How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (John Powell)


Director Dean DeBlois concluded his animated trilogy with 2019's "How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World". Though the script made a few decisions that I wasn't totally happy with, the film is still a fitting coda to the world of Berk, its vikings, and the dragons that change their lives--filled with jaw-dropping visuals and a powerful goodbye to these beloved characters we've lived with for a decade, bringing many a tear to this viewer. Returning for the job was John Powell, cementing his legacy as one of the best film composers of this generation, and giving us one of the best score trilogies of all time. Never content to just repeat himself, Powell provides his most colorful score yet, masterfully using the orchestra and additional Celtic flavors, giving us a stunning new collection of themes (as some are dropped), including a gorgeous love theme for Toothless and the Light Fury, and for the hidden dragon sanctuary. 


This was my favorite score of 2019, and a stunning visual treat, and I knew I had to finish this trilogy of cover sets with a bang. That said, I didn't actually plan to do this many covers initially. There were fewer official posters to use than in the second film, so I figured my job would be quicker here. I was almost done several days ago, but then discovered concept art from the film that was just too rich to pass up, so those are the bottom half of the images below. I like feeling like I'm truly doing the film/music justice, and as a visual obsessive, when I see a great piece of art, I just feel compelled to get my hands on it and make it my own. The official covers mostly focus their attention inside the hidden world caves, with the purple and neon bioluminescent flora. These images are stunning, through don't totally capture the warmer, more mature style of the film, but I feel like the complete collection of fourteen (14) total covers should get the job done.

For the first cover, I couldn't find a textless version of the poster, so I had to clone out the title at the bottom, and then slid the top half of the image down, to better suit the composition. I had to do some blending in the background scenery in ways that seem to continue a smooth curve in the rocks. I think the effect is fairly invisible, and hopefully you don't notice that a massive chunk of the cliffs behind them vanished. 

Cover 2 was fairly straightforward, and I liked the difference in color, from this opening scene to the film. The trick was figuring out a workable composition. Fortunately I found a hi-rez version of the title logo in transparent png, so that saved me a lot of time, but the actual design of the title is a little odd. I guess the glossy, white text for "The Hidden World" is meant to echo the Light Fury, though having that third (fourth if you include the DreamWorks logo) line of text makes for a tricky balancing act, when you then also have to add (usually) another two lines of text credits. 

The third cover, I found a much wider version of this poster to use. This one is essentially a remake of the official album cover. Though as per usual, I like including main characters from the film, so the version with Astrid was a plus, and also the chance to get rid of the clashing modern fonts that Powell keeps using on his latest soundtrack albums.

Covers 4 - 6 were pretty straight-forward, just a matter of finding visual balance. I like the more nostalgic and bittersweet style of 4 and 6's posters, less about sparkly kid's action, but more focused on the deep friendship at the heart of the story, and how our heroes Hiccup and Toothless have matured during the course of their journey.

Covers 7 and 8 offer the last of the official poster campaign. The poster for the seventh is from the IMAX release, and the eighth used as the Blu-Ray cover.

I couldn't actually find the original source for the artist of the ninth poster. The site where I found it credits a "jwill85", if you know who first created this, let me know, so I can fully credit them. Anyways, I loved this piece of fan art, all I had to do was clone to extend the white textured background. I just like the shape and design here, and that is has a rougher, more painterly vibe to it.

Cover 10 uses the cover image from the "Art Of..." book. This book present a variety of concept art sketches used in the development of the film, with most of the art credited to Pierre-Olivier "POV" Vincent, the production designer on the film. I just had to clone out the existing text on the cover, and expand the top of and bottom of the image, to better fit my new text and square composition.

The eleventh cover is custom variant. The rest of the images from here on out are all from the "Art Of" book listed above. Fortunately I found a user on Reddit who had taken hi-rez scans of some of the interior book pages, so that's my source for these digital paintings. For this cover in particular, I actually blended two images, a much wider shot of the stormy sky, in which I shifted a few of the clouds around, and then on top of that I superimposed Toothless and the Light Fury from another image in the book in close-up. So perhaps not an exact replica of the scene from the movie, but I think it captures the mood overall. 

