One of my favorite computer animated films of all time finally became somewhat of a reality, taking flight in the form of live-sized dragons! Dreamworks’ “How to Train Your Dragon” Live Spectacular retells the story of Hiccup, Toothless, and the entire Viking clan as they fight and struggle to live in a world filled with countless dragons. They tread a fine line between friend and foe but ultimately discover the importance of living together and relying on each other.
I’ve loved this movie ever since it was released and jumped at the chance of seeing it reenacted in a show. I did some research and found out that the show first launched in Australia prior to its American tour. It did very well overseas with families, and many critics commented on the technology of the dragons, as well as the new techniques in set design. That was more than enough to peak my interest and I was lucky to get cheap tickets for the amazing final day of its American tour in mid-January. Even though the show was geared towards kids and families, I saw a variety of ages attend.
Review: “How to Train Your Dragon” (HTTYD)
The show was held at the Honda Center in Anaheim, CA, a very spacious venue that could accomodate a large audience. Parking was $20 but we were able to avoid that fee by parking at a nearby mall and walking to the venue. Walking inside, I was immediately confronted with all the HTTYD memorabilia; they had everything from dragon hoodies to glowing viking hats, and plenty of stuffed dragon toys for the kids. Everything seemed appealing but was pretty pricey.
The set was a sparse brown arena with a moving circular stage. I didn’t quite know what to expect other than knowing that they would be using a lot of video to project different scenes on the arena and canvas wall. We were introduced to the cast, the various dragons, and were thrown into the story. The show stayed true to basically the entire movie, and added some new twists to the characters. For example, some were adept at martial arts or dance and confidently displayed their moves to the delight of the audience. The cast as a whole had great showmanship.
As the story progressed, I got to see the different technologies used, both in bringing the dragons to life and in directing the set. The dragons were impressive, some could strut, jump, and leap across the stage, while others were rigged to a track above the arena to simulate flying. The level of anamatronic skill was very entertaining, and I’m sure the younger audience enjoyed it too. The set also changed with projections and the cast moved accordingly as to suggest being in that projected environment. The only downside about this new type of set design is that in order to see the full effects , you needed to have a seat directly facing forward. Otherwise, side or angled seats yielded a distorted perspective. This was apparent in one of my favorite scenes, Hiccip (the male lead) uses the projection set and runs along the wall, following the path projected on it. This was supposed to portray an aerial perspective.
Here’s a video that captures all the different scenes of the show:
Credit: Chian Emily
My favorite part of the show was the musical accompaniment. It had lots of ethereal qualities and made you feel like you were flying right alongside the dragons. View this clip:
I would rate this show a 4 / 5 because of the cast, dragons, and especially the music. It took a while for me to get used to the projection stage, often times the projection was fast and would distort scenery on the floor but the overall effects were visually appealing. This show is great for families and kids of all ages to attend. The North American tour just ended but they are now set to bring the production to China! http://dreamworksdragonslive.com/tickets.php
Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoy the video clips!