Rising” in the U.S. on Wednesday, grossing $2.5 million on its opening day. Theaters are showing the film, a standalone entry in the popular superhero anime based on the manga, with options for either subtitles or with an [...]

  • Lost in America

    'Lost in America': Film Review

    You might feel a sense of shame watching Rotimi Rainwater’s “Lost in America,” an expansive documentary look at the issue of youth homelessness in a country where the problem seems unthinkable, and its victims are so often invisible. You are likely to ask yourself how many times you have passed by a homeless child and [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content