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Comic-Con International attendees crowded into a 750-seat ballroom Thursday to learn more about Dragons: Riders of Berk, the highly anticipated Cartoon Network series based on DreamWorks Animation’s hit 2010 film How to Train Your Dragon.
However, before Gregg Goldin, Cartoon Network’s director of development, could get the presentation under way, convention staff first had to wrangle a few dragons of their own: fans who had camped in the room awaiting later panels for MTV’s Teen Wolf and Image Comics’ The Walking Dead.
With the newcomers settled in the middle of the room, Goldin introduced Dragons showrunners Art Brown and Doug Sloan and DreamWorks Animation Creative Executive Peter Gal, and gave a shout-out to several DreamWorks staff members sitting in the audience. He then brought the audience up to speed on How to Train Your Dragon film, and what Hiccup and Toothless have been up to.
Set in a mythical Viking world, the film follows a teenaged named Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) who aspires to follow his village’s tradition of slaying dragons. But after finally capturing his first dragon, Hiccup discovers he no longer has the desire to kill the creature and instead befriends it.
To loud applause, Goldin announced that Baruchel will reprise his role in Dragons: Riders of Berk, which begins its two-season run on Cartoon Network in September, leading into the 2014 theatrical release of How to Train Your Dragon 2.
“What was really cool is that we had to have Jay, but Jay didn’t want anyone else to voice this character,” Gall said.
While the original film was about uniting the Vikings of Berk and the dragons, Dragons: Riders of Berk will develop that relationship, leading to the establishment of a dragon-training academy led by Hiccup. Over the two seasons, the series will introduce new dragons, new villains and expand the world and powers of the dragons. However, the main focus will be the bonds between the original characters and their dragons.
Sloan, Gal and Brown all chimed in to establish that each episode could stand alone, and that the series will add depth to the sequel but not be required viewing. Goldin said that hardcore fans will be rewarded for watching the show when the sequel arrives.
In addition to Baruchel, movie voice actors America Ferrera, T.J. Miller and Christopher Mintz-Passe will return for the television series. The audience response was deafening when Mark Hamill was announced as the voice of new villain Alvin, the leader of an outcast tribe of Vikings, and will be the focus of the Season 1 finale. Tim Conway also will add his comedic talents.
DreamWorks then premiered a 15-minute preview of Dragons: Riders of Berk, featuring footage from five episodes. It consisted mainly of a dragon stunt competition between the children. Flishlegs, Mintz-Plasse’s character, received the biggest applause for his small mid-air loop after other dragons exploded with action before him.
During the Q&A segment, panel members revealed several new dragons, including Torch, a baby dragon discovered in the fourth episode. Others include Typhoonerang, Torch’s gigantic mother in search of her baby, Thornado, who establishes that the creatures can have different powers, and Thunderdrum, who has a large mouth with a sonic blast that could destroy boats and mountain-sides.
This led into the revelation that Toothless will get a new power toward the end of the first season. It was also established that Toothless is the only Night Fury dragon, which will be addressed in the first season as well. Other dragons mentioned were a sea dragon and a land dragon that could tunnel through the earth. Goldin mentioned that DreamWorks has a giant book of dragons that producers can pull characters from.
Goldin closed the by panel hinting that more information about a sneak preview of the first episode will be available soon.