A Must-Have: How to Train Your Dragon Toys

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Image courtesy: Playmobil

Fans of DreamWorks Dragons now have a new reason to rejoice – they can have Hiccup and Toothless perched upon their desks while reading and pretend they are Vikings alongside the duo in Berk! How? Well, Playmobil has come out with a brand new line of toys based on our favorite characters, which look as realistic (if not more) as the TV series and/or movies.

All you’ve got to do is to get your hands on one of those impressive blue boxes and assemble the pieces. The DIY assembly isn’t a tedious task at all; in fact, it is super exciting to, say, snap on Toothless’ wings or set up the 145-piece village of Berk, replete with a concealed trapdoor, cute mini dragons and majestic-looking statues with hidden treasures.

Hiccup, Astrid and even Drago the villain are included amongst other Vikings with their dragons in the extremely well-designed sets. The attention that has been given to detail is immense, which is evident in the likeness of these physical characters to their movie and Netflix counterparts. Pirate ships, flame darts, flight shields, battle helmets, fire blasts from Toothless and wonderfully illuminated LEDs glowing on his back spikes – these are just a few of the reasons why a DreamWorks Dragons lover should own these sets. Can’t wait to get my hands on them myself!

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How to Make a Simple Toothless Halloween Costume

Since Toothless became such a loved character all around the world, I’ve come across several parents of newborns dressing up their babies for their first Halloween as Toothless, on the basis of the literal meaning of the word – without teeth. And why not? After all, Toothless is a cute, friendly dragon – and needless to say, one of the major stars of the How to Train Your Dragon series.

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Pinata” by arqgalindo is licensed under CC by 2.0

Here’s how you can make a simple Toothless Halloween costume for kids at home. Get hold of a plain black body suit, sweatshirt or better still, a hoodie for your little one that is just slightly big for her. You would also require a roll or two of black, green, red and white felt (for the body and wings, eyes, tongue and center of the eyes respectively). Sew on two big black felt ears accompanied with two smaller ones on the hoodie cap, such that each side’s ear comprises of a bigger and a smaller part, both representing parts of one whole ear. This will somewhat resemble the structure of Toothless’ natural ear. Cut out the two green felt eye pieces in the shape of oval eyes and sew them on below the ears. A good idea would be to stuff in some cotton to give the eyes a protruding look.

Make sure the green eye pieces are big enough, as you’ll have to follow them up with smaller black and still smaller white pieces within the eye for that ‘glint’. The smallest white pieces that make up the center of the eyes can also be stuck on instead of painstakingly stitching them. Next, measure out the length from your child’s underarm to her wrist and cut out an equivalent piece of black felt. Create a webbed look at the bottom of it, sewing the non-webbed part on to the lower side of each sleeve.

The tail could simply be cotton stuffed into a rectangular piece of felt and sewn on at the bottom. A simpler and longer tail could also be made by gluing a number of discarded toilet paper rolls together and then sewing them into a piece of felt such that they trail behind, dragging a little on the ground for added effect. Don’t forget to add a red webbed felt piece at one end of Toothless’ tail… Remember the missing left side of the Night Fury’s tail fin, the prosthetic one Hiccup constructed and replaced himself so Toothless and him could glide over the seas in perfect sync with each other?

Another simpler and quicker alternative for a Toothless costume which does not involve sewing could work like this: On an oversized black hoodie, glue on 2 black felt wings on either side of the back. Similarly for the eyes – if you’re in a hurry or short on time, do away with the sewing and simply use fabric glue instead. Black felt spikes glued all the way from the top of the cape to the bottom of the tail look realistic enough and are super-easy to do. For added effect, cut out spikey white teeth from thick cardboard or white felt and glue them on the underside of the hoodie.

And thus arises the question which comes up in my mind every now and then: Toothless has menacing teeth.  Retractable yes, but when Hiccup met him for the first time, he was greeted by a mouthful of not-so-welcoming set of teeth. The next time they met, there seemed to be no teeth at all – just gums. In this case, our beloved protagonist could have just gone ahead and named his dragon Tooth-full and not Tooth-less. Wotsay?

Last but not the least, have a look at this video of my favorite scene of Hiccup and Toothless – their expressions are just so adorable!

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!

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?

How to Train Your Dragon themed Birthday Party – Part I – Food

Birthday parties are an intrinsic part of any kid’s childhood. As a little child, I still remember the birthday parties we had at home – while our courtyard would be full of multicolored balloons and streamers (courtesy dad), mum would be entrusted with the all-important task of baking the birthday cake (chocolate-flavored since that was my favorite). The neighborhood kids would come over, we would have a gala time playing fun games like passing-the-parcel, musical chairs or pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey and wind up the party with a home-cooked meal comprising of pizzas and ice-cream, or something similar.

Cut to the present. Birthday party themes are the rage these days. Kids want an elaborate party that is planned right down to the last detail. So while themes like ‘fairy princess parties’ would mean fairy wings and wands for each girl who attends, twinkling fairy lights to decorate the venue, pink lemonade and pink frosted cupcakes, ‘superhero parties’ are all about flowing Superman capes, eye masks and face paints, accompanied with war cries at regular intervals (but of course).

