‘How to Train Your Dragon’ Producer on Finding the Next Generation of Animators

Producer Bonnie Arnold counts “Toy Story” and “Dances With Wolves” among her credits, but she’s spent the last 13 years devoted to the “How to Train Your Dragon” trilogy.

Arnold said goodbye to Toothless the dragon and his friend Hiccup this past year in “How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World.” As a woman in animation, she’s looking to champion the next generation of animators.

“I’m at the point in my career where it’s important to be bringing up the next generation of artists,” Arnold said.

Whether she’s at Dreamworks Animation or traveling, Arnold makes it her business to look at the global animation community.

“It’s so exciting to see more women and more international artists be doing what they’re doing,” she said.

She points to this year’s Oscar nominees for animated feature as a good example of global representation.

“We had 32 films eligible this year for Animated Feature,” she said. “‘Klaus’ was made in Spain and ‘I Lost My Body’ was made in France.”

She’s always on the lookout for up-and-coming artists. “I’d love to share things I’ve done with them,” she said. “If there are women in that mix, then I’m on the scout for that.” Arnold has noticed a rise in women artists in animation school. “It’s so obvious when you look at the schools, there are so many women in there and that’s really exciting.”

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Now that the Dragon series has wrapped, Arnold is working on adapting another Cressida Cowell book. Like “How to Train Your Dragon,” it’s an original story.

“I loved the character of Hiccup, but I knew we’d seen dragons in animation before,” Arnold said. When she mentioned the story to others, the response was “No one cares about Vikings either.”

She credits DreamWorks CEO Jeffery Katzenberg for seeing the potential in the story of Hiccup and Toothless, and ultimately believing in Arnold. To her, the most important thing was staying true to the story’s core message. “We didn’t change the heart and soul of the characters,” she said.

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