USA Today has released a first look at Valka (voiced by Cate Blanchett), protector of dragons with a mysterious past, and her Hobblegrunt named gruff from How to Train Your Dragon 2. The character is described as the Dian Fossey of reptiles. Check out the image, and then read on for more about this cool new character and her role as mentor to Hiccup and Toothless.

<strong><em>How to Train Your Dragon 2</em></strong>

Directed by Dean DeBlois (How to Train Your Dragon, Lilo & Stitch), this sequel follows Toothless and Hiccup (Jay Baruchel ) five years down the road, as Hiccup heads towards adulthood while trying to hold onto those last few precious moments of his childhood. He is faced with a lot of new responsibilities, and is being groomed to eventually take over for his dad (Gerard Butler). But before that can happen, he sets off on one last adventure to the arctic, where he stumbles upon Valka. A tough warrior, this woman is seen as a vigilante who springs dragons from traps, hiding them from a vicious dragon hunter by the name of Drago Bludvist (Djimon Hounsou) and his No. 2, Eret (Kit Harington).

Dean DeBlois reveals that casting the Oscar-winning actress was fairly easy, having approached her at an Oscar ceremony.

"She was just standing there and I said, 'I've written a part for you in How to Train Your Dragon 2." You have to seize those opportunities when they present themselves. She's such a glamorous starlet but, at the same time, this very grounded, super-cool Australian who drinks out of the can. We were able to tap that fiery strength that is present in every word that she utters and put it on the screen."

In comparing the character to Ape behaviorist Dian Fossey, the director explains,

"[Its' about] somebody living with the animals and learning to communicate with them in non-verbal ways and becoming much like a dragon herself. Her years of isolation and dealing with nothing but dragons and being very sympathetic to them has made her very distrusting of humans."

Valka's own dragon is named Cloudjumper, and where Toothless was designed to look like a black panther, this new dragon takes on some of the traits of an owl.

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"[It has a second set of wings under his main ones that] can actually splay and become an X-wing."

Because Hiccup is a pacifist, he has a hard time understanding Valka and some of her ideas about hiding dragons and keeping them away from mankind.

"He both admires her but sees her as what his life could be like taken to the extreme. Valka's life is not only learning about all (the dragons') secrets and ways and living among them, but also playing among them. That's part of what she can show Hiccup, things he's never known about dragon behavior.''

Valka, Cloudjumper and Gruff are just some of the new characters we'll be introduced to when this sequel opens this summer.

B. Alan Orange at Movieweb
B. Alan Orange