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Aurora Snow’s How to Train Your Dragon Blu-ray Review

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Winner of ten Annie Awards, including Best Animated Feature it’s safe to say How to Train Your Dragon may be DreamWorks’ most inspired animation yet. From the directors of Lilo & Stitch, Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois, comes a touching coming of age story about a boy who defies tradition and teaches his people how to co-exist with their demons. Starring the voices of Jay Beruchel, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, T.J. Miller, Kristen Wiig, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, and David Tennant.

Being a teenager is hard enough, but imagine the added pressures of being the scrawny son of the village alpha male. Meet Hiccup, a young Viking and son of village chief, Stoick (Gerard Butler, Olympus Has Fallen, 300). Everyone wonders how Stoick ended up with a son like Hiccup (Jay Baruchel, This Is the End). How did such a fierce dragon slaying leader produce such a geek? Hiccup is a walking disaster! Frequently causing minor accidents around the village thanks to his klutzy nature and yet despite his physical ineptitude Hiccup is determined to become a dragon slayer – a true Viking. Since he cannot wield a sword or even lift most other Viking weapons Hiccup invents his own contraptions for dragon slaying. Say what you will about this kid but what he lacks in brawn he makes up for in brains. Like most sons he wants to make his Papa proud.

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Dragons strike fear into the heart and souls of the villagers and not without good reason. A variety of dragon species (apparently there’s more than one and some are fiercer than others) periodically wreak havoc on the village burning it and its people to a crisp. It feels like a fight or die scenario. Stoick leads the resistance with a fair amount of success, but it’ll never be enough unless he can attack the dragons nesting area.

Much to his surprise Hiccup snags one of the most fearsome and elusive dragons. Unfortunately no one believes him, because this isn’t the first time he’s made such an elaborate claim. Guess he never heard the story about the boy who cried wolf.

To prove himself to all the naysayers Hiccup sets off to claim his fallen prize. For as much as this boy wanted to please his father, he couldn’t bring himself to plunge the cold blade of his sword into a helpless creature. Instead he cut one of the most fearsome dragons free. No one in his village would believe him anyway.

From Hiccup’s kindness a new kind of friendship blossomed, one that would never be approved of. He nurses his dragon back to health and spends all of his free time frolicking around with his new best friend. They fish together, and fly together. Hiccup rides his pet dragon that he’s named Toothless as if he were a pony with wings. Their relationship is beautifully animated. The bond that grows between man and beast is so compelling it’s like watching art in motion. It’s not often than an animated presentation offers such emotional depth and range.

Dragons are just misunderstood. Toothless and the other dragons are like big lovable dogs that happen to fly. What’s not to love? Together, the unlikely duo of Hiccup and Toothless teach the village a thing or two about perspective. And in the process Hiccup wins the admiration of his crush young, Viking warrior-in-training Astrid (America Ferrera, End of Watch). It’s heartwarming to see the transformation, this is what love and understanding bring. It’s easy to fear the unknown, but face your enemies with compassion and understanding and you won’t have enemies. This movie carries a riveting message with plenty of laughs for adults and kids alike.

I’m impressed with the effortless flow and overall ease of storytelling. There was no clunky dialogue to explain the visuals, the animation spoke for itself. Nothing felt forced, the laughs were real and the voice acting superb.

Editor’s Note: for a different take on this film, read our review of the 201o Blu-ray release of How to Train Your Dragon by Brandon DuHamel.

Video Quality

[Rating:5/5]

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How to Train Your Dragon dazzles in HD with a gorgeous jaw dropping 1080p transfer. Details are irresistibly present throughout every sizzling visual display. With its rich textures, bold colors, and fantastic depth this movie is a feast for the eyes. With so much detail, from the texture of the dragons’ skin to the stray hairs in a Vikings beard and the well used shields the animation takes on a life of its own. Even shadow details are striking. This is a spectacular transfer and a true testament to what computer animation is capable of. I can only hope that all animated films from now on are this breathtaking.

Audio Quality

[Rating:5/5]

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How to Train Your Dragon is presented in a flawless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix. Spectacular audio with killer ambience for those quiet touching moments. With an immersive bass, you’ll never feel left out of the action. Whether it’s flying dragons or ships on fire this score hits every mark right on cue. The action sequences are brought to life with a vivid intensity you’re sure to love. With its clean dialogue and well put together score this mix has all you could want and more.

Special Features

[Rating:4.5/5]

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  • Frozen: an episode from Dragons Defenders of Berk series
  • Book of Dragons: Hiccup and friends teach you all about the different classes and types of dragons
  • The Ultimate Book of Dragons: an interactive guide to dragons, first choose your dragon, see its stats, learn fun facts and get training tips.
  • The Animators Corner: fascinating commentary by the animators with picture in picture interviews and raw animation
  • Trivia Track: fun facts about the cast, crew and movie pop up throughout the feature
  • Filmmakers Commentary
  • Viking Sized Cast: meet the voices behind your favorite characters and get a heartwarming glimpse at what goes on behind the scenes and in the studio.
  • How To Draw A  Dragon:  the supervising animator shows us step by step how to illustrate a version of Toothless. This is a perfect activity for kids (or adults) to follow along with at home, all you need is a pencil and paper.
  • The Story Behind The Story: learn about the book that inspired the movie.
  • The Technical Artistry of Dragon: crew discuss the complex dynamics of animation and visual effects.
  • Gobber’s Training Secrets:
    • Lesson 1:Deadly Nadder
    • Lesson 2: Gronckle
    • Lesson 3: Monstrous Nightmare
    • Lesson 4: Hideous Zippleback
    • Lesson 5: Night Fury
    • Lesson 6: Terrible Terror
  • Previews

Aurora Snow Says

Overall:

[Rating:4.5/5]

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With a perfect blend of heart and humor, not to mention a great story, How to Train Your Dragon will captivate the hearts and minds of young and old alike. It’s a tried and true story with familiar themes, stunning animation and a cast that’ll make you fall in love with the characters. This is a feel-good heartwarming movie and a great way to spend 98 minutes. It’s a movie you’ll want to own.

More Screen Captures

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