So I just wanted to tell my story about going to see HTTYD2 for the umpteenth time and finding out I picked “daycare day” at the movies.
Okay so seeing HTTYD2 with a bunch of kids was actually really incredible.
So the theater is completely packed, and I end up at the end of a row of daycare kids, right?
So we’re watching the movie, and I realize it’s enjoyable because these fresh faces are all laughing and experiencing the antics of dragon racing and seeing all these cool things for the first time, and it’s kind of fun to see a joke aimed for kids hit home with the kids - you’d hear the kids explode with laughter while the adults would just kind of chuckle inwardly. I don’t know, it was fun to experience it as a a child secondhand.
But I’ve seen HTTYD2 before, so I know what’s coming.
When the Bewilderbeast was killed, there was a little boy in my row who kind of whisper-asked if he was “really dead”.
And the little boy right next to me said, “Probably not”.
Now that stuck out to me because, on screen, it’s so obvious that the Bewilderbeast is dead, and you see all the characters react to it.
But this little 5-6 year old is viewing movies in a completely different way than I am. And it takes me a moment to realize that almost every movie this kid has probably ever been exposed to has been made “for kids” - which means that if there’s ever a “good” character that “dies”, they almost always come back through some miracle. Hence “Probably not.”
This little kid was recognizing the trope used in films directed for his age group, and as a result, he wasn’t affected by the Bewilderbeast’s death.
Until the Bewilderbeast didn’t get up.
It was weird, you could actually feel it in the room when the kids began to realize that the Good Bewilderbeast not only didn’t win, but died.
And so, a few minutes later, you could hear a pin drop in the theater when Stoick was hit.
One little girl in my row laughed really hard at the sight - I guess the blue-green ice piled on Stoick seemed comical?
But the minute Hiccup ran over and started pulling the ice off him, desperate and scared, the audience fell back into silence.
Valka rushed over to him, and put her ear to his chest and-
“Is he dead?”
The same kid from before, but this time he sounded scared.
And the little boy next to me was far less certain when he said, “Probably not?”
And so, we go to the funeral scene. Gobber begins his eulogy, and I hear kids begin to cry. We see the boat, and the draped body, and the helmet, and a kid asks “Is he sick?”
And then the funeral pyre is lit, and the boat sails away, and I look around me and the kid next to me has tears streaming down his face, and the little girl who laughed is crying behind her hands.
Of course, moments after Hiccup’s monologue, we see them flying on the baby dragons, and the kids are quick to laugh and move on from the heaviness of what they just saw.
And I realize that this is probably the first time that the majority of these kids have had to face death like this. In an animated movie with dragons and vikings, they expected a fairytale, and they got something much closer to reality.
And for ten minutes, a theater full of children faced reality with Fun-Dip and popcorn. And they cried.
Now I’ve read the article that claims HTTYD2 didn’t do as well in American theaters because parents warned other parents it “wasn’t for kids”, but I would argue that it was. Of course, I love the movie, so it’s for adults, too, but the target audience wasn’t me.
Parents argued that the Death theme was too much for a young audience (and I respect parents choosing to shield their kids from death for as long as possible), but I saw with my own eyes kids realize that death was a thing that happened to everyone, not just bad guys. And they mourned when a good character died. And I think that lesson is important for kids to have.
There were of course fantastic elements to HTTYD2, but those elements were part of a fantastic world that has always been anchored in reality. In the first film, Hiccup lost his leg because filmmakers decided it wasn’t believable that he went through that epic fight and came out unscathed. And so it was in HTTYD2.
Good people went to war, and good people died.
And I think its a valuable lesson for children to have, especially delivered in animated form, when they can experience it with a kind of silver screen barrier between Death and themselves.
I want to thank you guys for an awesome one year of writing HTTYD FanFiction! Here’s a Hiccstrid drabble to celebrate. :D
Astrid brushed the snow off her gauntlets as she watched Stromfly trot off to join the other dragons at the feed station. Smiling softly at the dragon as she swatted Terrible Terrors away from the crowd, she stuffed her beak-like snout into the barrel greedily.
She looked up at the sound of laughter from somewhere on the ledge. Grinning, she waved a hand at the foursome.
“Hey, guys! You seen Hiccup?”
Fishlegs waved in turn. “Saw him this morning at the Great Hall with Stoick, I haven’t seen him since.”
She nodded in farewell as she jogged from the stables, glancing which ways in search of the unmistakable Night Fury. She frowned in bemusement.
“Hiccup, where have you gone off to now?” She mumbled under her breath in slight irritation. She glanced over her shoulder towards the preoccupied Stormfly, figuring that she’d have to walk to find him. And if he wasn’t in the village, she’d just have to wait at his hut.
