Gobber (Craig Ferguson) has been a constant presence in the How to Train Your Dragon franchise, a goofy but dedicated mentor to Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and the other young dragon riders. He's a strong version of a stock character, but manages to be unique in his own right.
One way the franchise's creators added dimensions to Gobber was to subtly imply that he was gay in previous films. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World actually makes that more overt than ever, and it's a nice touch for the franchise to explore in a way that most family franchises wouldn't ever consider.
The first real hint at the character's sexuality came during the second entry in the series, How to Train Your Dragon 2. The moment comes during a dinner between Gobber, Hiccup and the newly reunited Stoick (Gerard Butler) and Valka (Cate Blanchett), Stoick's long thought dead wife. Gobber tells Hiccup that the kind of tension between the pair is why he didn't get married, adding: "That, and one other reason."
The line was an ab lib by Ferguson, but it resonated with the director of the film, Dean DeBlois. The openly gay DeBlois told outlets at the time that the reason he kept the improvised line in the film was because, "I think it's nice. It's progressive, it's honest and it feels good, so we wanted to keep it."
In a film full of romance (played both for comedy and drama), it was a nice touch that played as a bittersweet note for the character. It wasn't much, but it made Gobber stand out among other mentor characters from across media. The only other character who filled the mentor archetype and was openly gay was Dumbledore from the Harry Potter series, but that wasn't made clear until the after the series had concluded. By contrast, Gobber being gay is introduced right smack dab in the middle of the series.
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World leans even more into that aspect of the character. It's made a more overt aspect of his personality, something that's just part of the world. He seems particularly attracted to the beefy Eret (Kit Harington), commenting that he's built like a Norse God while talking to the insecure Snotlout (Jonah Hill). Later, there's even a scene where Gobber can be seen clearly admiring Eret from behind, with his eyes firmly planted on the character's toned bottom half.
It's a small moment that makes the character feel more fleshed out in the world. Gay characters in animation are still a rarity, even in the modern day. That's why series like She-Ra and the Princesses of Power stand out from their peers, giving young members of the LGBQT community role models they can look up to.
It's a nice touch of broad realism for the series, and the sort of thing that makes franchises that embrace different forms of sexuality inherently more appealing and impressive. He's a reliable character who's willing and able to help out the rest of his village with engineering, construction and training. He's a great mentor figure for the film series and a great example of a gay character.
As the cultural landscape changes and grows, it's important that characters from the broad spectrum of humanity be represented, and, by making Gobber quietly but confidently gay, the How to Train Your Dragon franchise manages to actually stand out among other fantasy franchises. It's one of the nicest touches of the entire series, and makes the franchise more important in the grand scheme of things.
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World will hit theaters Feb. 22, 2019. Written and directed by Dean DeBlois, the film stars the voices of Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Kit Harington, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Justin Rupple, Kristen Wiig and F. Murray Abraham.