Aylmer filmmaker draws another Oscar nod
How to Train Your Dragon creator grew up sketching on dad's butcher paper
From sketching on his dad's butcher paper at home in Gatineau, Que., to a succession of Academy Award nominations, Dean DeBlois has had quite the career, and now has another shot at a coveted Oscar.
Born in Brockville, Ont., DeBlois is the writer, director, and executive producer of How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. The third instalment of the trilogy has been nominated for an Oscar for best animated feature.
The DreamWorks Animation film stars Montreal's Jay Baruchel as a now grown-up Viking named Hiccup, who embarks on yet another adventure with his dragon, Toothless.
The star-studded cast includes the voices of Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler, America Ferrera and Jonah Hill. The villain Grimmel is voiced by F. Murray Abraham.
I kind of know the drill a little bit, and I also know the disappointment of losing, so it's a measured excitement.- Dean DeBlois
This isn't DeBlois's first rodeo, nor his first Oscar nod.
He was also nominated for each of the first two instalments of How to Train Your Dragon, and he co-wrote and co-directed the Oscar-nominated Disney film Lilo and Stitch in 2002.
So far, he hasn't brought home the hardware.
"I kind of know the drill a little bit, and I also know the disappointment of losing, so it's a measured excitement," DeBlois told CBC's Ottawa Morning.
"These next couple of weeks will be a lot of fun. For a while, we all get to be winners, and then the inevitable night comes where four out the five of us will go home empty handed."
Encouraged from an early age
DeBlois, whose father was a butcher, recalls having a steady supply of paper to doodle on in his childhood in western Gatineau's community of Aylmer.
"He would bring home these rolls of butcher paper which hung in a closet beneath the stairs, and I would just pull out sheets of it and draw all over. I was encouraged from an early start by my parents."
As he developed his skill, DuBlois said his main inspiration was a cartoon barbarian. "I learned to draw from studying Conan. The anatomy was so ripped."
DeBlois studied animation at a summer program at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ont. During the rest of the year, he worked at Ottawa's now-defunct Hinton Animation Studios, honing his craft on the TV show The Raccoons.
He moved to Ireland in 1990 to work as a story board assistant on A Troll in Central Park and Thumbelina, then got his big break in 1994, when he moved to California for a job with Disney Feature Animation in Burbank.
Always takes his mom
DeBlois said he's taken his mother to every Academy Awards ceremony he's attended.
"She thinks it's just amazing to be walking the red carpet and walking up to people like Meryl Streep and introducing herself. It's a lot of fun to see it through her eyes."
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is up against some stiff competition in the best animated feature category again this year, including Toy Story 4.
The Oscars will be handed out Feb. 9.