Berk's Grapevine

Your Chance to Interview a Toothless Expert

Dane Stogner is an animator at DreamWorks who is responsible for animating many of the key Toothless shots in How to Train Your Dragon 2 and How to Train Your Dragon. He is one of the few Toothless experts, who understand the dragon's character, movements, personality, and how he interacts with Hiccup better than anyone else.

And now, you have the opportunity to interview him! As usual, all questions will be reader-submitted. If you have a question for Dane Stogner, leave it as a comment on this post! Or, if you think someone else has a good question, upvote their comment.

Your questions could be about Toothless, the process behind shaping the dragon's character, character animation, animating dragons, what it's like to work on Dragons or at DreamWorks in general, or anything else you can think of! Go where no one goes!

Question submission closes on Monday, November 10!


  1. This is cool! Well, I would like to ask: Have you used any real animals as a model for all the dragons? I mean like have you really had a cat or a dog or some other animal in your studio while you created Toothless or the other dragons?

    Also, what is the hardest part of creating a dragon? The personality? The appearance? Something else?

  2. I wish I had a question... all I can say is how AWESOME HTTYD and HTTYD 2 is... :D

  3. How did toothless' spines and body start glowing when he challenged the alpha?

  4. You're basically Toothless. How's life as a Night Fury?

  5. I'd like to ask. are there any limits to giving toothless emotions? also, which emotions did you focus the most on while animating him?

  6. What were your first thoughts on Toothless and Hiccup's characters?

  7. What was your favorite part in animating Toothless ? And how did you came out with all these amazing expressions for Toothless ?

    I just have to say, I love the How to train your Dragon's movies, they're the reason I'm currently studying animation.

  8. How did you get into the animation market? As in, what level of education and/or expertise did you need, and how can someone jumpstart a career as an animator?

    I really want to be an animation artist, or concept artist, and I would appreciate knowing how to get myself into the world of animation :)

  9. Dane Stogner
    What is it like to be working in the animation industry that is being affected so heavily by the use of technology? How has Apollo affected you personally in character animating and how have you seen if affect others in the industry? Have you ever been at an artistic low point around college age(or any age) and how did you push through that to get where you are today? Do you have any tips animating two characters interacting with each other as closely as Hiccup and Toothless interact? What are some of the main challenges of working with a character such as Toothless? Do you have any unofficial "rules" for animating Toothless in general? If there ever was a moment where Hiccup would be to 'protect' Toothless in the same way Toothless does for him, how would each respective characters body language change? Dane Stogner I thank you for contributing to this series in such an awesome way. I hope to learn from you and others

  10. Hey there! Your work on HTTYD 2 was absolutely amazing!

    My questions are this: Are you going to be doing any work on the third season of the HTTYD show? Also, I would like to thank you, because How to Train Your Dragon 2 and it's beautiful animation has really inspired me, in more ways than one.

  11. Were the little changes on Toothlesses design intentional to show age difference? Like his teeth being closer together, the nubs, the head spikes, and his eyes being rounder.

  12. Which characteristic is more dominant on Toothless in the first movie, How To Train Your Dragon?
    Is it cat or dog?
    How about in the sequel, How To Train Your Dragon 2?

  13. OMG!!!! We can ask questions!!!'squeals'
    How did you come up with the idea to make Toothless use so many expressions to show his mood?
    Also what was it like to animate Toothless- was it a big challenge? What was the hardest part?
    Did any animals inspire you to make Toothless look like he looks? Does that question even make any sense?

  14. I've read that the early animators looked at Stanislavsky as source of inspiration for building a character/ acting. As a studio do character animators still look to theorists like Laban, Stanislavsky or Brecht? Also, at Dreamworks is it important for the movement to be as realistic as possible or do you try to add squash and stretch to keep a subtle cartoon quality? Essentially, what I'm asking is; what's your process the acting side of animating a character like Toothless?

    Thanks very much :) also - the animation was amazing

    All the best!

  15. i want to be a character concept designer, and id like to know how hard is it to get into the industry, and how do you get there?

  16. How did you got into animation?
    What are the best and the least favourite things of it?
    Which one of Toothless charactreristics you find the most appealing and easy to animate? and also in his emotions
    What you think about Toothless and Hiccup's relationship?

    And lastly How did work in HTTYD has affeted you?

  17. Me and my sisters decided on this question: How can Toothless' teeth retract and what gave you the idea for the retractable teeth?

  18. I understand that Toothless can't talk in the films (unlike the Dragonese spoken in the books) but if Toothless had a voice, what do you think he would sound like? (This might be a silly question, I dunno...)

