The Land of ‘How to Train Your Dragon’

Welcome to ‘How to Train Your Dragon land’ at Motiongate theme park in the heart of Dubai! If the pictures and videos doing the rounds are anything to go by, then this exciting space is as magical as the movie characters and their Viking escapades.

‘Camp Viking’ is an interactive playground within the DreamWorks section of the park wherein kids can run amok, armed with crawl nets, water guns and other dragon training tools. Then there’s a suspended in the air, inverted roller coaster of sorts with twisting seats called ‘Dragon Gliders’ stationed above the village of Berk replete with scenery befitting the Viking village, which, in the words of the makers themselves, is ‘storytelling through the use of technology at its very best’.

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Image courtesy: TravellerCzech

Last but not the least, the third major attraction is the gondola-shaped ride called ‘The Swinging Viking’. With this, you can embark on a hijacking adventure with the mischievous twins Ruffnut and Tuffnut, and hold the ship to ransom. This is as real to the reel story as it can get; rest assured, we all know where we are heading to for our family holiday in the next vacation!

Dragons Now Race To The Top!

Friends, dragon lovers, countrymen… Lend me your ears!  Season 4 of DreamWorks’ spin-off series ‘Race to the Edge’ is out now, and has turned out to be even more glorious than expected. What’s more, the show boasts of a whopping 17 per cent share of children’s viewership in its debut month itself!

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Image courtesy: How To Train Your Dragon

What’s so exciting about the new season? Well, a couple of instances:

  • The action sequences set in the gorgeously scenic dragon-inhabited islands are seamless, to say the least. Be it skimming the ocean surfaces on their dragons, mid-air spins to escape dragon hunter arrows or just working about on their dwelling place, each scene holds so much fine detailing in it. A feast for the senses.
  • A coming-of-age tale if there ever was one. The characters are their usual selves, albeit a bit more grown up and mature versions of themselves (especially Hiccup, who demonstrates a newfound sense of responsibility and leadership in certain situations). Trials and tribulations come and go, and our characters give it all they’ve got.
  • A complete package is what this season of Dragons is – action and humor, friendships and enmities, challenges and responsibilities. Perhaps this is what makes it an ideal watch for all age groups, not just kids alone.

I’m in a bit of a quandary though; the previous season had the at times annoying, pompous Snotlout as my favorite dragon rider. However, this season it seems the ‘Nut’ twins are vying for my affection, Tuffnut in particular. Just can’t do without him and his ‘Chicken’!

3 Popular Dragon Story Books for Kids

Kids (and adults like me) have always loved dragons. Be it in books, cartoons, games, movies or anywhere else, dragons have somehow always held a charm that is impossible to go unnoticed. It may be hard to believe but we are such a staunch dragon-loving family that we have hand-made dragon eyes of all shapes, sizes and colors, both ferocious as well as friendly, peeking out at us from various corners of our home – the refrigerator magnets, on the doors of the wardrobe in the kids’ room and even a menacing pair on the door of their room proclaiming: ‘Enter at your own risk!’

Let’s talk about three popular dragon story books for kids which my kids are big fans of as well.

How to Train Your Dragon (by Cressida Cowell)

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Image courtesy: Wikipedia

First and foremost on the list has to be the How to Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell. The story narrates the transformation of the quiet, thoughtful son of the village chief into an extraordinary Viking hero. Those who have watched the DreamWorks movies based on the story may not find it exactly like the movie but it makes for a captivating read nonetheless. And yes, Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III might sound like a scary character, but in the story he is the exact opposite of ‘horrendous’ – polite, kind, modest, ever ready to help. The places they explore are dangerous at times but then the Hiccup gang provides a wonderful sense of comic relief to the story, both in the book and the movies.

The Reluctant Dragon (by Kenneth Grahame)

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Image courtesy: Usborne Books at Home

Funny, cute and whimsical – this sums up the story of The Reluctant Dragon. Colorful illustrations make this picture book a hit with young audiences. The English might be a little old world for today’s kids – after all, this classic was published way back in the year 1938 – but the story remains evergreen till date. A dragon who loves poetry becomes friends with a young boy. However, the townsfolk are of the view that a dragon is a dragon and deserves to be slayed, come what may. Now it is up to the young friend of our friendly dragon to come up with a plan to save his life from the people out to destroy him. The Walt Disney movie based on the book was released as an American live action and animated film in 1941.

