The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: DreamWorks - 2010
MPAA Rating: PG
Feature running time: 98 minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 2.35:1
Audio Format(s): English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Spanish/French/Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, English, Portuguese, Spanish, French
Starring: Voices of: Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, America Ferrer, T.J. Miller, Kristin Wiig, Craig Ferguson, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Directed by: Chris Sanders & Dean DeBlois
Music by: John Powell
Written by: Chris Sanders, Dean DeBlois, Will Davies based on the book by Cressida Cowell
Region Code: 1
Blu-ray Disc release Date: October 15, 2010
"Don’t judge a book by its cover"
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.
How to train your dragon is a whimsical fantasy based on the book by Cressida Cowell that revolves around Hiccup, a teenage Viking from a small village on an island inhabited by dragons. Hiccup’s father Stoick is the village leader and a master at dragon killing. Unfortunately Hiccup isn’t much of a warrior, in stature or mindset, and enjoys creating inventions and tinkering. This is of course a crushing disappointment to his father which is common knowledge among the villagers. Hiccup also has a hard time fitting in with his peers who aspire to be the next generation of dragon slayers. Not wanting to disappoint his dad Hiccup creates a device designed to take down a dragon in flight. He tries it out one night when village is under attack by a swarm of dragons. It fells the animal in the woods near the village but no one will believe him.
The next day he explores the area and discovers that the dragon he captured is a Night Fury, a legendary dragon rumored to be the most dangerous, deadly and man killing beast ever although no one has ever actually seen one. Hiccup decides to kill the dragon to impress his father but can’t bring himself to do and cuts him free. The dragon springs on top of Hiccup looks him in the eye and leaps off into the woods. Hiccup later discovers him frolicking in a cove nearby and realizes that the dragon can’t fly due to an injury to his tail that won’t allow him to navigate. He reveals himself to the Dragon, gains his trust and makes a prosthetic device/harness that will allow the Dragon, who Hiccup now calls “Toothless”, to maneuver with him riding on his back.
Hiccup keeps Toothless a secret from his father and friends back at the village. Meanwhile he and his friends Snotlout, Fishlegs, Toughnut, Roughnut and Astrid (who he has a crush on) begin dragon slayer training. They use captured dragons for training and during the process, after spending so much time with Toothless, Hiccup comes to realize not only their strength/weaknesses but the fact that dragons only kill people in self defense and hunt for necessity. In order to stop the killing of dragons he decides that it is time not only to reveal his secret but to show the entire village that dragons aren’t the terrible monsters they believe them to be. Unfortunately things don’t go quite as planned and Hiccup winds up putting the village, Toothless and the entire island dragon population at risk by inadvertently unleashing an unimaginable terror that defies their worst nightmares. In order to overcome the threat both dragon and Viking will have to come together in a way that neither ever thought possible.
I must have had at least a half dozen different people ask me if I’d seen this film while it was still in theaters. When I said that I hadn’t the reaction was always the same, you HAVE to see it. I never did get around to it but looked forward to its release on Blu-ray and the chance to review it. Well it was totally worth the wait. I wouldn’t say that it brings anything noticeably new to the genre table but it’s a highly entertaining animated film that warms the heart and tickles the funny bone. The story is nicely developed and carries a positive message about acceptance, friendship, and family while supporting the adage about not judging a book by its cover. The actors who lend their voices to the characters are perfectly placed. I always enjoy trying to figure who they based upon vocal recognition (I only got three). Kudos to directors/co-writers Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois on this heartwarming, exciting and funny film that has a little something for everyone and makes for wonderful family entertainment.
The rating is for sequences of intense action and some scary images and brief mild language.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
How to train your dragon comes to Blu-ray Disc from DreamWorks featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 22 Mbps and lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 channel audio that has an average bitrate of 2.4 Mbps.
