Prepare for the welcome return of Hiccup and his loyal steed Toothless in the sequel to 2010’s epic How To Train Your Dragon.

Returning to the now harmonious Viking dwelling of Berk five years after we left it in the original story, we now find human and dragon working together happily. Astrid and Hiccup’s peers now use their dragons for racing instead of game, while his father Stoick has his sights set on his son inheriting Berk’s leadership after him. Of course Hiccup has other plans, mainly spending his days exploring unchartered territory with his scaly friend.

The new acceptance of dragons as friend not foe allows Hiccup and Toothless to roam the lands freely, providing ample opportunity for the story to move to new lands and importantly, new dragons.  Now minus a leg as the result of the last film’s show down, though not much worse off because of it thanks to his skills in inventing, Hiccup is noticeably more mature, if still unsure of his place in the world. His only certainty lies in flying with Toothless, which based on early footage marks not only confidence in the character but Dreamwork’s investment in seamless animation for the flight sequences.

 Of course the introduction to new terrain brings with it new obstacles, namely a gang of mysterious dragon trappers who are surely up to no good, an evil warrior nemesis who intends to overthrow Berk and its new cohabitants, and the discovery of Hiccup’s estranged mother, who is also a tamer of dragons.

Jay Baruchel is back voicing the stronger, if still misplaced Hiccup, joined by the rest of the original cast including Gerard Butler, Jonah Hill, Kristen Wiig and Christopher Mintz-Plasse. New additions for the second chapter include Game of Thrones’ Kit Harrington as a leading dragon trapper, Dijmon Hounsou as the looming Drago Bludvist who wages war on Berk and its people, and Cate Blanchett  Valka, the mysterious dragon herding mother.

How to Train Your Dragon’s director Dean Deblois has returned for its sequel on the condition that a trilogy is on the cards. Dreamworks have held him to this, and a final instalment has been promised for release in 2016, with Baruchel and all of the original cast in tow. Siting The Empire Strikes Back and My Neighbour Totoro as key influences for the upcoming film, Deblois has promised a wider scope for characters and the Berk kingdom, all of which are loosely based on Cressida Cowell’s twelve book series. With such films in mind as reference, expect some glorious character design and a closer look at Hiccup’s origins, which is no doubt where the elusive mother figure fits in.

Initial reports from an advanced screening of nearly an hour of the film’s footage have promised a film striving to rival the first How to Train Your Dragon, helped greatly by impressive aerial shots and an exciting array of new dragons. During their adventures Hiccup and Toothless are led to an ice cave with hundreds of new species for fans to feast upon, including one massive dragon that breathes actual ice instead of flame. Richer character development is also promised, with the bond between the boy and his canine like steed that so enjoyably drove the first film stronger than ever.

With the Dragon films being the closest thing that Dreamworks have to giving Pixar a run for its money, the boundaries for visual effects for this new chapter are expected to reach dizzying new heights as is witnessed in the new trailer released in April. The groundbreaking 4k technology used in the original film has been exceed to create what looks like stunning flight and fight sequences, and impeccable attention to detail on both humans and creatures alike.

Plot details have been fairly plain from the start; the fact that dragons are now a welcome part of society is addressed quickly with the focus now on Hiccup trying to grasp his identity while at the same time embracing the arrival of a once lost parent. The new trailer hints that he will also front the defence of Berk when the imminent attack by Drago comes to be. Nothing groundbreaking then, but with confirmation of How to Train Your Dragon 2 pushing with everything it’s got to meet the standards of the first film, and with a director who is keen to drive its characters into exciting new territory,this will no doubt be one of the front running animations of the year.