Eragon (by Christopher Paolini)

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Image courtesy: Wikipedia

Who knew that a polished, blue-colored stone found in the forest would bring forth something that is nothing short of extraordinary – a dragon hatchling? Along with it come all sorts of hitherto unknown magic, accompanied with dangerous enemies, including an extremely evil king. Call it fiction, fantasy, adventure or simply an amalgamation of all three, but as the story of Eragon unfolds, one is left waiting eagerly to find out what happens next as you turn the pages. The movie based on the novel came out back in 2006, an enjoyable adventure flick which the entire family can watch for movie nights at home together.

Wish to add to this list?

Good News & Bad News for Dragon Lovers

Well, for all you dragon lovers out there, we’ve got both good news and bad news. To make you feel better in the end, here’s the bad news first. The release date of How to Train Your Dragon 3, earlier slated for 2018, has been pushed back yet again to March 1, 2019 (which, we admit, is a long time away *sob*). Notwithstanding the fact that the third movie in the series is bound to be a tearjerker of sorts, with our beloved Toothless being drawn away from his best friend and master in addition to our hero having to take some extremely difficult decisions in order to save mankind, this ‘culmination of Hiccup’s coming of age’ is undoubtedly something all of us are eager to watch.

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Image courtesy: PasteMagazine

Now, for the good news – to assuage your sadness, here’s what you should do. Come February 15, just visit the stands and pick up the brand new graphic novel called How to Train Your Dragon: The Serpent’s Heir. The best part? Its story begins right where the second film ended, so you can perhaps make do for now with the gripping tale of how Hiccup and the gang encounter a new enemy with a deadly dragon on an earthquake-plagued island. Rest assured, if the news pieces doing the rounds are anything to go by, the graphic story turns as thrilling as the films as you eventually turn the pages. Definitely some spectacular fire-breathing action in the offing!

Dragons in Animated Movies – Mushu & Maleficent

Here are two popular dragon characters from animated movies, which are as different as chalk and cheese.

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Image courtesy: Fanpop

Mushu (Mulan): This dragon is unlike a dragon in size; a lot smaller than you would imagine a dragon to be, but nevertheless, Mushu, Mulan’s protector and closest companion, is a true hero with a big heart. Not very often can you find a dragon who has good intentions plus a great comic sense. Voiced by Eddie Murphy, Mushu is a guardian spirit in his own right. Oh, and he might not look ferocious, but he does have a fire breath.

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Image courtesy: Flickr

Maleficent (Sleeping Beauty): In stark contrast to the amiable Mushu, Maleficent is one of the most powerful villains in the history of Disney. This dragon is the epitome of evilness. She’s vindictive, arrogant, extremely powerful and menacing. Her popular dialogue says it all: ‘You poor simple fools, thinking you could defeat me. ME?! The mistress of all evil?’

Where did Dragons come from?

‘If the sky could dream, it would dream of dragons.’

True that. In addition to the cute little catchable Pokemon monsters and the virtual pets that are becoming increasingly popular day by day, we keep hearing about dragons all around us – in books, in movies, as cartoon characters, as characters in science fiction films and so on. But have you ever stopped to think where the myth of dragons came from in the first place? There are several legends and stories which claim to be correct as far as the origin of dragons are concerned. However, which one among them is true is as good as anybody’s guess.

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Dragon” by ArtsyBee is licensed under CC by 2.0

Here are a couple of real-life animals which seem to have triggered the advent of dragons as we know them today.

“Crocodiles are easy. They try to kill and eat you. People are harder. Sometimes they pretend to be your friend first.”          

Steve Irwin (‘The Crocodile Hunter’)

More specifically it’s the Nile crocodile, the second largest reptile existing in the world today (an adult of the species commonly reaches a length of 16-18 feet), which is thought to have acted as a precursor for dragons. What makes it different from other crocodiles? Well, a fascinating characteristic known popularly as the ‘high walk’ – this menacing reptile has the ability to move by raising their trunks above the ground. Can you imagine a mammoth, lurching, scaly creature walking towards you? No doubt it would resemble a dragon of sorts.

“They were like these Gods of the earth who could understand it so well.”

Peter Sohn (Director – ‘The Good Dinosaur’)

Now this one is pretty obvious. According to this report on the StrangeScience website, ‘some creationists claim that medieval dragons were really ruling reptiles of the Mesozoic era that survived into modern times’ – and who are these medieval dragons being talked about? Dinosaurs. What’s more, there was a Chinese historian named Chang Qu who lived back in the 4th century BC; he discovered a dinosaur fossil, eventually misinterpreting and mislabeling it as the remains of dragons.

“The snake will always bite back.”