Kicking up the snow, Astrid trekked leisurely up towards the higher terrain of Berk, greeting those she passed cheerfully. It was a clear winter day, and while the air had a bite to it, somehow, there was a warmth in the air that came from good company. Not to mention the steam rising from the clay and sod chimney’s of the Hall, spreading a wonderful smell in the breeze. Dragons were gathered around the chimney’s, drooling over the scents that wafted about them.
She jumped closer when she caught sight of Stoick standing by the docks, looking over that days catch. It looked to be a good haul, one that would help take more room in the supply sheds.
“Sir! Chief, have you seen Hiccup?” Astrid huffed as she skidded to a stop before him. The buff man turned and scratched his beard, nodding his head with a fond smile. His eyes twinkled, almost secretly, as he gestured roughly towards the cliff sides towards Raven’s Point.
“Told me he was off to pick something up. Whether that’s true or he was just trying to get me off his back is for you to decide.” He laughed boisterously with a shake of his head. “That boy’s got a free spirit.”
“Oi! Wants to gallivant off on his dragon, hair flying in the wind, firing plasma blast into the sunset.” Gobber guffawed loudly. Smiling toothily, he waved his prosthetic through the air. “And leaving me with all the work, no less!”
“Thank you, I’ll go have a talk with him.” Astrid laughed and took off as directed, already catching a glimpse of a small black dot hanging over one of the high rocky cliffs. It was one of Hiccup’s favorites, next to the giant statue of some Viking ancestor.
Climbing and not flying was difficult, but not impossible. She nimbly jumped up and crawled from face to face, finally making it to the long ledge where she was certain she’d seen her boyfriend moments before. The sun was now setting, casting wary shadows across the ground, making it difficult to make out the dragon curled in the corner or the young man sitting on the ledge, one leg dangling while the other was bent at the knee. Hiccup played absently with a twig and leaf as he stared at the sea, his mind clearly elsewhere.
Astrid smiled and touched her finger to her lips, silencing Toothless from giving her away. Not wanting to startle Hiccup into falling off the cliff, she made certain to make noise as she grew closer. While he’d outgrown most of his klutzy habits, he still had a tendency to jump when startled, and knowing him he’d jump right off the cliff.
He jerked his head in her direction, smiling lopsidedly. “Hey, Ast. What brings you up here?”
“Isn’t that obvious?” She settled down beside him, leaning gently against his shoulder. “I should be asking you that question.”
Hiccup’s shoulder shook with a sigh, and he tossed the stick aside to wrap an arm around her shoulder, giving it a soft squeeze. “Just… thinking.”
“Everything? Dad has a way of confusing me.”
Astrid arched an eyebrow. Turning to face him, she tapped his chin. “You should just tell him you’re not ready.”
“That’s the problem! I can’t just… let him down like that. He was chief when he was eighteen. I’m twenty, Astrid! I should be able to take all of… this.” His voice rose higher with the statement, dropping low on the last word in obvious exasperation. “I’m just uncertain about where all this is leading.”
“He only wants you to be prepared. He’s doing what he thinks is best for you.” Astrid smiled helplessly. “He’d understand, Hiccup. You only need to speak what’s on your mind.”
Hiccup grumbled. “That’s easier said than done.”
“Easier said? That’s all you have to do.” Astrid teased, jabbing her finger against his leather suit. “It’s not hard, give it a try, hm, babe?”
Hiccup pecked her cheek lightly, smiling against her skin. “That’s not all I’ve been thinking about.”
“Oh really?” Astrid grinned up at him, blinking her lashes seductively.
“You don’t realize what today is?”
“It's… it’s winter?” Hiccup stared at her, unamused. She gnawed her lip worriedly, wondering what holiday she’d somehow managed to forget. “Soup day? Coffee discovery day? Your birthday? My birthday?”
“C'mon Astrid!” Hiccup laughed and kissed her again. “It’s our one year betrothal anniversary.” He whispered against her ear.
“One year?” Astrid repeated in disbelief. Hiccup nodded as he peppered her jaw line. “Has it been that long?”
“I… I can’t believe it.” She laughed shakily, and picked up his hands in hers.
He pulled away, smiling. “We going to seal the deal one of these days?”
“We’ve just been so busy…”
“No, I… I understand. I’ve been busiest of us both.” He brushed her bangs. “I’ll talk to my Dad.”
“And mine?” She wiggled her eyebrows with a laugh. “Isn’t there some silly tradition about the groom asking the father of the bride’s permission?”
“Somewhere among the many rules, yes.”
They kissed passionately while Hiccup’s arm slipped around her waist, drawing her closer, and his other leg slipped to join his right. They broke the kiss after moments of frozen time, smiles soft and sweet.