After it was decided that Valka would NOT be the main antagonist in Dragon 2, it became necessary to up the ante as far as Drago was concerned. I think he was called Darko at the time, it could be my misremembering, but that's what I have typed in my notes, so when you see Darko, it's Drago. (;^>
In the initial script, Drago was out to kill all the dragons. Valka of course was there to protect them all. But, I thought that perhaps since Hiccup and his tribe were also originally killers of dragons that maybe Drago needed something different as his goal/use for the dragons.
If Hiccup has domesticated Dragons, and Valka want to keep them all free and wild, what would be more villainous than killing dragons, I thought what about enslaving them? Rather than a quick death, Drago would torture and enslave dragons for his own uses. That's pretty bad stuff, makes him totally unlikeable and makes his point of view on Dragons different than anyone else's that we've seen to this point.
So, here's the notes I'd sent off to Dean and the production after our November 2011 screening.
While Darko won’t really come to the fore until the 3rd movie, we still need to clarify what he wants along with the “why” and the “how” he intends to bring it about. Perhaps we could ratchet up the level of his villainy so that Valka isn’t mistaken for our villain. So to that end:
To Darko: Dragons = Power.
Could Darko want to use dragons as weapons? Essentially enslaving them by lashing them to the bows of his ships and using them as living weapons? This might be even more villainous and inhumane than wiping them out.
Visually, could Darko wear a dragon skin as part of is costume, or dragon teeth, dragon scales something that shows he has no respect or reverence for these creatures at all. He wears their hides as a source of pride and intimidation. Maybe his ships are adorned with the skeletons of dragons that have died at his hand?
Darko could mention that he’s heard of a tribe of Vikings that has tamed the dragon. This would be his greatest fear and his most worrisome enemy. Darko wants to be the one who wields this power. All other must be killed.
The final movie version of Drago pretty much plays like the notes I'd submitted. He wears dragon skins, uses his captured dragons as weapons and really is unsympathetic, helping to make Valka much more so.
This is the kind of work on movies that really excites me, the problem solving, the evolution of the story and characters. It's the most satisfying part of the job. To help bring something into focus or a different point of view that helps to solidify and enhance the story.
Whether it was creating the Giant "Godzilla" Goose in Puss In Boots, or designing and insisting that Santa's Elves be a part of the imperfect Rise of the Guardians, or helping to solidify Drago's villainy in Dragon 2, I'm always grateful when some random thought I have helps bring a project closer to the vision intended by the filmmakers.