Jake Roberts (professional wrestler nicknamed ‘Jake the Snake’)

Prolonged, winding bodies and elongated necks with menacing fangs; how can a snake not be a sort of a miniature dragon? They are ready to strike at a moment’s notice, their sting (read: bite) is mostly lethal and the entire experience of encountering one in real life, poisonous or not, is nothing short of petrifying. Now try to visualize a gargantuan fire-emitting snake with legs for appendages – does it not conjure up the image of a dragon in your minds?

No doubt dragons are scary creatures; but then, who can say no to having a cute little monster for a pet, especially if it looks up at you with those puppy-dog eyes like Toothless does to Hiccup?

Craving something sweet? Try these ‘Dragon Desserts’

Thinking of dragons, these are the words that cross my mind (and in this particular order, since we have big-time dragon fans at home) – dragon movies, Toothless, animation, my kids and their dragon games, dragon-themed birthday parties, menacing, vicious, gigantic, threatening, hair-raising, petrifying, beasts, thunderous, awe-inspiring, formidable, mammoth, thundering, desserts… Yes, you read it right. ‘Dragon desserts’ seem to be the flavor of the season, and the latest addition to this list. Menacing creatures they may be, but dragons probably have a sweet tooth as well 😉

We’ve talked about refreshing dragon cocktails in a previous post – blushing dragons, happy dragons and the like. We can do without cocktails once in a while, but without desserts? Nah! Hence, since there is always room for dessert come what may, here you go.

Chocolate Dragon Dessert

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Did you know that chocolate is ground from the beans of happiness? I had always presumed so, given its heavenly flavors. This recipe is all about crushing scrumptious chocolate sandwich cookies, adding instant chocolate pudding along with cold milk into it, stirring it all together with whipped dessert topping and leaving the mixture in the freezer for a while. What do you get as a result? A perfect, mouth-watering chocolatey concoction, which becomes all the more inviting provided you top it up with worm-shaped candies and jelly beans as mentioned here.

Dragon Beard Candy

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Similar to the popular cotton candy which is a favorite of kids all around the world, the Dragon Beard Candy (or Dragon Hair Candy as it is sometimes referred to) was first introduced in China. Stuffed with peanuts, coconuts and doused in maltose syrup, this Chinese cotton candy is threaded, chewy, rich and very sweet (everything that kids – and adults like me – would love!). Legend has it that during the Chinese Han dynasty, an imperial court chef was entertaining His Majesty one fine day by performing the steps involved in preparing a new confection; a candy composed from rice flour with a dough-like mixture which had small, thin, sticky strands. For some unknown reason, the Emperor was reminded of a dragon’s beard, and hence the name stuck. So does the candy 😛

Dragon Fruit Dessert

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This one is particularly for all those health-conscious dessert lovers out there. Pitaya, more commonly known as the dragon fruit, is beyond doubt one of the most good-looking or I should say exotic looking fruits I have ever come across. A leathery, bright red skin; sweet, kiwi-like flesh; high in fiber content as well as Vitamins B & C – no wonder this miracle of a fruit has such a weighty name! Have a look at this simple recipe involving yogurt, cream, gelatin, vanilla extract, honey and dragon fruit and you have a dessert fit for dragons, not kings!

And now, with Easter right around the corner, no points for guessing what would be the best time to tuck into these desserts!

3 Fun Facts You Probably Didn’t Know about How to Train Your Dragon

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  1. How to Train Your Dragon is the first movie produced by the American film production company DreamWorks in which the hero of the story – Hiccup – is of the same age as the target audience of the film. Most of the other DreamWorks animation flicks feature adults as the protagonists of their movies.
  2. This franchise is not just about the movies alone – which are nothing but the tip of the iceberg. A television series popularly known as DreamWorks Dragons has already completed forty episodes and two seasons and is on to its third, while Gift of the Night Fury is a 30-minute Christmas special short film in addition to two other short films on similar themes related to the dragons. What’s more, there are books, video games and soundtrack albums devoted to the dragons and even an exclusive ice show and stadium show based on the movies! No wonder these beloved dragons are a raging success the world over.
  3. Last but not the least, let’s talk about the most endearing character of the entire series – Toothless. Did you know that the adorable sounds he makes are a combination of the recordings of elephants, tigers, horses, elephant seals, other domestic cats and the voice of the supervising sound designer of the film, Randy Thom? In his own words: “Toothless was the biggest challenge for us in terms of the vocalization, because he had to have so much variety just within his own voice. The voice of Toothless is mostly a combination of my voice and elephants and horses, maybe a tiger here and there. It’s lots of stuff!”

How to Train Your Dragon 3: The End of a New Beginning?

