I agree that the first one is better, but I think the second one is still terrific. The thing is that the first one was literally world-changing. Normally, you'd want to raise the stakes for another film, but you can't top that in terms of raising the stakes because Hiccup literally and completely changed the established order of the world he was living in. So what do you do to make the sequel bigger? He can't change the world again because he already did that. Monsters, Inc. had the same problem. For Monsters, Pixar decided to go the prequel route, but Dragon couldn't do that because they needed to maintain the Hiccup/Toothless friendship. Their solution was to make the world bigger and bring the characters into conflict with people from outside Berk. I can't argue with that, but I agree the villain in the second film is its weakest aspect. I think the thing that really works about the second one is watching Hiccup mature throughout it as he deals with his mother's return and his obligations to Berk, and how those change over the course of the film. He continues to grow significantly in this one. I can say that I think the villain in the third one is better-developed. They're still fighting him, but his motivation is less domination and more because his worldview is different than Hiccup's, which helps a lot in making him more complex. That's as much as I can say on that without getting into spoiler territory, so I'll put a pin in this discussion for now and we can revisit it when the wide release happens and you've seen it. I absolutely think that is the case with Pixar films. Whether Disney' Animations reputation is strong enough for them to also have the check-the-box mentality, I don't know. It took until Frozen for the main Disney branch to win one (in a year when Pixar's film wasn't nominated.) I think if Dragon 2 had come out in fall 2014 instead of the summer and it had received the kind of ecstatic critical response that has greeted Into the Spider-Verse, it might have had a shot. Certainly, it seems like Into the Spider-Verse has a good shot at winning this year. But the "ifs" in my scenario did not apply to Dragon 2, so you're right, they defaulted to Big Hero 6.