    Also, is there any character aspects of Toothless' personality that haven't been animated in the first two movies that you'd like to incorporate into future animations of Toothless?

    Thanks for your awesome work on Toothless' design, you really make the series come to life! :)

  19. I'm an aspiring animator, and like many I would love to work at dreamworks. I would like to know what have been the highlights of working on the HTTYD franchise, and working with Toothless specifically?

  20. I'm not going to ask if there are any more Night Furies, because I don't think I want to spoil it and I don't think I will get a straight answer either! Hehe. But I did want to ask something. How did Valka know about Toothless' spinal blade splitting ability?

  21. Hey, thanks for making a wonderful movie. I would like to know what is making Toothless glow when he is challenging the alpha? Or in other words, what is surging through his body that makes glow blue? And if there are other Night Furies out there, would they be able to do this as well?

  22. The Re-Appearing VisitorNovember 8, 2014 at 10:46 PM

    Just an...odd "estimating" question. How aerodynamic is Toothless's shape? Do you think (if he were real), that he could actually fly? He looks very realistic in that sense.

    Also, how much work went into constructing Toothless's skeleton (or whatever purposes that)? (I guess I'm interested in his anatomy.)

    What are the bumps on Toothless's ears for?

    How much did Toothless change from the first film to the second? (Both in character and physical build)

  23. Hi there! HTTYD is one of my favorite movies of all time! (Next to Spirit haha)
    I'm wondering; I'd like to major in illustration for college but I want to work in the animated film industry, like Dreamworks. What is the job of illustrators at Dreamworks and how do they correspond to the animators work? Which department works in character design and concepts? I realized recently that I want to create the characters themselves; not make them move as an animator does.

  24. Hi, I am a HUGE fan of the How to train your DRagon series and Toothless is one of my favorite characters! I do a some questions and I know you're pretty busy as an animator for such a popular movie and Tv show series but it would would be a great honor if you could at least answer like 1 or 2 of them. I love your work and I hope to become as amazing animator as you one day in the future. Dane Stoger I thank you for making such an amazing contribution to the most possibly amazing show/movie EVER!!! And I hope people get inspired by your amazing work and I hope that other people including me learn more from your work!!! Thank you taking time out of your busy schedule to read and possibly answer of few of my questions for me!!!

    1.) When did you start interest begin to become an animator?

    2.) What inspired you to work with dreamworks on the particular character of Toothless?

    3.)What is Toothless perspective on some of the things the Hiccup does?

    4.) How alike are Toothless and Hiccup?

    5.) Do you have any plans for animating Toothless in the upcoming movie How To Train Your Dragon 3?

    6.) What inspired your design of Toothless overall? And why did you make him like you did, why not make him a Deadly Nadder or HIdeous Zippleback?

    7.) What body language would be portrayed by Toothless if there ever came a time that he would have to protect HIccup from the unimaginable horrors that they would probably have to face together in the future?

    8.) What body language would Toothless ever portray or show us if he were to ever fall in love with another dragon?

    9.) At what costs would Toothless go to, to save Hiccup?

    and finally....

    10.) What are some of the main challenges you faced while first animating Toothless and what gave you the idea of creating him like you did?

  25. As someone who currently plays around with rigging and animating 3D characters, I marvel at how many subtle details went into Toothless' expressions. These types of details never really pop out to the audience but they do add an almost subconscious level of realism. (For example, a seemingly random ear twitch, how high or low Toothless holds his wings when he is walking around on the ground, or when/how frequently he blinks.) Are these types of details given in the art direction or are they your own touches and if they are how do you know where and how many of them to add.

  26. Do you have a pet that you use as a refrence while animating Toothless?

    How much of the process involves Dean(The director) telling you what to do and how and how much freedom do you get while animating?

    Do you have any favorite part from one of the films, either it was fun to work on or you just liked how it turned out?

    Love your work! Toothless is awesome!

  27. Oh wow! :D I would like to ask: What are the essentials to have to be able to go into a career in animation? How much time does it take to animate about 5 minutes of Toothless? And what has been your favourite Toothless moment to animate? :)

  28. Because he was so full of rage and anger. His firepower became so powerful that he started to glow. I though that was quite obvious. (Not trying to sound rude here. ^^)

  29. Oh dear, you've got a lot of questions to answer! Hope you've got time for these as well.

    A friendly warning: if you have not seen the HTTYD movies but are still on this site for some reason, do not read the rest of this post! There will be spoilers!

