How To Train Your Dragon

March 20, 2012 by staff 

How To Train Your Dragon, Meet Toothless. He looks like a cross between a panther, an axolotl and a bat with his gleaming skin and muscular frame. He’s a silvery black dragon – a “Night Fury” dragon.

He might be an intimidating 8m-plus long with a 10m wingspan. But he’s ever so elegant in the air. Until that is, young Viking Hiccup nets him. Toothless is convinced he’s about to be finished off by the warrior while Hiccup fears the dragon might fry or eat him.

But instead Hiccup offers him a fish to eat. The resulting look of surprise on Toothless’ face is a magic moment, his bright green eyes blinking in appreciation.

Toothless changes from savage beast to loveable pet in a moment, and it’s all in his expression.

Five years ago, this scene might have only been possible on film, as in Dreamworks’ animated 3D movie How to Train Your Dragon. But now you can see it for real, in the flesh, courtesy of technological developments which have led to the creation of amazingly lifelike animatronic robot dragons.

Last year New Zealand got to see the arena spectacular Walking With Dinosaurs. This time, Global Creatures, the company that created the dinosaurs, has partnered with Dreamworks to bring their hit film How to Train Your Dragon to life.

Dreamworks head Jeffrey Katzenberg sees the technology as a new frontier in entertainment.

“With each of our movie properties, they have opportunities to live beyond the movie theatre. And I think each in their own way has lent itself to new experiences …

“We’ve had Shrek and Kung Fu Panda go to Broadway, and the penguins from Madagascar go to TV. When we saw Walking With Dinosaurs a couple of years ago, it seemed like that was just a natural fit and would be a phenomenal extension with what we were doing with Dragons on film.”

It’s a huge investment, and something of a gamble for the company, as this very colourful live show is taking on several firsts.

It’s the first-time animatronic flying robot puppets have been created on this scale. It’s also the first time such a big a projection screen – 21 times the size of a standard cinema screen and stretching between wall and floor – has been used in an indoor arena show.

In a world where 3D movies have become the norm, it’s blending all sorts of entertainment forms, including acrobatics, puppetry, film and music, in order to dazzle an audience.

The scale of the project is enormous, with more than 600 people involved in the show’s creation.

There are nearly 30 dinosaurs on set of varying sizes (including seven that can fly), five animatronic robots, and an array of puppet suits. The flying dragons weigh about as much as an elephant. They’re joined by a cast of 24 actors, some of whom ride on Toothless as he flies. Each dragon is operated by three or four people.

The show’s director, Englishman Nigel Jamieson, says the show tops the Olympic and Commonwealth Games opening ceremonies he’s worked on before.

“To manage to meld this level of spectacle and technology in with a story, I think it’s one of the most challenging things I’ve done.

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