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Dean DeBlois, Chris Sanders
Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferreira
Writing Credits:
William Davies, Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders (screenplay), Cressida Cowell (book)

One adventure will change two worlds

A winner with audiences and critics alike, DreamWorks Animation's HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON rolls fire-breathing action, epic adventure and laughs into a captivating and original story. Hiccup is a young Viking who defies tradition when he befriends one of his deadliest foes - a ferocious dragon he calls Toothless. Together, the unlikely heroes must fight against all odds to save both their worlds.

Box Office:
$165 million
Opening Weekend
$43,732,319 on 4,055 Screens
Domestic Gross

Rated PG

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English Dolby TrueHD 7.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
English Audio Description
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 98 min.
Price: $26.98
Release Date: 5/27/2014

• Audio Commentary with Writers/Directors Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois and Producer Bonnie Arnold
• “The Animators’ Corner” Picture-in-Picture Feature
• Trivia Track
• Episode of Dragons: Defenders of Berk
• “Book of Dragons” Animated Short
• “The Ultimate Book of Dragons” Interactive Feature
• “Viking-Sized Cast” Featurette
• “How to Draw a Dragon” Featurette
• “The Story Behind the Story” Featurette
• “The Technical Artistry of Dragon” Featurette
• Six “Gobbler’s Training Secrets” Snippets
• DVD Copy


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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How to Train Your Dragon [Blu-Ray] (2010)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 1, 2014)

With 2010’s How to Train Your Dragon, we get an animated Viking adventure packed with fantasy elements. Set in the fictional town of Berk, we learn that Vikings and dragons have battled for many years. Teenaged Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) wants to live up to the legend of his powerful father Stoick (Gerard Butler) but his dad protects the scrawny youngster and won’t let him join in the battles against the winged invaders.

Eventually Stoick’s buddy Gobber (Craig Ferguson) convinces him to allow Hiccup to enter dragon-training classes. This should be a banner day for the brainy, accident-prone youngster, but a major event intervenes when Hiccup rescues a wounded dragon. He names the creature “Toothless” and uses his inventing skills to repair the dragon’s busted tail. Together they bond and set Hiccup on a crusade to convince the other Vikings that they can find a way to get along with the dragons.

When I saw Dragon theatrically in 2010, I thought it seemed… pretty good. The film touched the bases I expected from an effort of this sort, as it delivered a mix of laughs, action and emotion and became a perfectly enjoyable little tale.

I just didn’t think it rose above that level, which made all the plaudits that flew its way surprising to me. It enjoys a 98 percent “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes - 98 percent! Granted, the RT system comes with flaws, as all of those positive ratings could offer mild praise, not raves – tons of good reviews doesn’t necessarily mean tons of enthusiastic, great reviews.

Truth to tell, if my thoughts got included, they’d fall into the “fresh” category as well, for I do enjoy Dragon. As I noted, I think it delivers a likable adventure, as it gives us enough meat to keep us engaged.

I just find it hard to view the film as something obviously above average or superior to many other animated flicks. On the surface, Dragon seems to have a lot going for it. It comes with solid dramatic potential and colorful characters, all of which should combine into a top-notch effort.

To me, though, the end result remains no better than moderately enjoyable. The action entertains but never quite thrills. The jokes amuse but don’t deliver big laughs. The characters appear likable and engaging but not especially memorable. The emotional narrative gives us a decent arc but fails to truly move us.

Which brings me back where I started: a feeling that Dragon gives us something… pretty good. I recognize it’s better than just “okay”, as that term connotes a more obvious level of mediocrity. While Dragon may not thrill me, it rises above that range and scores a solid 7 out of 10.

Perhaps the “Sequel Test” offers the clearest indication of my feelings. As I write this, Dragon 2 hits screens in a few weeks. Will I see it? Yup. Will I do so with any enthusiasm? Not really, as I can’t claim I truly look forward to it.

So I remain of the opinion that Dragon works but it lacks that something special to allow it to become a classic. The animation looks good, the actors perform their parts well, and the tale moves at an appropriate rate. All the ingredients exist, but they don’t quite come together well enough to allow the movie to soar.

The Disc Grades: Picture A/ Audio A/ Bonus A-

How to Train Your Dragon appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. This became an excellent visual presentation.

No issues with sharpness occurred, as the movie offered crisp and detailed images from start to finish. If any softness marred the presentation, I couldn’t find it. Jagged edges and shimmering remained absent, and no edge enhancement appeared. I also found no source flaws.

Dragon went with a fairly earthy palette. It favored greens and ambers, with a somewhat subdued feel. The hues seemed well-developed at all times. Blacks came across as deep and rich, while shadows presented good clarity and visibility. This was a very satisfying transfer.

I also felt pleased with the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack of Dragon. With a variety of dragons and all sorts of action sequences, the movie boasted many opportunities to feature all five speakers. It did so quite well. Various effects zoomed around the room to create a fine sense of immersion.

Throughout the film, the components meshed together smoothly and transitioned well. Localization was clean and precise, and the score featured solid stereo imaging. The mix turned into a broad, encompassing piece.

