History of Animation

Posts Tagged ‘Train

Theatrical poster from the movie.

Personally when it comes to the ever-increasing usage of 3D animation over 2D animation in our cartoons and animated films, I find most of what is produced to just be a lifeless, soulless product with Famous Celebrities (and sometimes Top 40 Singers of the Month) providing voice work just because the studio can afford them and use shallow pop-culture references to make up the bulk of jokes; not because the celebrities actually fit the character they’re voicing or, in the case of most of the Pop Singers who voice some of the characters, have talent or skill in acting.

This has become a bit of a case with Dreamworks Studio, who’s now the only standing animation studio that could be called a rival of Walt Disney Animation Studios. When they first started out, the movies they made such as The Prince of Egypt and The Road to El Dorado actually had a lot more mature content story and character-wise compared to the Disney films out at the time (as well as the movies Disney made that tried to have mature themes were flops at the box office); even Shrek, one of their first 3D animated movies was a very clever and well-written movie, and its sequel, Shrek 2, had a nice balance of pop-culture and character-driven jokes along with a clever continuation of the story. However… Dreamworks personally went through a really long, low-brow slump with CGI animated movies, basically much like I described them above, such as Shark Tale, Bee Movie, Shrek the 3rd, and Over The Hedge (though Over The Hedge arguably had more clever/ funny moments). However, Dreamworks seems to have gotten better with the release of Kung Fu Panda, and their most recent film How to Train Your Dragon, which is not only nicely animated, but also written real well and has heart in its story.

How to Train Your Dragon tells the story of Hiccup, whose father, Stoick the Vast, is not only the leader of Berk, their town village, but also is the strongest and most revered dragon-slaying warrior; whereas Hiccup himself is very weak physically, is usually ushered to the sidelines by his father when a dragon attack occurs, and prefers tactical planning rather than just charging in blindly. During an attack on their village by the many species of dragons, Hiccup tries to capture a type of dragon called a Night Fury, a legendary dragon that is rumored to be extremely deadly and elusive. He manages to shoot it down with a catapult net, and tracks it to where it crashes in a remote forest, but can’t bring himself to kill the dragon; instead, he cuts the net and the Night Fury flees.¬†Following the incident, Stoick, realizing that he can’t keep Hiccup sheltered forever, decides to enroll him in dragon fighting classes taught by Gobber, whom Hiccup also teaches under in blacksmithing. Despite initially being snubbed and mocked by the other students, Hiccup begins to learn more about dragons by the textbook; as well as the fact that he again finds the Night Fury in a small canyon area, unable to fly.

The biggest strength in this movie is undoubtedly how the bond between Hiccup and the Night Fury (whom Hiccup names Toothless) develop over the course of the movie. Though this hasn’t been the first movie that features “A Boy and his Pet” plotline, it’s still done very well with plenty of charm and heart (though that also may be credited to Chris Sanders, creator of the Girl and Her Alien Disney movie Lilo and Stitch, who also had a hand in directing this movie). The character of Hiccup is also a big strength of the movie; sure, he’s very awkward and bad at fighting, but for what he doesn’t have physically, he makes up for it with tactics, planning, and knowledge, and uses those aspects to great effect throughout the movie. The art and 3D graphics are also very amazing, especially during the action/ flying scenes; and the characters are nicely designed.

I guess the only minor complaint I could make is since How to Train Your Dragon is based on a book, there’s bound to be some cutbacks, particularly of the minor characters and their character development/ fleshing out. However, and this is probably because I haven’t read the book or the series in general, I barely noticed at all. This is definitely one of Dreamworks’ stronger animated CGI films that they have released, and I wholly recommend seeing it.

I commented on Andrew Steward’s and Alissa Porter’s blog posts.

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