How to Train Your Dragon (film)

How to Train Your Dragon

Theatrical release poster
Directed by
Produced by Bonnie Arnold
Screenplay by
Based on How to Train Your Dragon
by Cressida Cowell
Music by John Powell
Edited by
Distributed by Paramount Pictures1
Release dates
  • March 26, 2010 (2010-03-26)
Running time
98 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $165 million[1]
Box office $494.9 million[1]

How to Train Your Dragon is a 2010 American 3D computer-animated action-fantasy film produced by DreamWorks Animation and distributed by Paramount Pictures.1 Loosely based on the British book series of the same name by Cressida Cowell, the film was directed by Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois, the duo who directed Disney's Lilo & Stitch. It stars the voices of Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, T.J. Miller, Kristen Wiig, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse.

The story takes place in a mythical Viking world where a young Viking teenager named Hiccup aspires to follow his tribe's tradition of becoming a dragon slayer. After finally capturing his first dragon, and with his chance at last of gaining the tribe's acceptance, he finds that he no longer wants to kill it and instead befriends it.

The film was released March 26, 2010, and was a critical and commercial success, earning acclaim from film critics and audiences and earning nearly $500 million worldwide. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Score at the 83rd Academy Awards, but lost to Toy Story 3 and The Social Network, respectively. The movie also won ten Annie Awards, including Best Animated Feature.

A sequel, How to Train Your Dragon 2, was written and directed by Dean DeBlois and released on June 13, 2014, and was also universally acclaimed and a box office success. A second sequel, How to Train Your Dragon 3 is to be released on May 18, 2018. The film's success has also inspired other merchandise, including a video game and a TV series.


The island of Berk is a remote Viking village, from which dragons periodically steal livestock. Hiccup, the awkward fifteen-year-old son of the village chieftain, Stoick the Vast, is too small to fight the dragons and instead fashions mechanical devices under his apprenticeship with Gobber the blacksmith, though his inventions often backfire. During one attack, Hiccup believes he has shot down a Night Fury, an extremely rare and dangerous dragon. Hiccup later finds it in the forest trapped in his bolas, but finds that he can't bring himself to kill the dragon and instead sets it free.

Stoick assembles a fleet to find the dragons' nest, leaving Hiccup in a dragon-fighting class taught by Gobber. Hiccup returns to the forest to find the Night Fury still there, and realizes it is unable to fly properly because of its crippled caudal fin. Hiccup gradually tames the dragon and gives it the name "Toothless", for its retractable teeth. Hiccup makes a harness and prosthetic fin that allows him to guide the dragon in free flight. By studying Toothless' behavior, Hiccup becomes proficient in subduing the captive dragons during training. Stoick's fleet arrives home unsuccessful, but he is cheered by Hiccup's unexpected success.

Astrid, a tough Viking girl on whom Hiccup has a crush, discovers Hiccup is training Toothless, but Hiccup takes her for a ride to demonstrate his relationship with the dragon before she can tell the village. Toothless unexpectedly takes the pair to the dragons' nest where they discover a gargantuan dragon named the Red Death,2 which eats the smaller dragons unless they bring it stolen livestock.

Back at the village, Hiccup subdues a captive dragon in his final training test in front of his father instead of killing it, but Stoick inadvertently angers the dragon into attacking. Toothless attempts to protect Hiccup in the ensuing panic but is instead captured by the Vikings. Hiccup accidentally reveals to Stoick that Toothless is capable of locating the dragons' nest. Stoick disowns his son and sets off for the nest with Toothless chained to the lead ship as a guide.

The Vikings expel most of the dragons but are overwhelmed by the Red Death until Hiccup, Astrid and their fellow pupils fly in riding the training dragons from the academy and provide cover fire. Hiccup almost drowns trying to break Toothless free from a sinking ship but Stoick saves them both and then reconciles with his son. Toothless and Hiccup destroy the Red Death but Hiccup is injured in the fight. Hiccup regains consciousness on Berk where his left foot has been replaced by a prosthesis, and the Vikings and the dragons now live in harmony.

