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How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World – Blu-Ray Movie Review

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How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World – Blu-Ray Movie Review

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Universal Pictures

With the How to Train Your Dragon trilogy, the talented filmmakers and artists at DreamWorks Animation have crafted an impressive and timeless series of animated movies that are sure to be watched and revisited for many generations. The third film, The Hidden World, closes the trilogy on a beautiful note and is a worthy end to Hiccup and Toothless’s journey. Director/writer Dean DeBlois gives the characters the proper emotional stakes as they come across a new threat to the Vikings of Berk and their beloved dragons. The bond between them is nicely written and shows how much has changed since the events of the first movie. DeBlois also cleverly incorporates flashbacks throughout the film that heighten the relationship between Hiccup and his father Stoick. All the meanwhile, the main villain Grimmel poses a genuine threat as he uses his brains and cunning to attempt to rid the world of dragons.

The animation has evolved tremendously since the first How to Train Your Dragon and The Hidden World is the most visually impressive chapter in the trilogy. DeBlois and the animators fill the screen with dragons, with their various colourful scales truly brightening the scenes. The dragons communicate with animal-like body language, which adds a lot of character to them. Credit should also go to sound designer Randy Thom for finding the right roars and snarls. The battle and action sequences are tremendous, following multiple characters in dragon and Viking-filled skirmishes, never becoming chaotic or difficult to follow. The flying scenes have long been high points of these films and that continues here, aided by the addition of a new companion for Toothless. It all builds to a climax deserving of these characters and what they have faced since their initial appearance and which captures all of the emotions one would hope.

The stunning computer animation of The Hidden World has been beautifully transferred to the Blu-Ray, allowing one to further marvel at the textures and landscapes on-screen. John Powell’s magnificent score also pops on the soundtrack, while the action and sound effects have the necessary booming quality. DreamWorks and Universal Home Entertainment have packed the disc with multiple solid bonus features, too. The audio commentary, recorded by Dean DeBlois, producer Bradford Lewis and Head of Character Animation Simon Otto, goes through every part of production from the writing to the animation to the effects and it makes for a spirited discussion. Deleted scenes, including an alternate opening, shows additional sequences mostly cut for time reasons and these also make one admire the incredible skill of DreamWorks’s storyboard artists.

A highlight of the Blu-Ray comes from two new DreamWorks Animation shorts. Bilby, created from the studio’s sadly canceled animated film Larrikins, is an exciting and funny short with an Australian bilby trying to protect a baby bird. Seeing the Australian Outback brought to animated life in this fast-paced adventure makes one just a little more disappointed Larrikins wasn’t able to be completed. Bird Karma is a hand-drawn short about a bird trying to catch a fish and it takes some rather unexpected and amusing turns. It’s good to see DreamWorks giving more original animated shorts a go.

The featurettes that fill out the rest of the Blu-Ray have an emphasis on dragon design and how the How to Train Your Dragon trilogy has evolved over the years. We get some neat interviews with Dean DeBlois, the animation and design teams, the producers and the cast. There are also behind-the-scenes clips looking at the animation process and the actors recording their voices. Watching these featurettes, one sees how the cast and crew have grown with these films and how important the Dragon trilogy is to the studio. There are also a few tidbits on developing Grimmel and even the sheep of Berk get their own little bonus feature. This is a strong Blu-Ray package and fans of the How to Train Your Dragon series should definitely pick this up, when it arrives on shelves on May 21.

Stefan Ellison

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