How To Train Your Dragon 2 is picking up a reputation as the animated worlds Empire Strikes Back. Expanding the universe of the first film and taking on a darker more grown up tone, not that it leaves behind it child friendly nature, to become a film that in many ways is superior to the original. Yet despite all this and the genuine emotional punch the film had, all I could think afterwards was how much I wanted a Toothless.
Animated animal sidekicks are nothing new in movies. Whether it be Donkey in Shrek or Apu in Aladdin, they are almost as essential as the central hero and are often more loved. You just have to look at the recent success of the Minions from Despicable Me, which have gained enough of an audience to have their own film coming out. You can question the wisdom of that as much as you want but all of this adds up to one single thing, sidekicks sell.
So what makes Toothless stand out amongst this lofty competition? To be honest it’s because he’s basically a big dog. He’s loyal, fun loving and even without speaking, manages to get across a lot more in his facial expressions than a lot of supposedly talented actors. Toothless is everyone’s dream pet, with the added bonus that he shoots fire and flies. Oh and you can ride him while he does these things.
Yet Toothless isn’t just a way to sell plush toys to loving children, his relationship with central character Hiccup makes these films as good as they are. Without ever saying a word, he becomes the emotional centre of the movie. You believe in the relationship between Toothless and Hiccup and because Toothless is essentially a dog, willing to provide unconditional love and loyalty, it makes it a lot easier to believe in than any human relationship. You don’t believe that anything will ever split these two up, because why would it?
Toothless shows exactly why the animal companion is such a recognisable trope. He makes the audience care about the people in the film because he does. If this amazing animal can love Hiccup the way he does, why wouldn’t we love him?