Voice cast

Producer Bonnie Arnold declared that Hiccup's appeal emerges from Baruchel's voice acting and the character's mannerisms making him a "slightly offbeat character."[2]
Director Chris Sanders described Stoick as "representing everything that's Viking", and thus a very important character in how he intimidates his son Hiccup. Butler considered that "half my career led me into playing a role like this," particularly Beowulf & Grendel, which is set in the Viking age, and was trying to avoid depicting Stoick as villainous, instead aiming for "a character that we can all identify, he's not just big and tough, also vulnerable."[2]
Director Dean Deblois said Gobber's characterization drew a lot from how Ferguson's comedic routine "takes a really dark situation and phrases it in a way there's always a punchline."[2]
DreamWorks had long been interested in having Ferrera voicing one of their movies and, once invited, the actress picked up Cressida Cowell's book, which made her accept the job. Bonnie Arnold complimented how Ferrera "has a strong voice, but also a lot of heart in it" that helped make Astrid sympathetic even as she continued being rough to Hiccup.[2]
Bonnie Arnold declared Mintz-Plasse's voice made them immediately think of Fishlegs, as the character's big frame needed something to contrast, and the actor's "squeaky, small voice" was perfect to complement a "dragon nerd".[2]


Early production concept artwork of "Toothless" and "Hiccup"

The book series by Cressida Cowell began coming to attention to the executives at DreamWorks Animation in 2004. Coming off her success in Over the Hedge, producer Bonnie Arnold shortly became interested in the newly acquired property. She kept focusing on the project as time went on, and when DreamWorks Animation co-president of production Bill Damaschke asked her what she wanted to work on next, she chose “How to Train Your Dragon”.[6]

In initial development, the plot followed the original novel closely, but about halfway through production Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois, the writer-directors of Disney's Lilo & Stitch, took over as co-directors and it was altered. The original plot was described as, "heavily loyal to the book", but was regarded as being too "sweet" and "whimsical" as well as geared towards a too-young demographic, according to Baruchel.[7] In the novel, Hiccup's dragon, Toothless, is a Common or Garden Dragon, a small breed. In the film, Toothless is a Night Fury, the rarest of all dragons, and is large enough to serve as a flying mount for both Hiccup and Astrid. The filmmakers hired cinematographer Roger Deakins (known for frequently collaborating with the Coen brothers) as a visual consultant to help them with lighting and overall look of the film and to "add a live-action feel".[7] Extensive research was done to depict both flight, as the directors knew they would be the biggest draw of the film's 3D effects, and fire, given animation could break away from the limitations seen in live-action films, where propane flames are usual due to being easier to extinguish. The dragons' design made sure to create animals that were comical and also innovative compared to other dragon fiction. Toothless in particular tried to combine various dragon traits in a black panther-inspired design, that also had large ears and eyes to convey emotion better.[8]

The directors made sure to cash in the improvisation abilities of the secondary cast — Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jonah Hill, Kristen Wiig and T.J Miller — by frequently bringing them together in the recording sessions.[2]


John Powell returned to DreamWorks Animation to score How to Train Your Dragon, making it his sixth collaboration with the studio, following his previous score for Kung Fu Panda (which he scored with Hans Zimmer). Powell composed an orchestral score, combining bombastic brass with loud percussion and soothing strings, while also using exotic, Scottish and Irish tones with instruments like the penny whistle and bagpipes. Additionally, Icelandic singer Jónsi wrote and performed the song "Sticks & Stones" for the film. The score was released by Varèse Sarabande on March 23, 2010.

Overall, the score was well received by film score critics. Powell earned his first Academy Award nomination for his work on the film, ultimately losing to Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for their score for The Social Network.


