The Nine Realms Showrunner on Bringing Franchise to Modern Times

Dragons: The Nine Realms has brought the world of How to Train Your Dragon to the modern era. The TV spin-off of the popular movie trilogy is set at a geological station meant to study a mysterious fissure that emanates electromagnetic energy, and follows a group of kids who stumble upon a group of dragons that have emerged from their Hidden World and now must keep them a secret.

I got the chance to talk to showrunner and executive producer John Tellegen about expanding on the lore of the franchise and taking it to modern times, tying it to real-world mythology, how working on Power Rangers influenced his approach to storytelling, and that huge reveal in the last season.

Collider: How was the show pitched to you?

JOHN TELLEGEN: DreamWorks came to me, and said we wanted to make a dragon show, 1300 years after the last film, and we want to see modern day kids with modern day hopes and dreams, and to see what that would feel like. So we sat down and we started discussing how to keep the same heartbeat, and the same soul of the franchise that we all love so much, but move it forward in the timeline, one of the things that moving it forward does for us is that it allows us to play with issues and themes that maybe weren't as important to Vikings, like environmental issues or animal rights issues, so we enjoyed that playground, and we enjoyed bringing modern kids, and introducing them to timeless dragons.

It was always important to me to keep the same heartbeat of the show, we want to bring in a whole bunch of new fans to the franchise that maybe haven't been exposed to the earlier iterations, and we also want the legacy fans to come along on the ride with us, and so it was always our intent to, no matter what, make it feel like How to Train Your Dragon series, and to keep our finger on the pulse of what has made the franchise such a crown jewel.

One of the things that makes this show cool is that you play with real-world mythology and the vastly different takes on dragons around the world. What kind of research went into that?

TELLEGEN: That's some of the fun in the series is our characters learning the dragons exist, learning about dragons, and then uncovering secrets along the way that the previous iterations laid out for us, and so it's a really fun, and rewarding journey for our modern day kids to learn all of what the kids that came before them had gone through.

We definitely also wanted to touch on the different parts of the world that has dragon myths, and there are a lot of them, and that was part of creating what we feel is a rich fabric for the show to honor these different cultures that have a connection to the dragons or mythical creatures, and we wanted to tell those stories through our characters, our intrepid team characters, so it's a fun journey, and it's fun to explore the different parts of the world that have a connection to dragons, not just the Nordic.

RELATED: Dragons Come to the Present Time in 'Dragons: The Nine Realms' Trailer

Because the show is so far removed from the movies, what were some of the challenges in bringing this story to life?

TELLEGEN: In terms of the design, we wanted to connect it to the old series, and so our team followed some of the proportions of the characters so that it would all feel like one world, we added wood and organic materials into our buildings to harken back to Berk of old, so we were constantly building bridges between the old series and this series, so that it would feel like a cohesive universe. The way that we've approached this is that there are dragons from the past that you might meet, and then there are dragons in our show that are new dragons that perhaps you haven't seen before, they all fall within the same design language, it's just some might be from different parts of the world, and so that informs how they look, and how they feel.

I really wanted to ask you about working on Power Rangers, how did that experience inform your work on this show?

TELLEGEN: I think it all helps, personally, I love seeing characters from all different walks of life, I feel it's good just for humanity to see the different types of people, and different stories, and different upbringings, coming from different places, I think that hearing those stories, and those varied life experiences brings us all together, and helps us understand each other, and brings us closer together as a human race, and so I think that I've always felt that was a very important thing to put forward on the screen.

For this show we had an excellent cast that elevates the material beyond my expectations every week which is amazing as this is a modern day take on the show, we wanted to make sure that we were honoring the diversity of the modern world, and so we created characters that were from different backgrounds, and so it lends a richness to this show that we're all very drawn to, and we wanted to expand the scope outside the shores of Berk, which is another reason why moving it 1300 years into the future allows us to play in that playground, and so that was the thought that went into it as well.

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How much did you guys plan ahead while working on this season?

TELLEGEN: We definitely plan for the future, there are a lot of stories that we would love to tell, we hope that we'll get the opportunity to tell all of those stories, I don't want to spoil anything, but I will say that as a team, we definitely know where we would like to take the series, and so that's... We're hopeful that we will be able to do that for all of you guys.

On that note, what can you tease about that final reveal in the last episode?

TELLEGEN: Well, that's a big moment in the series, that's when Tom realizes his connection to Thunder is much deeper than he could have possibly imagined, and that's going to... If there are more stories that we're able to tell, that's going to propel him forward in his journey to uncover his past, and his destiny with Thunder, and so it'll be hopefully an exciting journey.

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He also talks about writing some horror-centric episodes of 'The Last Airbender.'

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Rafael Motamayor (250 Articles Published)

Rafael Motamayor is an entertainment writer and critic for sites like Collider, Observer, Rotten Tomatoes, /Film, IGN, and more. He specializes in writing about horror and animation, and yearns for the day a good animated horror project comes along so he can combine the two.

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