This is a beautifully crafted digital film that looks amazing in high definition. From start to finish this presentation is nothing short of mesmerizing in its depiction of the film’s animated images. The video is exquisitely detailed, incredibly three dimensional and never left me wanting for fine degrees of subtle delineation and texture. The attention to detail in the construction of the animated characters physical features as well as objects within each frame is superb. Looking at Stoick I could see the varying lengths/uneven texture of the hair in his beard and the fuzzy/stubbly hair on his forearms. The same was true of rough/scaly texture of Toothless’s hide versus the softer “skin” of his wings. Other examples can be seen in the textural nuance in the walls and stone floor in the training arena and physical characteristics in the wooden surfaces of the ships and interiors of the village dwellings.
The chromatic palette is an extensive one but colors appear vivid and bold with an enriching level of saturation that exhibits subtle degrees of separation and eye pleasing depth. Contrast is exemplary and blacks are inky with extended dynamic range and deep gradational highlights. The open DreamWorks splash screen looks amazing as the boy with the fishing pole sitting in the half moon is drawn in white and set against a multi-staged dark background. Those with high contrast displays can fully appreciate how superlative this sequence looks. As it begins to fade into the film’s opening you can just make out the shape of a Night Fury dragon flying against the near black sky. The film’s low level sequences (there are many) look just as stunning as the dark and shadow filled backgrounds exhibit a near infinite level of dimension, with superb contrast and visible shading that draws out lots of detail. I was blown away by this flawless high definition video presentation from DreamWorks who continues to prove that Pixar isn’t the only pristine animation game in town. Bravo!
It seems that lately most of titles I have reviewed on Blu-ray contain DTS-HD Master Audio sound so I have to admit that I was a little surprised when I saw that this release contained a Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. That certainly isn’t a problem as some of the best soundtracks available on the format contain Dolby TrueHD sound. This is an engaging mix that utilizes the entire system to create a theater like experience. Sound staging is excellent as both the front and rear channels are seamlessly integrated so that sound effects seem to traverse the room. Surround activity is frequent but not ostentatious as both directional and spatial information mixed to the rear channels weaves an enveloping pattern of sound. Dynamics are energetic and forceful which lends weight to the plethora of impact felt moments during the movie. This is a fairly aggressive LFE mix that makes regular use of the subwoofer to accentuate its already powerful dynamic range. The result is impressive bass response that has authoritative depth and palpably rich impact that can be room shaking. Dialogue is rendered with aplomb. John Powell’s rousing music is an essential component to this soundtrack as it helps to intensify the action with its energetic instrumentation and high level detail that maintains a prominent but non dominating aural presence. This is a superlative audio presentation that mates perfectly with the video and source material. The combination makes for a terrific home theater experience that is best described as marvelous.
- (HD) Legend of the Bonekeeper Dragon – 16 minute short film (includes AVC video, Dolby TrueHD 7.1 surround mix)
- (HD) Soaring special features:
- Viking sized cast featurette – 11 minutes
- The technical artistry of Dragon featurette – 10 minutes
- 3 deleted scenes
- The story behind the story featurette – 7 minutes
- Racing for gold – interactive game
- How to draw a dragon featurette – 10 minutes
- Your Viking profile – interactive quiz
- Filmmaker’s commentary with directors/co-writers Chris Sanders, Dean DeBlois and producer Bonnie Arnold
- The animator’s corner – Bonusview pop-up interactive feature
- Trivia track – Bonusview pop-up interactive feature
- (HD) DreamWorks animation video jukebox – Featuring Shrek, Madagascar, Over the hedge, Bee Movie, and Kung Fu Panda
- BD-Live exclusive feature: “Finding the story” – A behind the scenes look at the two year process that brought the film to fruition, hosted by director’s Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois
- Bonus DVD of How to train your dragon
How to train your dragon is high flying family entertainment that warms the heart and tickles the funny bone thanks to a strong script and apt direction from creators Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois. DreamWorks continues in the tradition of Kung Fu Panda with a stellar audio/video presentation that absolutely shines in high definition on Blu-ray Disc. Paramount includes a host of bonus material which includes Blu-ray Disc exclusive features, filmmaker commentary, behind the scenes featurettes, and the animated short film Legend of the Bonekeeper Dragon which is presented in 1080p HD with lossless surround sound. I highly recommend you consider adding this to your Blu-ray collection, it has found a home in mine.
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