How to Train Your Dragon had its United States premiere on March 21, 2010, at the Gibson Amphitheatre in Universal City, California.[9] It was theatrically released on March 26, 2010, in the United States.[10] The film was digitally re-mastered into IMAX 3D, and released to 186 North American IMAX theatres, and approximately 80 IMAX theatres outside North America.[10]

Competition for 3D screens

A month before the release, DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg protested Warner Bros.' decision to convert Clash of the Titans from 2D to 3D, then to release it one week after How to Train Your Dragon.[11] Entertainment reporter Kim Masters described the 3D release schedule around March 2010 as a "traffic jam", and speculated that the lack of 3D screen availability could hurt Katzenberg's prospects despite his support of the 3D format.[12]

In March 2010, theater industry executives accused Paramount of using high-pressure tactics to coerce theaters to screen How to Train Your Dragon rather than the competing 3D releases, Clash of the Titans and Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland. As theater multiplexes often had just one 3D screen, theaters were unable to accommodate more than one 3D presentation at a time.[13]


How to Train Your Dragon topped the North American box office with $43.7 million in its first weekend of release.[14] The film grossed $217,581,231 in the United States and Canada and $277,297,528 in foreign countries with a worldwide total of $494,878,759.[1] How to Train Your Dragon is DreamWorks Animation's highest-grossing film in the American and Canadian box office other than the Shrek films.[15] It is the fifth highest-grossing animated film of 2010 with $494.8 million, behind Toy Story 3 with $1,063.2 million, Shrek Forever After with $752.6 million, Tangled with $576.6 million, and Despicable Me with $543.1 million and the 10th highest-grossing movie of 2010.[16]

Critical reception

How To Train Your Dragon received critical acclaim upon its release. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 98% of critics gave the film a positive review, based on 200 reviews from professional critics, with an overall rating average of 7.9 out of 10.[17] The site's general consensus is that "Boasting dazzling animation, a script with surprising dramatic depth, and thrilling 3-D sequences, How to Train Your Dragon soars."[17] By "Tomatometer" score, the film is DreamWorks Animation's highest rated film. On Metacritic, which assigns a weighted mean rating out of 0–100 reviews from film critics, the film has a rating score of 74 based on 33 reviews, indicating 'Generally favorable reviews.' [18] CinemaScore polls conducted during the opening weekend revealed the average grade cinemagoers gave How to Train Your Dragon was A on an A+ to F scale.[19]

Roger Ebert of The Chicago Sun-Times gave it 3 stars out of 4, stating that: "It devotes a great deal of time to aerial battles between tamed dragons and evil ones, and not much to character or story development. But it's bright, good-looking, and has high energy".[20] Claudia Puig of USA Today gave it 3.5 out of 4 stars, saying "It's a thrilling action-adventure saga with exhilarating 3-D animation, a clever comedy with witty dialogue, a coming-of-age tale with surprising depth and a sweetly poignant tale of friendship between man and animal."[21] Rolling Stone film critic Peter Travers praised the film, giving it three out of four stars and in his print review wrote, "[The film] works enough miracles of 3-D animation to charm your socks off."[22] Roger Moore of The Orlando Sentinel, who gave the film 2½ stars out of 4, wrote a mixed review describing the film as a "more coming-of-age dramedy or 'everything about your world view is wrong' message movie than it is a comedy. And that seems like a waste of a funny book, some very funny actors and some darned witty animation."[23] Kyle Smith of The New York Post gave the film 2/4 stars labeling the film as "Avatar for simpletons. But that title is already taken, by Avatar".[24] Contrarily, Brett Michel of The Boston Phoenix stated that the film was better than Avatar. A. O. Scott of At The Movies felt the characters and the story were not strong points, but loved the cinematography and said, "that swooping and soaring, they are worth the price of a ticket, so go see it."[25] Village Voice film critic Ella Taylor gave a more negative review of the film, describing it as an "adequate but unremarkable animated tale".[26] Film critic James Berardinelli of ReelViews praised the film and its story, giving it 3.5 out of 4 stars he wrote, "Technically proficient and featuring a witty, intelligent, surprisingly insightful script, How to Train Your Dragon comes close to the level of Pixar's recent output while easily exceeding the juvenilia DreamWorks has released in the last nine years."[27] Entertainment Weekly film critic Owen Gleiberman praised the film giving it an A- and wrote, "How to Train Your Dragon rouses you in conventional ways, but it's also the rare animated film that uses 3-D for its breathtaking spatial and emotional possibilities."[28] ViewLondon's Mathew Turner gave the film 4/5 stars, saying it was "beautifully animated and superbly written", and praised the voice cast, humor, and action. Matt Risley of Variety gave the film a perfect score of 5/5 stars, hailing it as "undoubtedly Dreamworks' best film yet, and quite probably the best dragon movie ever made".


