The Nine Realms Showrunner on bringing franchises to modern times

Dragons: The Nine Realms has brought the world off How to train your dragon to the modern era. The TV spin-off of the popular film trilogy takes place at a geological station to study a mysterious fissure that emits electromagnetic energy, and follows a group of children who encounter a group of dragons that have emerged from their hidden world and now must keep them secret.

I got the chance to talk to showrunner and executive producer John Tellegen about expanding the history of the franchise and taking it to modern times, tying it to real world mythology, how to work on Power Rangers influenced his approach to storytelling, and the big revelation last season.

Collider: How was the show set up for you?

JOHN TELLEGEN: DreamWorks came to me and said we wanted to do a kite show, 1300 years after the last movie, and we want to see contemporary kids with modern hopes and dreams, and to see how it would feel. So we sat down and we started discussing how we can maintain the same heartbeat and the same soul in the franchise that we all love so much, but moving it forward on the timeline, one of the things like moving what going forward for us is that it allows us to play with topics and themes that might not have been as important to Vikings as environmental issues or animal rights, so we enjoyed that playground and we enjoyed taking modern kids along and introducing them to timeless dragons.

It’s always been important to me to keep the same heartbeat in the show, we want to bring a whole bunch of new fans into the franchise who may not have been exposed to the previous iterations, and we also want the old fans to come along on the trip with us, and it has therefore always been our intention, no matter what, to make it feel like How to train your dragon series, and to keep his 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 are playing with mythology from the real world and the vastly different views on dragons around the world. What kind of research went into that?

TELLEGEN: It’s some of the fun in the series that our characters learn that dragons exist, learn about dragons and then reveal secrets along the way that previous iterations laid out for us, and so it’s a really fun and rewarding journey for our modern children to learn all that the children who came before them had gone through.

We certainly also wanted to touch on the different parts of the world that have dragon myths, and there are many of them, and it 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 these 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 only the Nordic.

Image via DreamWorks

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

TELLEGEN: In terms of design, we wanted to connect it with the old series, and so our team followed some of the proportions of the figures, so that it would all feel like one world, we added wood and organic materials to our buildings. listen back to Berk from the old days so we were constantly building a bridge between the old series and this series so it would feel like a cohesive universe. The way we have approached this is that there are dragons from the past that you might encounter, and then there are dragons in our show that are new dragons that you may not have seen before, they all fall within the same idiom, these are just some that may be from different parts of the world and it tells how they look and how they feel.

I really wanted to ask you about working with Power Rangers, how did that experience help influence 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 that come from different places , I think hearing those stories and the different life experiences brings us all together and helps us understand each other and brings us closer together as a human race, and then I think I have always felt that was a very important thing to bring forward on screen.

For this show we had an excellent cast that lifts the material beyond my expectations every week, which is great as this is a modern version of the show, we wanted to make sure we honored the diversity of the modern world and so we created characters that came from different backgrounds and so it gives a richness to this show that we are all very attracted to and we wanted to expand the scope outside Berk’s shores, which is another reason to move it 1300 years into the future allows us to play on that playground and that was also the thought that went into it.

How much had you planned while working on this season?

TELLEGEN: We are definitely planning for the future, there are many stories that we would love to tell, we hope we get the opportunity to tell all the stories, I will not spoil anything, but I will say that we as a team definitely know where we want to take the series to and then it’s … We hope we’ll be able to do it for all of you.

On that note, what can you tease about the last revelation in the last paragraph?

TELLEGEN: Well, that’s a great moment in the series, that’s when Tom realizes that his connection to the Thunder is much deeper than he could have ever imagined, and it will … If there are more stories that we are able to tell, it’s going to propel him forward on his journey to reveal his past and his fate with the Thunder, and so it will hopefully be an exciting journey.

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