By Elaine Bergstrom
Growing up means becoming your own person, moving away from the expectations of parents who, though they love you, may not quite understand what will make you happy. It’s the theme of some of the greatest animated features, such as The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast and How to Train Your Dragon — a film about a teenage Viking short on brawn but long on empathy, with an independent spirit that changes the relationship between Vikings and dragons.
“Vikings are tough, with a code and a creed,” explains Chris Sanders, one of the film’s writers. “Fighting is second nature to them. If you’re a Viking, you just don’t back down from a fight — you’re physically strong, you’re brave, you don’t flinch. The thing about Hiccup that we love is that he wants to be a Viking. It’s not like he woke up one day and said, ‘I wish I weren’t one of these guys.’ On the contrary, he desperately wants to be one of them.” To do this, he must kill a dragon. To make things even harder on Hiccup, he is the Viking chief’s only son and though he is a disappointment to his father, Stoick (voiced by Gerard Butler, Beowulf) loves his son and tries to protect him from the dangers of their world.
“The most important quality of an actor in animation is his ability to portray something in his voice,” says producer Bonnie Arnold. “The thing I like so much about Hiccup is that his perceived liabilities—his smarts and his offbeat viewpoint — become his greatest assets. We root for Hiccup. That quality comes through in spades in Jay Baruchel. He’s smart, he’s funny, and a little bit off-center in his humor.”
Commenting on his role, Baruchel says, “Hiccup’s dad is warlord of the Vikings. And he’s just a tough son-of-a-gun — each of Stoick’s arms is about the size of two Hiccups put together. I think that it’s not too dissimilar from my father in real life— all he wanted was for me to play hockey, or maybe baseball, and neither of those was ever going to happen.”
But as Baruchel’s acting career — including the starring role in She’s Out of My League — proves, there are more roads to the future than the ones parents expect. And for kids a little bit different and parents who care about them, Hiccup is a hero they will love.
“How to Train Your Dragon” is now showing on Video On Demand. Check your cable system for availability.
™ & © 2010 DreamWorks Animation LLC