Along the same lines, movie-themed birthday parties have become popular among kids too. My kids at home are big fans of the How to Train Your Dragon series ever since they watched the first movie of the series. Lately, I’ve been thinking if we could throw a dragon-themed party for my son’s birthday, which is still three months away. Here are a couple of dragon-inspired cake ideas I came across as a result of my research on the same subject.

A Dragon Birthday Cake

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It goes without saying that in a How to Train Your Dragon themed birthday party the main attraction has to be the dragon cake. Have a look at this video o know how to go about making a Toothless cake or this Stormfly cake for those kids who are fans of Astrid’s pet dragon. A layer of chocolate buttercream icing over the body of Toothless gives the ideal finish to the Night Fury cake. A sure shot way to bring a whole lot of oohs and aahs from the kids would be to stick the candles to be blown out in Toothless’ mouth – after all, he is the ferocious fire-breathing dragon, isn’t he?

Dragon Muffins or Fiery Cupcakes

Chocolate muffins work best for the Toothless look. The topping can be made of buttercream as before or even ready-made vanilla frosting. Cover the chocolate muffins fresh-out-of-the-oven evenly with the frosting of your choice. A good idea is to cover the frosting with Oreo cookie crumbs to give a scale-like impression of the dragon’s body. Green and yellow food dyes can be used to give color to the eyes on the cupcake. Freeze the dyed frosting for a couple of minutes to be able to easily cut out the eyes and add them onto the cupcake. You can use melted chocolate to mark out the pupils on the green eye. And you’re done!

Similarly, using orange, red or yellow colored frosting instead of the Oreo crumbs topping, one can get the look of cupcakes which are on fire.

To add to the spread, check out this previous post on dragon cocktails (you would need to convert these into mocktails for the kids’ party) and also dragon desserts (though if you manage to come up with a fantastic cake and muffins as mentioned above, these shouldn’t be required as such).

More ideas on the dragon-theme inspired birthday party coming up in the next few posts!

3 Adorable Dragons in Dragon Games

Dragons have captured the imagination of the masses for centuries. In the recent past, they have become a big part of popular culture, making regular appearances in books, movies and video games. With references in so many places, it is quite understandable that these creatures have been depicted in different ways by different people. However, whether in dragon games or ancient lore, they are most often portrayed as fierce, scary-looking, formidable beasts. They often wreak destruction on land, though it is not uncommon to find benign dragons that form friendships with human beings. It is far more uncommon, on the other hand, to find a dragon that is remotely ‘cute’, so to speak. That has slowly begun to change. Huggable dragons with big eyes, delicate features and rounded spikes are no longer outrageous – some of them are incredibly popular! Just take a look at these three cuties that are also stars on dragon games, and you’ll see what I mean.

Spyro

Spyro

Sundet & Spyro – better quality” by vages is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Spyro is the star of the dragon game ‘Spyro the Dragon’. He is an adorable young purple dragon that is stubborn and courageous in spite of his tender age. In the game, all the dragons in the realm are attacked by a spell from Gnasty Gnorc, and only Spyro escapes due to his size. He sets off to save the dragons and confront Gnasty Gnorc. ‘Spyro the Dragon’ was followed by several more dragon games starring this adorable, fire-breathing beast. It’s tough to tell what is cutest about this dragon, but there’s no doubt that his kind and brave heart add to his charm.

Yoshi

Yoshi is perhaps the most famous of all the dragons that have ever appeared in a video game. If you are one of the very few who don’t recognize the name, I must clarify. Yoshi did not make his debut as the star of a dragon game. He is Mario and Luigi’s friendly sidekick in Super Mario World, and since his first appearance has been part of several other Nintendo games, including a few revolving around him. The bipedal, chubby green dragon is cuteness personified. There is an ongoing debate as to whether Yoshi is actually a dragon or a dinosaur. While in his early appearances he was commonly accepted as a dinosaur, in ‘Super Mario Galaxy 2’ he signs a note as ‘Yoshi the Space Dragon’. The fact that he is a ‘space dragon’ would explain why he is missing some of the common features associated with regular dragons, such as wings.

Toothless

This friendly dragon first made his appearance in the animated movie ‘How to Train Your Dragon’. He reappeared on screens in the sequel ‘How to Train Your Dragon 2’, where a more defined personality added to his charm. Toothless has appeared in several dragon games since his movie debut and is extremely popular with fans of the franchise. He does not resemble most dragons, and looks positively benign. He does not have sharp spines anywhere on his body, but he does have a deadly blast.

Are there any other cute dragons that you can think of? Comment and let me know!

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.

Villainous Dragons in Popular Fiction, Movies and Television Series

While my superhero was busy maneuvering through the dragon game on his tablet, I immediately started to get visions of the dragons from books I read and the television series and movies that I watched for years. And, here I am with my blog post, on my three most favorite villainous dragons, each from a popular fiction, movie and television series.