    In the first movie, when Toothless saves Hiccup from the fire: why does he end us losing his leg? I always thought it was because it got so badly burned they had to amputate it, but then I read a fic which claimed that not only did Toothless bite his leg off, but he did it on purpose to make them equal! I've heard about the theory, which claims that it was necessary if he were to get to him in time, but the story made me wonder what really happened.. and now I've got the chance to know for sure.

    And another question about Toothless: how much does he remember from the time under the bewilderbeast's control? He seems to br shocked and horrified when he's walking over to Stoick's body, but does he remember? Does he remember Hiccup's pleas for him to get back to him? Does he remember shooting with the intention to kill his best friend? And if he do, do these memories continue to haunt him?

    And, somewhat related to the las question: how do you comfort a grieving Night Fury, or dragon in general? (Okay, that was a weird question, but I'm curious)

  30. What would Toothless's thought process look like throughout the first film [how do his feelings for Hiccup change; at what pace, etc.]?

  31. What was it like aging up a dragon?

    What your favorite part of your job? Least favorite part?

    Do you think Toothless is more like a dog or a cat?

  32. Question 1: Is toothless mimicking Hiccup talking, trying to talk too?
    Question 2: can toothless talk, human talk, to any extent?

  33. My question:
    - As Toothless-animator you get unconscious character traits of Toothless when you have animated him for a long time for two movies? And other way: Are there character traits of yourself in Toothless?

    Questions from a friend:
    - How long did it take to create Toothless for the first movie (from the first sketches to the film-ready model)?

    - What computing power (hardware) is needed to create such a complex character?

    PS: please convert my text into acceptable English for Dane. Thanks. ;)

  34. This fall I am going into an animation program at university and was wondering what it is like working with a major animation company and working with such an expressive character like Toothless? How has the Dragons series challenged you as an artist?

  35. Why change the animation on Toothless? I liked the animation in the first HTTYD movie.

  36. My question for him would be: In what way is Toothless' connection with Hiccup unlike anything the screens have ever seen? I keep hearing that come up in reviews of the movie: that this is a relationship so deep it has never before been portrayed. How is this connection developed? What details does it involve?

  37. Hello! So, here goes...

    What were the keywords you "creators" used when defining Toothless as a character?

    Was there a phase where Toothless was becoming someone else but took a different turn and became the cute yet majestic dragon we know now?

    One last one! I promise it won't take long D: did you guys, at any point, use animals as reference to how one of the dragons(maybe even Toothless?) was going to take shape? as in... the creators of Guardians of the Galaxy had some "quality raccoon observing time" to define Rocket's character and movement. Did something like that ever happen?
    Oh... it did take long... curses!

  38. Oh I love How to train to dragon and when I'm older I would really want to be an animator! How did you get started? How long does it take to animate 5 minutes of toothless?

  39. Oh gosh.. I have so many questions.. Get ready! XD

    How did you get into animation? Did it feel like a chore while doing it or was it something that allowed you to let loose and use your imagination?

    When you started to become interested in animation, did you often observe the way people and animals move? Or even watch other animations to observe characteristics?

    Is there a lot of math involved in animation?

    Does Apollo allow you to feel more connected or in sync with the characters?

    Weird question, but I've always wondered, what inspired the odd shape and movement of Toothless' legs? Or all the dragons legs for that matter, they are mostly similar.

    Does Toothless really have control over how powerful his shots are?

    As Toothless gets older, would his head spikes, ears, and nubs get longer? Would a second row appear behind the present nubs?
    Also, the ones under his ears, are they used for communicating as seen in the first movie and second movie, how they wiggle when a low ululation is heard, or just picking up signals that king/queen dragons can put out?

    Will we ever see Toothless use echolocation in Httyd3?

    Why is Toothless more puppy like in the second film, whereas the first film he was very mysterious and catlike, also light on his feet? Could this be that he has sort of become domesticated?

    I've noticed that Toothless' pupils, when dilated, are more rectangular in the second film rather than square like in the first film. Is that just another part of his aging?

    Will we ever get an explanation to that horrific scar on Toothless' front left leg?

    And last but not least, finally XD In the Toothless Found scene, when Hiccup is using his flight suit and the Bewilderbeast's tail is coming towards him, he says, "Not again.." is he referring to the Red Death's tail knocking him off of Toothless in the first film, or the previous incidents with the flight suit in the second film?