Audio quality also was very good. Speech seemed crisp and distinctive, as I noticed no flaws like edginess. Music seemed warm and full, while effects added a real bang to the proceedings. Those elements showed good clarity and accuracy, and they offered tight, deep bass as well. The track seemed vibrant and dynamic as it accentuated the movie.

When we shift to extras, we locate an audio commentary from writers/directors Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois and producer Bonnie Arnold. All three sit together for a running, screen-specific look at story/character areas, visual design, animation, cast and performances, music and editing, and a few related topics.

Though it sags at times, the commentary usually offers a good look at the film. It starts slowly but becomes pretty informative before long. From there the track continues to be largely engaging as it tells us a nice mix of details about the production.

In a similar vein comes The Animators’ Corner. This acts as a “picture-in-picture” program and it provides additional panel remarks from Sanders, Arnold and DeBlois. It also includes separate interview comments from a mix of unnamed participants as well as visual effects supervisor Craig Ring, head of effects Matt Baer, supervising animator Gabe Hordos, actors Craig Ferguson, Gerard Butler, Jay Baruchel, Christopher Minta-Plasse, America Ferrera, and Jonah Hill. (Note that the “Corner” never identifies anyone; I listed the names of folks I recognized.)

In addition to all those statements, we get behind the scenes footage, storyboards, animatics and concept art. The subjects cover cast and performances, characters and story, visual and audio design, music, visual effects and animation, and other movie subjects. The “Corner” touches on a broad array of areas and does so in a satisfying manner.

For another feature that accompanies the film, we locate a Trivia Track. This tells us about cast and crew, story/character elements, visual design and animation, cast and performances, and other subjects. The “Track” largely avoids repetition from other areas and develops a lot of good notes for us.

New to the 2014 Blu-ray, we get an episode of Dragons: Defenders of Berk. Entitled “Frozen”, the show runs 22 minutes, 41 seconds and depicts a mission in which Hiccup and Toothless attempt to find a trader lost in icy waters. It’s not a great program, but it offers a nice bonus, and I'm especially pleased to see Jay Baruchel and a handful of other movie actors repeat their roles here.

Another animated piece, Book of Dragons lasts 17 minutes, 38 seconds. Hiccup and pals discuss various dragon varieties and how to train them. This becomes a cute little look at the various beasts.

Similar content can be found in the interactive The Ultimate Book of Dragons. Here we can get a closer examination of various dragons’ abilities/traits via text, stills and animation. It turns into a fun way to learn more.

Four featurettes follow. Viking-Sized Cast goes for 11 minutes, 44 seconds and provides into from DeBlois, Baruchel, Sanders, Arnold, Butler, Ferguson, Mintz-Plasse, Ferrera, Hill, and actors Kristen Wiig, and TJ Miller. This one covers cast, characters and performances. We don’t get many insights here, but I like the shots of the actors in the studio.

During the 10-minute, 57-second How to Draw a Dragon, we hear from supervising animator Gabe Hordos as he shows us how to sketch Toothless. Hordos offers a good lesson that gives us nice notes about design topics as well.

Next comes The Story Behind the Story. It fills seven minutes, 40 seconds with notes from Sanders, DeBlois, Ferrera, Arnold, and author Cressida Cowell. The program looks at the source novel and its adaptation. Cowell’s comments prove to be the most useful and help make this a strong piece.

The Technical Artistry of Dragon lasts 10 minutes, 13 seconds and provides statements from Sanders, DeBlois, Ring, Hordos, DreamWorks Animation Chief Technology Officer Ed Leonard, DreamWorks Animation Head of Digital Operations Derek Chan, Head of Research and Development Lincoln Wallen, and Research and Development Manager Neil Okamoto. “Artistry” looks at effects, dragon design, 3D and other visual elements. The program offers a good overview of some technical areas.

Finally, we get Gobbler’s Training Secrets. This includes six snippets with a total running time of two minutes, 10 seconds. These give us little segments that show the Viking kids as they interact with different dragons. They tend to be fun and amusing.

The disc opens with ads for How to Train Your Dragon 2, Dragons: Riders of Berk, Dragons: Defenders of Berk and Mr. Peabody and Sherman. These also appear under Previews. No trailer for Dragon shows up here.

A second disc presents a DVD copy of Dragon. This repeats the commentary and the episode of Defenders of Berk and adds a couple of components not on the Blu-ray. Legend of the BoneKnapper Dragon goes for 16 minutes, 34 seconds as it offers an animated adventure created for the 2010 home video release of How to Train Your Dragon. It boasts the original cast and ends up as a likable adventure.

Three Deleted Scenes also show up here. We find “Axe to Grind (Test)” (4:58), “Goodbye at the Docks” (1:31) and “Aftermath (Test)” (1:05). These tend to extend existing sequences and give us a bit of additional character material. They’re enjoyable but don’t add much.

The scenes also include intros from DeBlois. He tells us a little about the scenes and why they got cut, so he adds useful info.

As an animated adventure, How to Train Your Dragon offers a moderately entertaining affair. While it never quite excels, it gives us a likable affair without obvious flaws. The Blu-ray delivers excellent picture and audio along with an informative set of supplements. I don’t love Dragon, but I think it usually works well, and the Blu-ray becomes a terrific release.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.4545 Stars Number of Votes: 22
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