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Hi dragon fans! I have some cool plans for this site in the future, including more interviews and many, many more dragon giveaways! However, as things currently are, the site doesn't quite have the budget to give out tons of cool dragon things to everyone. (And the last thing I would want is to cover it with ads.) However, there are plenty of awesome things I can offer people who help support Berk’s Grapevine!

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If you can’t support the site, don’t worry: you will still get to see all the cool things in store for Berk’s Grapevine! But if you do, you will not only be responsible for making Berk’s Grapevine even more fun and dragonesque, but you’ll be receiving these awesome opportunities as well!

And by the way, thank you so much for your support of this site already through your comments, emails, and help finding new dragon things to share! This site would be nothing without all of you!

Race to the Edge Episode Guide


Some of you may have pulled an all-nighter watching all 13 Race to the Edge episodes at once. Others of you prefer spreading them out over several months. Either way, if you're craving some serious dragon discussions, stop by Berk's Grapevine on Saturdays for the episode post of the week! Of course, there will be plenty of dragons throughout the week as well!

Even if you've seen them all, the posts will include plenty of high-quality screenshots and gifs from each of the episodes, because it's not easy taking good screenshots of Netflix! Just remember to keep the future episode spoilers to a minimum for the people who haven't seen them yet!

Finally, if you think you've spotted any potatoes, leave them in the comments for all to see!

See you on Saturday!

Countdown to Race to the Edge


Watching Race to the Edge Together!

Race to the Edge will be coming out sometime on Friday, most likely at 12 a.m. Pacific Time. This is fairly late (or early) for most Berk's Grapevine visitors, but if you’re willing to completely ruin your sleep schedule for dragons, there is a Race to the Edge discussion chat:

Race to the Edge Discussion Chat
(check back around 11 a.m. Pacific Time)

Although the sidebar countdown timer is set for 12 a.m. Pacific Time, there’s no guarantee the episodes will be out by then! But if you find yourself needing to express your dragon excitement to other dragon fans, check out the chat!


Technology of Race to the Edge

The DreamWorks Dragons series is unique for being one of the few CGI animated television shows. Producing this kind of a show in limited time and with a limited budget has its challenges. To keep costs down, it becomes necessary to limit the kinds of effects used, the number of characters in each shot, and the number of camera moves.

Race to the Edge looks incredible. The look of the show is near feature-quality, with beautiful texturing, impressive lighting, and fairly fluid character animation. Water effects were frequently mentioned as one of the main technological improvements on the show. Manipulating characters underwater and above water is simple, but entering and exiting water or giving characters “the wet look” is difficult.

We should also expect to see new kinds of visual effects, especially snow. For a village where it “snows nine months of the year and hails the other three,” there hasn’t been much snow so far. Race to the Edge promises more wintery episodes, as well as other cool particle and fire effects.


Connecting the Films

Race to the Edge begins a couple years after Defenders of Berk, putting the main dragon riders in their late teens. There are 52 episodes planned for Netflix with 4 episode drops of 13 episodes each over the course of two years. The Netflix series will end right where the second movie begins. Art and Doug compared it to “bowling with bumpers”: they know where they begin and where they end, and must tell a story to connect the two with no loose ends.

This means that eventually, the Dragon Eye will have to come to an end (as will some of the new TV series characters, most likely). Because we and the characters are first introduced to Drago and Valka in the second film, there will likely be no references to them in the series. And unless some of the series characters are written into the third film, it is unlikely that Dagur, Alvin, Trader Johann, and the multitude of Svens will make an appearance outside of the series.

This is the last time we will see Hiccup and Stoick together, so we must treasure it! It seems like there some amount of Hiccup and Astrid romance as well. Unfortunately, not all relationship news is positive. Berk’s Grapevine can confirm that the clearly obvious romantic relationship between Toothless and Stormfly (ah, the lovely Toothfly…) will not be developed in this series. Or ever. I’m sure this is a big disappointment to all of us.


Producing the Show

Releasing all 13 episodes at once changes the kinds of stories that can be told. There’s less of a cost associated with re-introducing plot, characters, or dragons, meaning the show can be more serialized. This allows broader story arcs that span entire 13-episode seasons of Race to the Edge. At the same time, the advantage of a TV show over a film is how easily it can bring in new characters, villains, and dragons.

Although we will see the final product of each season approximately every six months, production of Race to the Edge never stops. Each episode is generally in production for 6-8 months, with work beginning on a new episode every month or so. This means at times, all 13 episodes will be in various stages of production simultaneously.

Apparently, after seeing Race to the Edge, it’s almost shocking to look back at the previous episodes of the previous seasons and how simple, less graphics-oriented, and less textured it is. The current iteration of the show is much more mature looking, just like the characters in it.


School of Dragons

The online multiplayer game School of Dragons is planning on releasing updates for Race to the Edge. There will be a Death Song update coming out soon based on the dragon appearing in the third episode, and new quests based on Race to the Edge, most of them available for free to all School of Dragons users. The Dragon Eye will be somehow involved in School of Dragons, as well as new villains.