    Thank you for taking up your time to answer questions for all of us. Its a real treat and I think I speak for everyone when I say we greatly appreciate it!! :D

  40. Hi Dane this is my question is

    For everyone who is studying animation which I am and many others are what advice would you give them and what would you say is the key aspects of becoming an animator what do you have to do, what would be agood step to take

    And also what is the hardest part to animate with toothless his eyes, mouth or body or something else in a huge fan of your work thanks and I hope i get a chance to work with you in the future xxx

  41. The question about toothless grieving and if he remembers what he did to Stoick or regatta he was planning to do to hiccup I think that's a great question week questions I to would like to know if he would get haunted by these memories as I think he remembers what he did like when hiccup got him back you could see how sad and painful it was for him to see hiccup knowing he just nearly killed him and killed hoods own father xxx

  42. Was there a specific person that Toothless' personality was in spired by?

  43. Will the third part come out as an HFR version (48 FPS) ?

    pretty please ?

  44. How us ut like working in the best company in the world? I'm an animation student and my dream is to work at Dreamworks, and im trying my best to get there.

    Not trying to go off topic on Toothless, but as a foreigner not living in America, what should I do if I want to work with you guys?

    Also, just to add to the Toothlessness of it, why did you and your team decide to not follow by the books and create a different story all by itself? Surely following the book would have been easier than making your own story right? What was the thing that made you guys decided of staring a 15 year old with a Night Fury instead of a 10 year old with a Common-or-Garden Dragon?

    Thanks for answering my questions, and a big thank you from me to your whole team. I was lost for a long time but now I have a goal and that is to be one of you. Thank you.

  45. I understand that Toothless is more intelligent than most dragons, but I was wondering if it was hard to find a balance between human and animal emotion. I mean, if you made him too animalistic, there wouldn't be the same effect in his and Hiccup's bond, but it you made him too human, it would have been unrealistic, right?

  46. I heard Toothless' eyes opening in the Downed Dragon scene was a case of "he does what he wants." Were there any other times where the animators tried to do something, but somehow it turned out different and was kept anyways?

  47. VelocityTheSpeedStingerNovember 9, 2014 at 7:53 PM

    Can you elaborate? I mean in a more scientific explanation. ;)

  48. VelocityTheSpeedStingerNovember 9, 2014 at 8:03 PM

    Not sure if the question has been asked already, but as we've seen in the recent sequel, Toothless grew subtle nubs on his jaw as part of growing older, like a beard.
    So what I'm asking is, will those features become more prominent as Toothless continues to mature and/or will he gain more features as he ages? Or is it too early to get an answer to that question? ^^ Thank you for your time Mr. Stogner!

  49. Is Toothless really going to be the only Night Fury in the TV show or the movies?

  50. From my 8 year old son JJ "how did you come up with toothless? " My son is an avid how to train your dragon fan. My whole house is how to train your dragon.

  51. Hi :) first of all where did you study to become an animator? do you have any advice for future animators? what did enjoy the most of toothless creation? and what do you think is the most difficult part of being an animator?

  52. 1. In the first movie, was the buzzing sound, the pupils the size of slits, etc, a sort of hint at the power a queen had, only it was magnified with the bewilderbeast? How does this work exactly? How exactly does the alpha control Toothless and turn him into a beast so unrecognizable? Is it more of a primal instinct, or disrupting his sense so much that he has no idea what he is doing any more, or both?

    2. Toothless seemed to pick up human traits in the second movie, as was hinted on in the first movie when he gave his first smile. Now we see him laughing, being sarcastic and pouting, walking on two legs, etc. How much of Toothless mysterious personality was lost since the first film, and will he ever go back to being his old, mysterious self? Also, does he miss home?

    3. How did Toothless get those scars?

    4. Does Toothless have a family? I understand if you can't say much, but we are all curious about what Toothless' life was like before he met Hiccup. If you could elaborate on that a little, it would be much appreciated.

    5. How did Drago operate Toothless saddle and tail fin? I thought it was only built for Hiccup?

  53. I'd like to ask, is there a reference that you use to create the anatomy of a dragon? Like animals that exist today? Or are no longer existing?
    Thank you!

  54. Oh I've been looking for a chance to ask this question for a while now, I'm so excited to finally ask it and, possibly, get an answer! I have always wondered how exactly Toothless's wings and tail work. I never understood why Toothless could never get more than a few feet off the ground without Hiccup. I mean, and this is just speculation and guessing, the his wings provide the lift and I always thought the tail fins were what helped Toothless turn. So how exactly do the wings and fins work?

    Thanks so much Dan Stogner for being a part of bringing How to Train Your Dragon 1 & 2 to life, they are some of my favorite movies!

  55. The Whisperer of DeathNovember 10, 2014 at 3:33 AM

    Like, you guys used Apollo for the movie. How did you discover Apollo?
    Did you make it? If so, how long did it take and why call it Apollo?

  56. Ziggerastica's KalevalaNovember 10, 2014 at 9:02 AM

    I've heard Toothless' wingspan was 48". What size perimeter would one fin of his tail be?

