Chris Sanders, Dean Deblois
The plot itself is kind of generic, centering on the oft-told tale of a loner boy who’s different than everyone else, trying to impress his father, and discovering the power of individualism in society. Thank God it’s executed so well; funny, creative and full of charm. The magic here is presumably due to director Chris Sanders, who made the equally great LILO AND STITCH. Like Stitch, Sanders creates an exceedingly lovable character in Toothless and his relationship with Hiccup is the highlight of the film. (Doesn’t hurt that the design is eerily Stich-ish.) I know Sanders had a falling out of sorts with John Lasseter and Disney that led to his employment at Dreamworks and I’m curious what exactly happened. Because so far Sanders has shown immense talent and love for his craft.
Although at first it’s tough to separate the characters from their famous counterparts, eventually you forget that half of the Apatow crew are Vikings once you get to know the characters. Jay Baruchel is a particularly good fit for the goofy lead, as is Gerard Butler, who is exceedingly manly even in cartoon form. I appreciate the film’s willingness to get to know the people in the universe before shoving all the dragon action down our throats. That being said, the aerial battles and flying scenes were thrilling and probably a blast in 3D on the big screen, especially the final fight against Big Red.
The film’s positive message is expected but earned and not shoe horned in for the benefit of children. I also applaud the filmmakers for not shying away from more adult themes and content, especially in the ending. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I look forward to the sequel.
Commentary by directors Chris Sanders and Dean Deblois and producer Bonnie Arnold: Seriously, I want to know why Sanders was kicked out of Disney because the man knows his stuff and he makes this track an easy listen. All three pitch in, but Sanders leads the discussion on the initial idea, production, character design and more.
Animator's Corner: A branching feature to go along with the audio commentary that provides some PiP video, interviews, art and more.
Legend of the BoneKnapper Dragon: A little over 15 minutes, this bonus short film tells the story of how Hiccup's teacher Gobber finally confronts the dragon that took his arms many years ago. An entertaining short that brings back the actual voice cast, which is nice.
Deleted Scenes: Three alternate scenes in rough storyboard format. Nothing noteworthy.
Viking Sized Cast: A standard feature showcasing the talented voice cast, which includes Jonah Hill and McLovin, together again.
Technical Artistry: The animators discuss some of the challenges they faced on the project, specifically fire. Wasn't that a big deal on the first Shrek movie 10 years ago? Hasn't that been fixed by now?
The Story Behind The Story: Author of the original source books Cressida Cowell discusses her work and the adaptation, which she is no doubt pleased with. There's 9 books out there so get ready for sequels!
Racing for the Gold: A collection of quick ads used to promote the movie during this year's Olympic Games.
How to Draw a Dragon: One of the animators shows you step by step how to draw Toothless. I failed.
Trailers and various Game and Activities, including quizzes, musical segments and more.
Extra Tidbit: Apparently Dr. Who star David Tennant has a voice cameo somewhere in here but I couldn't spot him.