School of Dragons is very passionate about including suggestions from fans in the game, and dragon fans have been very vocal in the past about what the game does right or what should be changed. And they also seem to collect fan art that dragon fans have posted on their forum!

Race to the Edge: Visual Development and Design



This is the second part of the Berk’s Grapevine coverage of Race to the Edge! Keep checking back this week for more information about the show and School of Dragons! The previous part was about Story, Characters, and Dragons.

Dragon’s Edge Huts

Houses on Berk were designed to be destroyed every few weeks. True to real Viking design, Berk houses are shaped a bit like boats. However, now that dragons are no longer a threat, house design on Berk and on the Dragon’s Edge is more varied because the Vikings can build whatever they want.

Each of the riders’ houses on the Dragon’s Edge is somehow related to their personality the dragon they ride. Hiccup’s hut has a Toothless-inspired design with a built in forge and plenty of crazy contraptions and a windmill. Astrid, as you might expect, builds more of a fortress than a hut. Fishlegs, interested in learning and the history of dragons, builds a tranquil meditation house and a garden that, unsurprisingly given that the island is full of dragons, burns down before the end of the season.

The twins have very different personalities: Ruffnut is more orderly, while Tuffnut enjoys the crazy and impractical. Together, they build something so convoluted that it requires giant balloons to keep it standing upright. Snotlout is now the shortest of the dragon riders, but is never one to be bested. So, he installs a crank to raise and lower his hut so that his is always the tallest hut on the island. He also keeps a water tank next to his hut, just in case his flammable dragon sets the entire thing on fire.


Building the Dragon’s Edge

In the first two seasons, there is a lot of talking done in the Great Hall. The Dragon’s Edge clubhouse was designed to be a kind of Great Hall for the Dragon’s Edge. One of the problems David Jones, visual effects supervisor for the show, realized was the lack of variety in Great Hall shots. The clubhouse was designed to prevent this. It is infinitely configurable, with different doors and windows to open that show a view of the islands around the Dragon’s Edge.


Unlike Berk, the Dragon’s Edge is designed vertically. Because everyone has dragons, there’s no need to construct buildings on the same height or to build bridges or paths. However, this does mean that they need to build huge stables for their dragons. Like the clubhouse, these stables also offer a spectacular view of the island, making them ideal places to set conversation scenes.

Every single Dragon’s Edge building was designed with an amazing level of detail and attention to lighting. There is a beautiful three-story stable with holes to let light through, creating a unique atmosphere unlike any other building on Berk. There is also a giant dragon training arena with a closing dome to contain wild dragons. Trying to fly into the arena before the dome closes becomes a favorite game for the riders.

Dragons, Dragons, Dragons!


Death Song

We first meet the Death Song in the third episode, where it uses its amber-like goo to trap and eat other dragons. The Death Song is one of the prettiest dragons in the series, and a lot of fun for the designers to work with. It will likely be making appearances in the future.


Night Terrors

Alone, these dragons are not very threatening. But together, they form a flock in the shape of another dragon in order to protect themselves. Night Terror posed a technical challenge because DreamWorks’ software crashed for scenes with more than 11 rigged characters. A flock of dragons, however, would require several thousand.

In order to create a flock of Night Terrors, the individual dragons were pre-animated and rendered. Then, these pre-animated dragon spites were used in a particle system consisting of over 7,000 dragons.

Razorwhip

The Razorwhip has reflective scales that look unlike any dragon ever seen before. However, this requires special care for each scene to make sure that the world around the dragon looks good from all angles, and not just from the perspective of the camera.


Catastrophic Quaken

The Catastrophic Quacken is a small dragon that is a member of the Gronckle family. It looks quite a lot like a boulder, and indeed can curl up into a boulder and roll around.


Snow Wraith

The Snow Wraith is a distance relative to the Night Fury (it was originally called the Snow Fury). Because of this, it shares many of its design elements with the Night Furies and uses its ability to sense heat to stalk its prey.

Easter Eggs

Every TV show seems to have its Easter eggs. Race to the Edge has the humble potato. Race to the Edge director Elaine Bogan became obsessed with the potato asset and began sticking potatoes wherever possible. Some of these potatoes will be nearly impossible to find. But whenever you see a small, spherical object, you can be pretty sure that it’s another potato.

Help us find all the potatoes at potatoesofberk.tumblr.com!

Race to the Edge: Story, Characters, and Dragons


With Race to the Edge coming out this Friday, it’s time to hear a little more about it! I was invited to the DreamWorks campus last week to see behind-the-scenes into how the show is produced and to talk with the artists, directors, writers and producers of Race to the Edge. And they have some pretty amazing things in store for us.