Award Category Name Outcome
Academy Awards[29] Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Chris Sanders
Dean DeBlois
Academy Award for Best Original Score John Powell
Alliance of Women Film Journalists[30] Best Animated Feature
Best Animated Female America Ferrera (Astrid) Won
Annie Awards[31][32] Annie Award for Best Animated Feature Bonnie Arnold
Chris Sanders
Dean DeBlois
Annie Award for Best Animated Effects in an Animated Production Brett Miller
Jason Mayer Nominated
Annie Award for Best Character Animation in a Feature Production Gabe Hordos Won
Jakob Hjort Jensen Nominated
David Torres
Annie Award for Best Character Design in an Animated Feature Production Nico Marlet Won
Annie Award for Best Directing in an Animated Feature Production Chris Sanders
Dean DeBlois
Annie Award for Best Music in an Animated Feature Production John Powell
Annie Award for Production Design in an Animated Feature Production Pierre-Olivier Vincent
Annie Award for Best Storyboarding in an Animated Feature Production Tom Owens
Alessandro Carloni Nominated
Annie Award for Best Voice Acting in an Animated Feature Production Jay Baruchel (Hiccup) Won
Gerard Butler (Stoick) Nominated
Annie Award for Best Writing in an Animated Feature Production William Davies
Chris Sanders
Dean DeBlois
British Academy Film Awards[33] BAFTA Award for Best Animated Film Nominated
BAFTA Award for Best Film Music John Powell
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards[34] Best Animated Film Chris Sanders
Dean DeBlois
Critics' Choice Awards[35] Best Animated Feature Film
Genesis Awards[36] Best Feature Film Won
Golden Globe Awards[37] Golden Globe Award for Best Animated Feature Film Nominated
Golden Reel Awards[38] Best Sound Editing in an Animated Feature Film Won
International Film Music Critics Association[39][40] Film Score of the Year John Powell
Best Original Score for an Animated Feature John Powell
Film Music Composition of the Year John Powell – "Forbidden Friendship" Nominated
John Powell – "Test Drive"
Kids' Choice Awards[41] Favorite Animated Movie
Online Film Critics Society Awards[42] Best Animated Feature Chris Sanders
Dean DeBlois
People's Choice Awards[43] Favorite Family Movie
Satellite Awards[44] Motion Picture (Animated or Mixed)
Saturn Awards[45] Saturn Award for Best Music John Powell
Saturn Award for Best Production Design Kathy Altieri
Saturn Award for Best Animated Film Chris Sanders
Dean DeBlois
Teen Choice Awards[46] Choice Animated Movie
Toronto Film Critics Association[47] Toronto Film Critics Association Award for Best Animated Film Won
Venice Film Festival[48] Most Creative 3D Film of the Year Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois
Tied with James Cameron for Avatar
Visual Effects Society[49] Visual Effects Society Award for Outstanding Animation in an Animated Feature Motion Picture Simon Otto
Craig Ring
Bonnie Arnold
Visual Effects Society Award for Outstanding Animated Character in an Animated Feature Motion Picture Gabe Hordos
Cassidy Curtis
Mariette Marinus
Brent Watkins
Visual Effects Society Award for Outstanding Effects Animation in an Animated Feature Motion Picture Andy Hayes
Laurent Kermel
Jason Mayer
Brett Miller
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Awards[50] Best Animated Feature Chris Sanders
Dean DeBlois
World Soundtrack Academy[51] World Soundtrack Award for Soundtrack Composer of the Year John Powell
World Soundtrack Award for Best Original Song Written Directly for a Film Jón Þór Birgisson

