Apparently, Gabe Hordos, the supervising animator of How to Train Your Dragon, based Toothless’ physical and behavioral characteristics on his own pet cat! The Toothless that we saw and fiercely loved in the movie was passionately competitive, strongly independent, strikingly graceful, yet extremely adorable, exhibiting mostly feline characteristics. Can we therefore safely arrive at the conclusion that Toothless indeed was a cat that accidentally got transformed into a dragon?
DreamWorks released the first five minutes of How to Train Your Dragon 2, sequel to the first dragon movie, as a teaser earlier this month. A particular scene shows Hiccup, the protagonist, getting friendly yet combative with Toothless on a hilltop. Hiccup feigns injury and Toothless promptly ‘brings him back to life’. With each passing second, you’re made to feel Toothless is the adorable feline pet that you’d love to have at home. Hordos reveals in an interview, “At first we wanted him to be like a panther… [Toothless] was full of all this anger and then we had to find ways to make him sweet”. Soon after the discussion on Toothless’ characteristics, he drew inspiration from his red tabby called Stufen, whom he had adopted from Humane Society in Los Angeles. He confesses his friendship with Stufen; first, winning his trust and affection, and then securing a firm friendship; inspired him to create Toothless. “I watched his behaviors and you start to recognize the personality in him … these creatures that have no facial expression can actually be emotive and actually make you feel something,” observed Hordos.
Simon Otto, the head of character animation of both the ‘dragon’ movies, has another interesting story to share, “Most of the animators that were working on [Toothless] are cat people, but our director, Dean DeBlois is a devoted dog lover. This created some really interesting debates during our dailies sessions, but ultimately the best idea would always win.” It’s heartening to know that two very adorable pets inspired one of the legendary dragon characters in the history of animation. So, we have a Toothless who sneers and fights like a feline and cuddles up in good times like a fluffy puppy! Otto explains, “Within a few shots Toothless licks Hiccup the way a large dog would splatter saliva all over his owner, followed by a shot of Toothless tapping Hiccup’s head the way a cat would play with a ball of yarn.”
The animators had to closely study animal behavior, both their own pets and footage available on the internet, to come up with the landmark character of Toothless. Hordos’ association story with Stufen won him a Genesis award in the end; an award that’s given by the Human Society of the United States to commemorate entertainment that involves animal welfare.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 hits the theaters on June 13. Be sure to watch Toothless on all his glory. Whether he’s feline or canine is for you to decide!