With a show as amazing as this one, it’s hard to know what will be coming out on Friday.  Here’s what I’ve learned about the show while I was there:

Upcoming Episodes

  • Episode 1: “Dragon Eye of the Beholder, Part 1”

    During their search for the escaped Dagur the Deranged, Hiccup and the Dragon Riders discover a mysterious object... one that hold their destiny.
  • Episode 2: “Dragon Eye of the Beholder, Part 2”
    
Hiccup and the Dragon Riders journey to Glacier Island in search of the Snow Wraith, a fearsome dragon that holds the key to the Dragon Eye’s mysteries.
Race to the Edge Cheat Sheet

  • There will be 52 episodes in 13 episode chunks, spanning 2 years.
  • About half the episodes will contain completely new dragons.
  • Almost every episode has potatoes… if you can find them.
  • Expect references to Norse mythology.
  • The Dragon Eye is a slide projector containing information about dragons.
  • The Snow Wraith was first called the Snow Fury, originally being related to Night Furies.
  • We will hear the story of how Stoick and Gobber find their dragons.
  • We will follow Hiccup as he creates the dragon blade and flight suit.
  • There may be a musical episode.

A Dragon’s Eye View

Although originally, the dragon eye was called a “mysterious object,” it was never designed to be something supernatural or magical. The intricate cylinder is simply a (very difficult to open) projector that uses dragon flames instead of light.

By finding and collecting new lenses and using different dragon flames, Hiccup and the others use the Dragon Eye to explore beyond Berk. In a way, the Dragon Eye is the “Book of Dragons 2.0.” Though the Vikings of Berk may have been the first to train dragons, they were certainly not the first Vikings to come in contact with dragons. The Dragon Eye is meant to suggest the existence of Vikings in the past who also studied dragons, and recorded their knowledge for future generations.

And of course, a device that reveals new dragons and maps out the world beyond Berk would be pretty useful in the hands of Hiccup’s enemies, wouldn’t it?


Living on the Edge


In their interview with Berk’s Grapevine, executive producers Art Brown and Doug Sloan talked about how Race to the Edge would be the college years for Hiccup and the others as they explore outside of Berk. And if they’re in college, then the Dragon’s Edge is one big dorm room.

Each of the dragon riders builds their own hut, and each is somehow related to the rider’s personality or to their dragon. They also build a clubhouse for meetings in the center of the island. The clubhouse serves a similar purpose to the Great Hall on Berk as a important place on the island where the riders can talk together.

Check out Berk’s Grapevine tomorrow for visual development images and more descriptions of the Dragon’s Edge clubhouse, stable, and Hiccup’s hut!


About the Dragons


We encountered new dragons in the previous two seasons, but most of them were known dragons in the universe of the story. Now that Hiccup and the others have exhausted the book of dragons, they turn to the Dragon Eye to find dragons that they have not heard of so far.

This means the dragons in Race to the Edge will be as new to the audience as they are to the dragon trainers. Race to the Edge is very much centered around new dragons: about half of the episodes introduce a brand new one. You can imagine that it may be difficult to come up with names for these dragons and use them for the remainder of the episode without sounding forced or awkward. The Viking characters switch off, each of the main six characters being responsible for naming a subset of the new dragons.

The Snow Wraith is a particularly interesting new dragon. It was originally conceived as the Snow Fury, a dragon related to and somewhat similar looking to the Night Fury. Later, the name was changed to Snow Wraith (having multiple “Fury” dragons is not the best idea from the perspective of the franchise), but its character model and possibly its phylogeny are still related to Night Furies.

Often times, a new dragon will drive a Race to the Edge episode. Other times, the story of an episode will lead Hiccup and the others to a new dragon. We can expect a wide selection of dragons on the show, ranging from cute to deadly. Sometimes, the design process for a new dragon involves inspiration from the animal kingdom, while other times, dragons are created by combining the abilities or characteristics of existing ones.


About the Characters


How to Train Your Dragon 2 begins with a Hiccup who is trying to find a place for himself in his tribe and among his friends. Race to the Edge expands on this theme, especially in the first two episodes. The season begins with Hiccup and his friends having found all the dragons they can from the Book of Dragons, and as a consequence, have slowly moved on and found new jobs around Berk. All except Hiccup.

Finding the Dragon’s Eye brings the team together again to search for new dragons. We will also get to see the creation of Hiccup’s inventions from How to Train Your Dragon 2, like the dragon blade the flight suit. One of the benefits of the TV show format is the ability to explore all six of the main characters and their dragons. As far as these stories go, we can expect a completely unexpected but adorable love interest, someone having attachment issues with poultry, and a lot of great rider-dragon moments, especially in the case of Snotlout and Hookfang.

There are some crazy character-based episodes in store as well. In one episode, Fishlegs is hypnotized into believing he is a hero named Thor Bonecrusher. In another episode, Tuffnut thinks he is becoming a weredragon. And it sounds like a musical episode where everyone sings is not entirely out of the question. But it is a mystery whether it appears in the upcoming season, in some future season, or will never show up at all.

This is the first in a series of articles on Race to the Edge. Check back soon for more images, concept art, and descriptions for Dragons: Race to the Edge that will show up on Berk’s Grapevine this week! The next part is about visual development and design.