After the very bad news, I want to remember that I have many things to be grateful for.
One of them is the DreamWorks Dragons franchise.
I was a bit late to discovering it. I knew the first movie (How to Train Your Dragon) existed from a church children’s event, but I only caught bits and pieces of it there. When I finally watched it for myself, it became one of my favorite movies. The animation, acting, and story are all beautiful. Toothless is a given a remarkable range of expression and emotion for a creature who cannot speak. The human hero is a skinny boy who is an explorer at heart; no prizes for guessing why that resonates with me.
I’m not sure why I didn’t see the sequel (How To Train Your Dragon 2) when it was released in 2014. When I finally watched it last August, I realized I had missed a lot. It might be an even better film than the first, and it has the best marriage of score (especially “Where No One Goes”) and visuals I have seen since Star Wars!
Around the same time, I learned that a TV series, set between the first two movies, existed. I am currently partway through the seventh of 8 seasons. Of course, the animation quality and number of characters is smaller due to the lower budget, but I am thoroughly enjoying it. They put more personality into an animated chicken than I have seen some live-action actors put into their characters!
The best thing about the series (or any such series if it is done well) is the opportunity to take time to get to know the characters well. In a movie, the supporting cast by necessity just doesn’t have that much screen time. In a series, a whole episode can focus on Ruff and Tuff going bonkers for 20 minutes, and it works hilariously.
We also get fine drama, adventure, and a deep sense for how much these people and dragons care about each other. Some of the finest moments and stories actually come from characters that don’t appear in either of the movies. The most emotionally moving moments actually had me tearing up. Quite impressive for a “children’s show.”
Like any work of art, the movies and the series have their imperfections, but the are still great art.
The third movie (How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World), which will conclude the entire franchise, is now in theaters. I plan to see it when it comes to the Elks Theatre, our local second-run theater with a great atmosphere. I know this doesn’t make much sense to say about fictional characters, but I will miss them.