For many, actor Jay Baruchel’s voice is instantly recognizable. Equal parts twang and child-like enthusiasm, it breathes vivid life into the animated character of Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III, the bold, young protagonist in the How to Train Your Dragon franchise.

Baruchel, who returns for How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, opening in theatres on February 22, is aware of his voice’s unique sound. “Even if they have no idea who I am, they know they’ve heard this weird nasal disaster somewhere before,” he told Esquire magazine in a 2015 interview.

“They are always underwhelmed,” the Ottawa-born actor says when asked what it’s like for fans of the movie, TV and video game franchise—all about the adventures Hiccup has with his dragon sidekick, Toothless—to meet him in person.

“They know what Hiccup looks like, and it is not this: 140-pounds of pale stubble. My life is my friends coming to me and saying, ‘My kids love your show or your movie! Hey, that’s Hiccup!’ [The kids always] say, ‘No it isn’t,’” says the 36-year-old.

“It is best, in those moments, for me to just leave a message on a voicemail,” he says. “I disappoint a lot of children.”

He’s joking, of course. His contributions, including Hiccup’s habit of calling his dragon by the nickname “Bud,” have made the Dragon movies fan favourites. The franchise has grossed more than US$1 billion worldwide.

Loosely based on the book series of the same name by Cressida Cowell, the third installment of the Dragon movies sees Hiccup and Toothless travelling to a hidden world after danger suddenly erupts in their home on the Isle of Berk.

“We are the luckiest [people] in the world for having the How to Train Your Dragon fans,” Baruchel says. “It is their religion.

“I know they like me because I do the voice of Hiccup, but I am one of a thousand awesome elements in that franchise. I really just say a few words, for a few hours, over the course of three years.”

Author Cressida Cowell’s Inspiration

Inspiration for the How to Train Your Dragon books was based on her experiences as a child, says author Cressida Cowell. Cowell’s father was an environmentalist and chairman of a society that looked after birds. He would take his family with him when he worked.

“His heart was in the wilderness,” she says. “[We] would be dropped on this uninhabited island on the west coast of Scotland; an island so small that, when you stand on top of it, you see the sea all around.” It was on that island, “Where the stories began,” Cowell adds. “That, I think, makes the fantasy feel real.”


[This story appears in the February 2019 issue of  WestJet Magazine]