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10 Years Later: How to Train Your Dragon

4 April 20 words: Hollie Anderson

As it reaches its tenth anniversary, this action-packed Viking comedy proves it itself to be an age-old family classic...

Directors: Chris Sanders, Dean DeBlois
Starring:  Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson
Running time: 98 minutes

How to Train Your Dragon (HTTYD) is about a young Viking lad named Hiccup, who grows up on the island of Berk, a place plagued by pesky dragons. Hiccup’s father is the monster-slaying leader of this community, but somehow Hiccup hasn’t inherited his strength or skill. 

It gets even worse when he manages to shoot down the dreaded Night Fury, only to end up taming the dragon, whom he names Toothless. What he secretly learns from his new (and wonderfully feline-like) friend makes him famous on the island, but soon it’s time to reveal his new alliance and try save the dragons from the Vikings – and another, scarier foe.

Now, I haven’t read the books that this film is based on, but I have been really lucky to have worked with the author Cressida Cowell. The world she has created was born out of her imagination as a young girl holidaying on an isolated Scottish island; she has grown up with Hiccup and his friends in the same way many of her readers have. Her genuine love for the characters shines through her ferocious drawings and the crazy dragon species that she has dreamt up.

You need only look at the star-studded cast to realise that people truly believed in this film; Gerard Butler, Kristen Wiig, Jonah Hill, and David Tennant are but a few of the talented voices. 

Funny but perfectly balanced with warmth and adventure

There was always a worry that Hollywood would drain the book of its character - you can’t imitate Cressida’s scratchy illustrations for animation. But, even though DreamWorks’ Shrek is daft, they did not make HTTYD in any way absurd. Yes, it’s funny, but it’s perfectly balanced with warmth and adventure.

Any minor gripes? It always makes me sad a when young character is already obsessed with getting a girlfriend. Hiccup is drooling over Astrid within minutes, when actually the relationship with his father, the need to bond with the other trainee dragon slayers, his knack for ingenious inventions, and how he nurtures Toothless is enough to drive the plot and give it heart. I was also bemused by the mix of over-played Scottish accents alongside the (oddly) American ones.

A special note about diversity here as well. Yes, all the characters are white. However, the main character - and several others - have a variety of disabilities. Seeing people with different body types as empowered dragon-fighters is a really fantastic message for kids. Plus, the women are going into battle just as much as their male counterparts. Brilliant.  

The whole trilogy is well worth watching, whatever your age. I was invited to a private screening of How to Train Your Dragon 3 last year, and there was barely a dry eye in the house; people genuinely love Hiccup and Toothless. This film has been wonderfully crafted for the screen and has stood the test of time already. It’s a tale that deserves to be shared across generations. 

Did you know? 1917 cinematographer Roger Deakins was hired as a consultant to help create realistic lighting effects for the film.

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