How to Train Your Dragon Collector’s Edition Blu-ray Review
Ever since Disney teamed up with Pixar, they have pretty much been the “800lb gorilla” when it comes to digital animated features. DreamWorks has also been a major player in the field for quite some time but is mostly looked at in a 2nd tier aspect to the Disney Pixar behemoth. DreamWorks’ most notable franchise would have to be the SHREK films, and although they are highly profitable and widely loved for their fairy tale parody and humor of Mike Myers, they are not really viewed as master works in the in the same ilk as films like WALL-E and TOY STORY 3. However, DreamWorks now has a revered banner of its own to hang in its rafters, HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON can go toe-to-toe with any animated entity the “mouse” can dish out, both in story content and technical achievements.
Hiccup (Jay Baruchel, THIS IS THE END) is not your everyday, run-of-the-mill Viking. He’s the son of Stoick (Gerard Butler, 300), the leader of the Viking clan, but he’s mostly ashamed of his meager son, as he does not have the physical stature or attributes to fight the clan’s most dangerous enemy, dragons. But what Stoick does not have the patience to see is that even though Hiccup is a clutz and pretty much a disaster to any well-laid plan, he has incredible ingenuity and more bravery than most of the younger Vikings. In order to prove to his father that he is worthy by his side, Hiccup aims to bring down the most elusive and dangerous dragon the clan has ever faced, the Night Fury. Utilizing his own inventions, Hiccup manages to wound a Night Fury and tracks him to a valley where the beast is trapped due to its tail wing being damaged. As Hiccup observes and eventually befriends the Night Fury, which he’s named Toothless, he begins to discern that the Vikings perception of dragons is indeed very, very wrong.
There’s nothing Earth-shattering or ultimately clever about HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON’s plot, it’s ultimately a very predictable tale. However, its proverbial cup runneth over with heart and incredibly likeable characters. Baruchel is nothing if not born to portray the misunderstood, underappreciated underdog that is capable of rising to the occasion. Even though Hiccup bounces lines off either a dragon who doesn’t talk back or even himself for much of the film, it’s easy to relate to the character and accept the bond between him and Toothless is something worth risking his life for.
The cast of supporting characters is full of recognizable voices from Jonah Hill, America Ferrara, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Kristen Wiig and perhaps the most memorable roll of Gobber voiced by the hilarious Craig Ferguson. But what really pushes HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON over the Disney Pixar threshold is the flawless animation. Even four years after its theatrical release, people still confuse this film to be a Disney Pixar production. DreamWorks has set its own bar that will now be held up for comparison with its future releases and opened the door to a memorable franchise that can be used as a cornerstone of the company’s animation studio for years to come.
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: 1080p/AVC MPEG-4, 2.35:1 Widescreen: It’s hard for any of the new digital animation features to look bad in HD. Most of them actually look pretty good in standard definition too. But there are a select few that are so jaw-droppingly beautiful that they approach “demo disk” worthiness. Films like WALL-E and UP are at the forefront of Disney Pixar’s trophy mantle, however just as impressive is DreamWorks’s flagship work, HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON. The detail is nothing short of perfection, with every hair and texture of the characters fleshed out. The colors are seamless, especially during the flying sequences and all rendered without a bit of distortion. This is easily one of the finest produced animated features to date.
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1: The audio track is definitely a worthy companion of its stellar video attributes. The sound effects are incredibly lifelike and transfer throughout the five channels, engulfing the viewer in the flying battle sequences with the dragons. Dialogue is able to hold its own against all the powerful background elements, all the characters lines are very clear and discernible.
New Episode of DreamWorks “Dragons: Defenders of Berk”: “Frozen” (23 min): This is a brand new adventure featuring Hiccup and Toothless. It’s in a 20 min episodic format so of course the story and characters are nowhere near as developed as the film, but if you enjoy the film at all, then this is just an extension of some of the adventures the characters have between Part 1 and Part 2.
Book of Dragons (17 min): Gobber teaches Hiccup and his friends about the history of particular types of dragons and their classifications. Interesting if you care to know what the attributes are of each of the dragon sects, plus its more time with Craig Ferguson.
The Animator’s Corner: A picture-in-pictures feature that runs simultaneously with the film. It contains commentary from the audio commentary track and visuals of actors laying down the audio tracks, storyboards, interviews and how the animated process takes shape. It’s definitely something unique as opposed to just a director’s commentary.
Trivia Track: Pop up trivia that appears throughout the film, letting the viewer in on character specifics that are easy to overlook or tidbits about how the characters mannerisms were based on the actual actor’s voice performance sessions.
Filmmaker’s Commentary: Directors and co-writers Chris Sanders and Dean Deblois and producer Bonnie Arnold discuss how the film was adapted from a children’s book and how the relationship between Hiccup and Toothless really power the story. It’s a light hearted commentary but still very interesting and adds to the overall experience when watching the film the second time around.
Viking-Sized Cast (12 min): A feature look at the voice performers and their audio sessions. These are always interesting to see just how much of the actual actor’s performances and mannerisms are captured by the animators.
How to Draw a Dragon (11 min): Gabe Hordos, the supervising editor of the film, shows his technique for drawing Toothless. Watching animators just effortlessly manifest these characters is equally entertaining and infuriating because they make it look so easy.
The Technical Artistry of Dragon (10 min): This featurette focuses on the animation of the action sequences of the film, particularly the rendering of all the fire techniques. This is definitely worth watching as the action is one of the vital attributes for why the film is so unique.
Gobber’s Training Secrets (2 min): A humorous tutorial from Craig Ferguson’s Gobber on how to fight different types of dragons using Hiccup and his friends as guinea pigs.
Legend of the Boneknapper Dragon (16 min): Another short story featuring Hiccup and company exploring a myth about a dragon who has furnished a suit of bone armor. Like the “Frozen” episode, this is just more time with great characters.
Deleted Scenes (7 min): Incomplete animated scenes that were left out of the final cut of the film, and as usual, for good reason.