Home media

How to Train Your Dragon was released on single-disc DVD, 2-disc Double DVD Pack and Blu-ray/DVD combo pack in Canada and the United States on Friday, October 15, 2010. Among the features available in the 2-disc DVD edition is an original sequel short film, Legend of the Boneknapper Dragon. As of July 18, 2012, units sold for the DVD stand at more than 6.5 million copies and has grossed $121,663,692.[52]

Samsung signed a deal with DreamWorks to gain exclusive distribution rights to a Blu-ray 3D version of the film. The exclusive agreement ended on September 11, 2011, when How to Train Your Dragon - 3D was released in a Two-Disc Blu-ray combo pack.

It was re-released by Paramount Home Entertainment on Blu-ray and DVD on May 27, 2014.[53]

Expanded franchise


A sequel, How to Train Your Dragon 2, was confirmed on April 27, 2010.[54] The film was directed and written by Dean DeBlois, the co-director of the first film. Bonnie Arnold, the producer of the first film, also returned.[55] The film was released on June 13, 2014, to critical acclaim.[56][57] The entire original voice cast – Baruchel, Butler, Ferguson, Ferrera, Hill, Mintz-Plasse, Miller and Wiig – returned for the sequel[58] with the addition of Cate Blanchett, Djimon Hounsou, and Kit Harington.

A third film, How to Train Your Dragon 3, is in development. The film will also be directed and written by DeBlois, produced by Bonnie Arnold, and exec-produced by Chris Sanders, with all the main cast set to return. Cate Blanchett and Djimon Hounsou will also reprise their roles as Valka and Drago respectively from the second film.[59][60] It is scheduled to be released on May 18th, 2018.[61]

Short films

Four post-movie short films were released: Legend of the Boneknapper Dragon (2010), Book of Dragons (2011), Gift of the Night Fury (2011) and Dawn of the Dragon Racers (2014).

Television series

Main article: DreamWorks Dragons

A television series based on the film premiered on Cartoon Network in Autumn 2012. Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and T. J. Miller reprise their roles as Hiccup, Astrid, Fishlegs and Tuffnut. The series follows Hiccup and his friends as they learn more about dragons, discover new ones, teach others to feel comfortable around them, adapt traditions within the village to fit their new friends and battle against enemies as they explore new worlds. Hiccup has been made head of Berk Dragon Academy.[62]

Video games

An action adventure video game released by Activision, called How to Train Your Dragon, was released for the Wii, Xbox 360, PS3 and Nintendo DS gaming consoles. It is loosely based on the film and was released on March 23, 2010.

School of Dragons, a 3D free-to-play MMO, was released on July 17, 2013, at the San Diego Comic-Con.[63][64] The game is available for PC, Android and iOS.[65]

Arena show

How To Train Your Dragon Arena Spectacular is an arena show adaptation of the first film featuring 24 animatronic dragons, acrobats and projections. It premiered on March 2, 2012, in Melbourne, Australia.[66]

See also


  1. ^ In July 2014, the film's distribution rights were purchased by DreamWorks Animation from Paramount Pictures.[67]
  2. ^ Though the dragon is never named in the film itself, its name is mentioned in the official illustrated tie-in book,[68] as well as in DreamWorks Dragons.


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