The final covers, 12 - 14, again are using Vincent's incredible concept art, here showcasing some of the scenic landscapes in the film. These were all much wider originally, so I had to figure out where to crop, and in the case of the hidden world caldera sinkhole, I had to clone over to hide the crease in the middle of the book scan (which landed right in the center of my new composition). The other art offers an inside look inside the caves (from a fold-out ultra wide landscape), and then the hills of New Berk that our heroes discover after their original home is threatened. In 14, I just took the silhouette of Toothless flying, which was actually on the second page of this spread, made him larger, and moved his into this image.

Every new project is a challenge, often of my own making. But I'm a completist, and I like knowing that I've covered a subject fairly exhaustively. Hope you enjoy, and let me know which of the options are your favorite and best capture the core of the film for you.

2 comments

  1. Okay so I'll just say it, this is clearly the best set of the three for the 'Dragon' scores. Not just in quantity, although that is also important, but the quality is just that little bit better too. I think you chose good artwork, which is tough given the maturing tone of the series compared to where it started. In fact, that might actually be a bit of a problem. Not on your end, since you're working mainly with official material. But looking at all three sets now, and even the official covers we got, the three promotional campaigns seem somewhat disjointed. As for how it affects your three sets of covers, the first set not having any of the more abstract art that the later two have (referring to the last few covers) makes it feel a little awkward. But, what can you do? The promotional campaign for the first film didn't really do that. Even the "Art Of..." book seems really short on useable material, in my opinion anyway, especially compared to the wealth of covers you could make from the "Art Of..." book for the third film. Speaking of which, I was debating whether to link you those high-res pics in the previous thread, but I trusted you might've gone looking for them yourself after our discussion. And you did, even used the same Reddit link! And good thing too because those three are my easy favourite of the set, I just naturally gravitate to the simpler, atmospheric designs of those covers. Although, I was surprised there wasn't at least one cover which used the logo placement of the #10 cover or the fancy box design of #12 & #13 from the 'How To Train Your Dragon 2' cover set. It could help show off more of the picture, and it'd look nice in your library with matching covers. In fact that's what I'm doing now, trying to make covers for 1 and 3 to match the #10 cover from your 'Dragon 2' set, although finding a good image for 1 is proving tough, I don't like most of the material from the 'Art Of...' book. Ah well, I'll hopefully think of something.
    Congratulations on finishing your first series of cover sets!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, as always, for your comments and paying so much attention to all the details!
      Interesting observations about the marketing for the trilogy, I agree they haven't always been great at really capturing the tone and heart of the stories, even though the sequels certainly had much more enjoyable art, just visually speaking.
      As to the question of providing some consistent and matching covers throughout all 3 projects, I kinda agree, I maybe didn't provide this as much as I could/should have. For the first project, there was only one prominent bit of concept art that I recall, the green-hued one of Hiccup first interacting with Toothless at the lake. I guess I just skipped it, because personally I wasn't a huge fan of that piece, the art style just felt a little too unpolished, and I usually only bother making cover that I personally could enjoy having as a potential cover. That said, that piece would pair nicely with Cover 10 in this set, so maybe I should add that one back to the original at some point.
      I never found scans from the 'Art Of' books from 1 and 2, other than the cover. Actually, I did see some scenic design images from 2, which maybe came from that book, but honestly with 14 covers already, I kinda felt like it might be overkill to keep adding more. With 'Hidden World', it made more sense to add those, cause there were fewer overall official posters to use, and I liked the tonal variety. Even in the third book, I feel there's a lot of images that aren't in the scans here either, that I probably would have enjoyed using, but again, I felt I had done more than enough already, and had to cut myself off sometime, lol.
      I kinda felt bad about not proving options to match those covers you mentioned from 2... but I primarily approached each cover independently, and none of them really seemed to suggest using that off-center titling that I'd used in #10 (of 2). Originally I was gonna go #10 here, that way, mimicking the actual art book text, but again, once I actually worked with it, I just felt that centered just fit it better.
      I debated also trying to re-create that little frame used on #12-13 of the previous set, though the only one I think it would really suit here would be #11 (I think using it on the lower 3 scenic ones would just be too cluttered and busy). Maybe I can try updating cover 11 to provide that matching option just in case people might enjoy it. Though of course then film 1 would still be missing a matching cover.
      So in conclusion, even though I put a ton of work into this as is, and I'm quite happy with my work... in terms of providing matching trilogy pairings, I guess I kinda failed a bit on that goal. Certainly something I'll need to be more conscious of in any future franchise covers.
      Thanks again for all the support and detailed engagement with the material!

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