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Speculations abound as the hugely popular How to Train Your Dragon 3 (HTTYD-3) gears up for its release. Although this third and final instalment of the dragon series was originally slated to hit the theatres sometime in 2016, new rumors doing the rounds suggest that we may not get to watch the flick till as late as 2018, due to some unrevealed internal conflicts within the film production company.

However, the guesswork and suppositions related to the movie had already begun as soon as DreamWorks Animation announced that the movie is lined up for release, the proclamation coming shortly after the success of the How to Train Your Dragon 2 film. Be it mini dragon playing sets, online dragon games, dragon mugs, lunch boxes, skateboards or even dragon-themed t-shirts, the How to Train Your Dragon memorabilia continues to fly off the shelves like hot cakes even now. This bears testimony to the fact that the Hiccup-Toothless fervor isn’t something that will die down easily, even though there may be an interval of a couple of years between two of its movie releases.

Regarding it being more of a dragon-centric movie than its prequels, director Dean DeBlois had this to say: “I’m playing with the idea of what happened to the dragons and why they are no more, as suggested by Cressida Cowell’s books. So the whole mystery of where did they go? Did they come back? What transpired? I think it’s all compelling stuff and it’s definitely a story that’s gonna have a lot more Toothless emphasis in it. We continue to get more insight into the dragon world and shed light on their intelligence and all the aspects that we’ve been slowly cooking over the last few films.”

If the movie is anything along the same lines as the novels go, then an all-out war between humans and dragons is on the cards in HTTYD-3. Reiterating this, DeBlois also confirmed: “Both Hiccup and Toothless are now chiefs of their respective tribes, and it’s a dueling story where you have both characters trying to do what’s right for their kind, and an eventual outcome where Hiccup is able to stand on his own.” Does that mean Hiccup and Toothless will ultimately have to part ways, for the greater good, bringing to an end the most beautiful human-dragon friendship ever? “The mystery of what all that is will be saved for the actual story,” is all DeBlois is ready to divulge at the moment.

Those who have read the Cressida Cowell series know that the dragon story does not have a happy ending. Hence, here are some possibilities of what might happen: This might be the last we’ll get to see of Toothless, since the books begin with Hiccup as an old man, ruminating on the days gone by when dragons and humans used to cordially live together. The villain of the series, Drago, might be the one to wage an all-out war against the dragons. On the other hand, he just might have a change of heart (a fake one at that) and get back to Berk in order to make the Vikings trust him, and then eventually poison their minds against the beasts. Only time will tell.

Last but not the least, the most heartbreaking news of all (and this comes from the horse’s – read director’s – mouth); the How to Train Your Dragon 3 is the last movie of the series and there’ll be no more dragon flicks after this.

Needless to say, we’ll always love Toothless and the rest of his clan. Always.

Dragon Classes in the HTTYD Universe – Continued

In my previous post about dragon classes as discovered by the Viking’s of Berk, I mentioned the first person – Bork the Bold – to start researching, observing and classifying dragons. We went into 3 dragon classes. This post attempts to talk about more dragons (do I need an excuse?)

Sharp Class

Timberjack_book_of_dragonsThe dragons under this class are supposed to be vain and self-obsessed. They also have a lot of pride and possess a body with sharp parts.

Some of the dragons under this class are – Timberjack, Speed Stinger, Stormcutter, Raincutter, Scuttleclaw, Hackatoo, Shivertooth and Windstriker.

Tidal Class

33fbe18f0b75e6960a72603203219519Usually found near the ocean, these dragons can very rarely use fire breath. They are larger than most dragons. Hiccup has mentioned that Tidal Class dragons can’t stay out of water for too long but it has been proven false for some of the dragons in this class.

Some of the dragons under this class are – Scauldron, Thunderdrum, Seashocker, Bewilderbeast, Shockjaw, Sand Wraith, Tide Glider, Sliquifier, Submaripper and Desert Wraith

Mystery Class

boneknapper_by_xx_nightfurygirl_xx-d5eom1vThey are aptly named ‘Mystery” Class because not much is known about them. They are hard to track and barely give you any chance to observe them. They are easily the most feared dragon class of all of the classes.

Some of the dragons under this class are – Changewing, Boneknapper, Smothering Smokebreath, Flightmare, Sweet Death, Hideous Zippleback, Snaptrapper and Sword Stealer

Strike Class

gift_of_the_night_fury_screencap___toothless_by_sdk2k9-d5dgx3mThis is my favorite class because, well, Toothless. Dragons from the strike class are extremely fast and intelligent. They have amazing firepower and intense strength. They are rare and very close to extinction. They are known to be very difficult to train, which makes Hiccup’s training of Toothless quite an underestimated feat.

Some of the dragons under this class are – Skrill, Night Fury and Woolly Howl.