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'You should be able to feel the heat of the dragon's fire'

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Apparently, putting lovingly realized 3-D animated dragons on movie screens was not enough.

The hit 2010 movie How to Train Your Dragon is being taken to the next level with a live show featuring 23 full-size dragons, including some models that will actually fly and breathe flame.

"Now you should be able to feel the heat of the dragon's fire," says the show's executive producer, Eric Stevens of Dreamworks Theatrical, a division of the movie studio that specializes in live entertainment.

How to Train Your Dragon grossed more than $500 million worldwide, but the live show is a separate and distinct theatrical event with actors, circus artists and acrobats portraying the film's human Viking warriors, in addition to the more marketable dragon stars, some of whom boast wingspans of 14 meters.

It is no coincidence that the dragons in the show were created by New Zealand's Global Creatures, the company that created the cast of full-size dinosaurs in the arena show Walking with Dinosaurs, which played in Winnipeg in July 2009.

Stevens said that show "definitely created a new paradigm in live entertainment.

"Typically, the family entertainment space is small kids shows, ice shows, circuses and things along those lines," he says. "I think Walking with Dinosaurs and Global Creatures helped demonstrate that if you create something very unique and different, and deliver a great audience experience that people haven't seen before, they'll come out and they'll come out in great numbers."

The "Live Spectacular" iteration of How to Train Your Dragon will be a massive production, Stevens says, requiring "30 18-wheeler trucks pouring into town, taking a day and a half to set it up with 150 people or more to load it in."

Walking with Dinosaurs was almost a documentary experience, Stevens says. "Dinosaurs was about the creatures and T-Rex and brachiosaurus and it was breathtaking.

"But we not only have the creatures, we have a full cast and we're telling a story."

"And really, the story of How to Train Your Dragon struck a chord with people. There was definitely an emotional resonance there," Stevens says, adding that the movie will spawn a TV series next year and a theatrical sequel in 2014.

"So not only is it a spectacle, it's a great story with a lot of heart," he says. "We look at the dragons as cast members with personalities and facial expressions," he says. "They emote."

The show was a hit in Australia and New Zealand, where it has already toured. The North American tour kicks off next week.

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 19, 2012 D1

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