This year will definitely be remembered as a great year for animation. 2010’s How to Train Your Dragon is one of the best films to come out of Dreamworks Animation studio (along with another recommendation, Megamind, which did not quite make it on this list). It also has been a great year for storytelling, and this film is one of the best examples. Based on the novel by Cressida Cowell, this 3D spectacle and feast for the eyes was developed, designed, and produced within only an 11 month period. That is a quite an achievement, but the fact that the story works extraordinarily well and its direction by Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders (Lilo & Stitch) flows like water running through an exciting fjord—I can only gasp in disbelief. Seeing is believing though, and this is certainly worth seeing.
This is the story of a young Viking named Hiccup (who surprisingly never hiccups in the entire film) who has been raised to think that killing a dragon will get him further in life. He is constantly scrutinized by his ridiculously machismo, Thor-like father Stoick (fittingly voiced by an overwhelming Gerard Butler) that can not see his son as anything but underwhelming. Hiccup’s voice and personality, performed by Jay Baruchel, is the complete opposite of Butler’s Stoick. He is a sarcastic outsider that deep down knows that becoming a “true” Viking is something he can never truly accomplish, despite his many vast talents in other fields. This is probably the most poignant aspect to the entire story. A number of children are faced with the terrible dilemma of having to please their parents without realizing that they do not necessarily have to meet that image. This does not mean that a child can not try hard, but he or she can be whatever they want to be; not what everyone else says they should be. The key word is ‘should.’
This becomes a lot clearer to Hiccup when he comes across the intense and yet misunderstood dragon, Toothless. Their mutual understanding of each other becomes a friendship that no “real” Viking would ever understand. In many ways, it takes another young inspiring Viking to back up Hiccup in comparison to his peers (Craig Ferguson’s voice work on Gobber is the greatest example of mentor and court jester), but it is Hiccup’s secret love, Astrid (with the wonderful voice of America Ferrera) to either stand up for him or do what every other Viking “should” do. Filled with such amazing vistas and tremendous scope, this review is only a taste of the film’s power, humor, and heart. Give yourself a full serving.