  57. Well you know... His body was so full of anger that his firepower made him glow. Kind of like when a human is having a rage, his/her face can become red because of the anger inside. I bet there was something similar going on, but because Toothless is a dragon and he has fire inside of him, the results were a little bit different.

    Sadly I can't be more detailed because my english is not good enough to use scientific terms... :S But some frogs and lizards and even fish can glow when they are in a threatening situation, or if they are trying to look more scary during a fight. It's kind of cool. :D

  58. Hey <3
    How r u :D

  59. 24/7 guy???
    Not 24/7 any more????:p

  60. Ziggerastica's KalevalaNovember 10, 2014 at 2:19 PM

    Was that his actual e-name? Nightshade used to be the 17-hour commenter, but 24 hours? A record! But if it's just an e-name, I haven't seen him comment anywhere since I've joined. Sorry.

  61. What did you and the other animators do differently between HTTYD1 and HTTYD2. Toothless is not a speaking characters, so his animation must speak for him. I am just wondering how you came at the challenge of developing Toothless's personality with the animation, considering it is five years later. Did you change things? How did you emphasize the fact that Toothless and Hiccup have now know each other for five years?

    Also, what is the hardest thing about animating Toothless?

  62. Why does Toothless have a red tail? Wouldn't that defeat the purpose of him being hidden at night?

  63. First of all: You make a really great job! All of you at DreamWorks Animation!
    I have so many questions, yet I can't remember them :-(
    But there are still some of my questions:
    How does Drago control the bad Bewilderbeast? I mean the Bewilderbeast is so powerful and yet he is listening to Drago. Is it more of an alliance like Drago gets the Bewilderbeast more Dragons to conrtol and as a quid pro quo he does what Drago says?

    How does Hiccup control Toothless' tail with his right foot?

    Did you create Toothless' 3D model?

    About how much time did you spend to animate Toothless?

    - For example how much to for the emotions

    - Or how much for the movements

    How did Toothless get the scars?

    And I have one pleasure: Can you throw in the idea to make a Spin-Off? Like:
    - The History of Toothless' life before he met Hiccup (and the end of the movie would be when he got shot down by Hiccup)
    - Hiccups and Stoicks History, so before the first movie
    - What did Valka in the 20 years alone with the dragons (she already knows Drago in the second movie so she already met him before, could be a movie how she met Drago)

  64. my question is this: do you have any future physical changes planned for toothless (that you can talk about)

  65. Ziggerastica's KalevalaNovember 10, 2014 at 8:11 PM

    Did Drago steal a Bewilderbeast egg after losing his village or did he abuse a live baby that fell from its nest? I'd assume that would be how he managed to get the dragon, and how his backstory went with it.

  66. The thing is, as we saw in the first movie, the fire isn't just floating around in them, they release a gas from their throat and then ignite it. (Most easily seen on a Zippleback) So it's a bit confusing why he would glow.

  67. Toothless the Dragon KingNovember 10, 2014 at 9:41 PM

    HtTyD 4?

  68. VelocityTheSpeedStingerNovember 10, 2014 at 11:02 PM

    I see. And it's ok! ^^ However I still don't understand how it would work with fire/plasma. I understand why people's faces would turn red when really angry; there's more blood flow to the facial muscles because those muscles are tense and/or adrenaline in the body forcing the blood to the important areas of the body (like the head) for fight of flight. If I remember from my biology classes, animals that have the ability to glow are able to do so with chemical reactions and bacteria that live inside them.

    What confuses me though, and what I'm asking is, how could Toothless glow with his fire or plasma? It would be a bit unrealistic to have lava or highly radioactive chemicals running through his veins without doing serious damage to his health, if not killing him. xD

  69. When she joined I used to be on all the time.

  70. There are so few on right now, not much to do here, so I'm currently just waiting until more people come back

  71. Whenever i came he was always there :p
    I started to call him 24/7 in teasing sense :p

  72. Ahmed
    Kidhar gum ho??

  73. I wish I could explain it more detailed, but it's good if you understood what I meant. :D

    Maybe there are not weird chemicals running through his body while glowing, but his normal cells just start to glow, due to some mystical reaction in his veins. Also it might be that nothing chemical happens in his body at all, but the temperature just rises because he is having a rage. That would explain where the name Night FURY comes from. :D

    Maybe the high temperature makes his body super warm, and that's why Toothless was able to melt the ice around he and Hiccup. The high temperature would also make him glow, because his body is so hot. Maybe that's just a reaction which happens when you have a skin of a Night Fury.