Tiamat from Dungeons & Dragons

Dungeons & Dragons is a popular television series that’s based on the popular dragon game by the same name. The story revolves around a group of friends who are accidentally sucked into the “Realm of Dungeons & Dragons” while on a roller coaster ride at an amusement park. On their arrival at the realm, each of them is given a magical item that they have to use to find their way back home. It’s during their homeward journey that they encounter Tiamat, a five-headed dragon, who is named after a goddess on Mesopotamian mythology. Tiamat is the queen and mother of all evil dragons and one of the members in the pantheon of gods in D&D. This evil dragon can unanimously be called one of the greatest evil dragons in both dragon games and dragon series as Forbes calls Tiamat “the most fearsome dragon in D&D’s history”.

Dragon from Beowulf

Beowulf is perhaps the first known piece of English literature to present a dragon slayer as its protagonist. The dragon slayer returns to his homeland after many an adventure and becomes the king of the Geats, the people of his land. Fifty years after he reigns as a wise king, his kingdom is attacked by a rampaging dragon. Beowulf, with his troop of men, set out to defeat the dragon only to be deserted by the men because they found the dragon to be extremely intimidating. Though Beowulf himself is slain in the end, he deals the final, fatal blow to the villain and occupies the place of one of the most beloved tragic heroes in ancient literature. Though there have been instances of other fictional animals presented as villains in Scandinavian and Germanic literatures, Beowulf poet was first among his peers to combine features and create a distinctive fire-breathing dragon in the poem. Beowulf’s villainous dragon, hundreds of years later, is still an inspiration for contemporary fictions such as J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, and others.

Muddy Bewilderbeast from How to Train Your Dragon 2

Not many may agree with my choice of the third most villainous dragon in popular fiction, movies and television series but the Muddy Bewilderbeast from How to Train Your Dragon 2 has to feature right here in the list. I had never seen such a beast in any popular source of entertainment till I came across the Muddy Bewilderbeast. With large spikes protruding from back of neck, gargantuan tusks, fins around tail, and an aura that will put any contemporary, titanic villain into an existentialist crisis, Muddy Bewilderbeast possesses the power to enslave every dragon around it with its mind. Muddy Bewilderbeast’s most notable and feared ability is to exhale streams of ice-turning water like liquid nitrogen. The ice-blast can freeze anything for years that comes in contact with it and create ice masses that are far larger than its own body.

My list has come to an end but the tablet continues to work overtime with the overloaded dragon games that keeps my teenager engaged for hours!

The Secret Sauce for Sequels – Why Some Nail it and Some Don’t

When a movie succeeds at the box office, a sequel is almost guaranteed. After all. it’s only human to want more of a good thing until the law of diminishing returns kicks in and it doesn’t seem like such a good thing anymore. Another important reason why sequels get made is the good old financial aspect – a sequel (unless it’s exceptionally bad) will almost always rake in more money than the original.

“Movie night” by Ginny, Licensed under CC BY SA 2.0

Movie night” by Ginny, Licensed under CC BY SA 2.0

But sequels are tricky things that must live up to sky high expectations; a good movie has scores of exacting fans, all ready to cry “The original was better!” But most of us are always willing to give it a chance before pronouncing judgment. So what are the factors that contribute to the success of a sequel?

A good sequel plays on its strengths

A good sequel uses the original as a launchpad – that’s expected – but it avoids repetition and is unafraid to play with the dynamics of the story. It always expands the scope of the plot and takes the characters forward without entirely losing touch with the original.

How to Train your Dragon, for instance, wowed critics and audiences alike the first time round. But the makers refused to rest on their laurels; How to Train your Dragon 2 moves on to explore new worlds that lie beyond the Isle of Berk, introducing new and interesting characters like Valka the vigilante dragon rider among others; characters who keep the plot moving. Old characters face new challenges and come up stronger for having faced them courageously; new ones keep viewers riveted to the screen.

Similarly, Toy Story hit theaters in 1995 and was an instant hit with kids and adults alike. Made on a (relatively speaking) shoestring budget, Toy Story is a charming coming-of-age story about the toys in Andy’s Room that come to life when no humans are around. Toy Story 2 is able to replicate its success by using the same beloved characters of the original but expanding the story to include the toys out there in the world and what happens when they are discarded by their owners. As the box office figures testify, toy Story 2 was a whopping success, just like the original.

The Touch of Originality

Everyone knows that the original is ALWAYS better than the sequel. But sometimes the sequel does a much-needed spot of course correction, gets rid of the blemishes and ends up putting the original in the shade. Nobody’d say Batman Begins got it wrong but Batman’s war on crime in The Dark Knight wouldn’t have been as interesting without the genius criminality of The Joker, played by Heath Ledger.

Similarly, The Fast and the Furious series wasn’t exactly earning rave reviews until Fast Five brought Vin Diesel back and introduced the sizzling Dwayne Johnson into the comedy-cum-action movie. The sequel went to become the highest grossing film in the franchise. A touch, or in some cases, a hefty dose of originality makes the sequel far more successful that the movie that spawned it.

These sequels got it right the second time around; sadly the same cannot be said about the scores of me-toos that Hollywood produces each year.