How to Train Your Dragon is a movie series about a skinny white kid who befriends a laser breathing turbo-dragon called Toothless. A dragon that, over the course of the series, goes from being a terrifying engine of destruction seasoned vikings shit their pants in fear at the mere mention of, to a fiercely loyal companion and loveable dumbass. A seeming contradiction that starts to make perfect sense when you realise that Toothless’ animation was informed by the movements of both cats and dogs. With a little wombat thrown in there for good measure.
Set in a world where dragons rule the sky with a scaly iron fist, How to Train Your Dragon is, at its core, the story of a boy earning the love and trust of an injured animal. Only in this instance the animal just so happens to be a 3 ton lizard capable of flying at half the speed of sound called Toothless.
Moving on, according to animators who worked on the series one of the most difficult things about animating Toothless was finding reference footage on which to base his movements – a common thing in animation – to better sell him as an actual animal to the audience. Now while you’d assume the reason for this would be because dragons aren’t real, the actual stated reason finding said footage was so difficult was because there was an ongoing argument behind the scenes about whether Toothless should act more like a dog or a cat.
For example, in the first film it was largely agreed that Toothless should behave more like a cat since in that film he’s distrustful of the film’s main character and needs to be convinced to lower his guard. Much like a cat. Also much like a cat he’s a lithe and agile predator with superior reflexes and an innate nobility and grace to his movements.
In fact, the animators were so convinced of this that some scenes in the movies were directly informed by a cat. Hell for one scene the animators went as far to attach a small piece of tape to a cat’s tail just to see how it would move to inform how Toothless would react to something similarly being attached to his tail without warning.
However, as the series progressed the dog aficionados behind the scenes began to make their voices heard, reasoning that for the second movie, since Toothless was now more of a loyal companion than a distrustful wild animal, it made more sense to base his movements on a dog.
Eventually a compromise was reached and Toothless became more of a composite of the traits of both animals, with his movements being additionally informed by those of other fuzzy and wuzzy creatures known for their curiosity and adorableness such as horses, kangaroos and wombats.
The important to thing to note though is that Toothless is potentially the ultimate pet since he possesses the keen senses and agility of a cat, the loyalty of a dog and can also fire hadokens capable of shattering mountains out of his mouth whilst going Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan.