The Vue Cinema in Leicester Square is unrecognisable. Posters featuring dragons are hung in every direction and the entrance is lined with giant rocks and bushes to recreated the Viking island of Berk. This is all to celebrate the release of Dreamworks hotly anticipated sequel How To Train Your Dragon 2.
The film, set five years after the original, returns us to Berk as Vikings and dragons live together in harmony. Hiccup and his Night Fury are still best friends as they explore the world around them. When travelling, the young Viking stumbles across dragon catches and meets the mysterious dragon rider. The dragon rider is, in fact, a blast from Hiccup's past who protects dragon's from the dreaded Drago Bloodvist. Hiccup must unite all the dragons to stop Bloodvist and protect his home and family.
As the talent begins to arrive a pair of wings and long tail can be seen just outside. Toothless the lovable Night Fury is eagerly greeting guests that included the films director and the books author.
The enthusiastic author works her way along the press line before she reaches me. She greets me with a lovely smile and some amazing earrings. The first thing I have to ask Cowell is what drives her to continue writing the books as she has penned such an extensive series. 'I never intended to write this many books and the series is at an end now so'. The news that after Cowell's finale book audiences will not get to revisit her world of dragons is sad news but 'I have a planned ending and know how my story will finish'. It may just be time for the dragons series to concluded.
When it came to adapting the books to the big screen Cowell was very brave in handing full control of her work over to the film makers. 'If you're gonna do it then just do it', she states, on letting her work be adapted. 'The books were not written with screenplays in mind and I didn't want to be the overbearing mother. As an author your work is like your child so I decided to let it go free'. Despite this freedom Cowell plays an important role in the film process. 'I haven't been shut out at all', seeing as she acts as consultant on the films, that have grown from her brilliant works, her vision is still present.
Although Cowell clearly understands that a good book will not necessarily make a good screenplay, is there something that is not featured in the film that she's misses from the books? 'Well in the books we get into something called dragonese which is the language of the dragons. Early on when Dreamworks were trying to do a faithful adaptation of the books they considered using subtitles for dragonese. But that would have excluded young children unable to read. They also considered breaking down the language like the Jar Jar Binks character'. His very name gets a line of heads shaking when you recall the greatly disliked Star Wars character. 'Dragonese couldn't work in the films like it could in the books so it doesn't feature'. Despite its needed, absence in the film Cowell's created language is clearly something she cherishes.
When I look out at the Night Fury, enthralling children, this is clearly visible. The idea alone of going flying with your winged friend is enough to make you believe. Cowell, herself, has previously stated that one of the main reasons she wanted a dragon as a child was so she could go flying with it. Cowell bids us goodbye and I wish her the best of luck with her books and the film, not that she needs it.
Next up, the press line is director Dean DeBlois. DeBlois had previously directed animated classics Mulan and Lilo and Stitch. With his move to Dreamworks he was inspired by Cowell's series charting the relationship between dragons and Vikings.
DeBlois has stated that he took inspiration from the films of his youth such as the Star Wars trilogy with The Empire Strikes Back, a particular influence. Empire is easily the mother of all sequels but how has DeBlois incorporated such an iconic film into the dragon series. 'Well I'm very much part of The Star Wars generation and what Empire did was take everything that I loved about the first and expanded it. A greater universe with bigger creatures and bigger threats. It just went so much bolder and thats what I wanted to do with this film.'
Finally, seeing that this is the second in a planned trilogy I have to ask the writer/director if he can reveal anything about the third instalment. 'Well, Cressida is ending her book series and the finale will explain why dragons are no longer with us and how they died out. It could possible be a bitter-sweet ending for Hiccup and Toothless as the end will explore our dragon-less reality' but to find out we will just have to wait for part three. I tell the director thank you and he departs for the screening.
Last up the press line is American Ferrera. Fererra is known for portraying the lead in series Ugly Betty but here its her vocals that she lends to the film as Astrid, Hiccup's girlfriend. As the guests are already seated we only get a short time with the star who gleefully shows her enthusiasm for the project. Fererra states that she never would have thought that going in and out of a recording booth for three years would amount to the film we get to see today. 'I'm so grateful to have been apart of this series'.
Seeing as to voice an animated character you have do it alone we asked did she find this easier or more challenging? 'Its kind of both really. You don't have the setting or other actors to bounce off of which is hard. Usually it would be Dean, (the director) running lines with me inside a booth. But in a way its more freeing to just have yourself and use your imgination to voice your character'.
Sadly, Ferrera is ushered away to begin the screening but she does hope we all enjoy the film. With the talent departed the remaining few stragglers are lead into the screening. The room falls silent, the 3D glasses go on and the film begins.
The result of DeBlois' hard-work and Cowell's original vision is a brilliantly conceived and fantastically animated sequel. As DeBlois intended to do its gone bigger but still centered around the characters that audiences have grown to love. The animation highlight of the summer and a treat for all audiences.
How To Train Your Dragon 2 is in cinemas July 11th. Read Jo's review now.