Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Dragon tale a really good, really big show

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Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, when it comes to live family arena entertainment, we have officially left Disney on Ice in the Bronze Age.

The Dreamworks show How to Train Your Dragon Live Spectacular essentially transformed the floor and a vast wall of the MTS Centre arena into a movie screen.

That might seem redundant given that the source material, How to Train Your Dragon, based on the book by Cressida Cowell, was already made into a highly successful 2010 animated feature.

But here, the projections mostly serve to provide versatile backgrounds -- lakes, swamps, forest and a fiery Viking village -- to a cast of extremely acrobatic live actors. (You will believe a Viking can breakdance.)

The main attractions, of course, are some wonderfully realized animatronic dragons who may be the size of parade floats, but can run, attack and fly with amazing, life-like dexterity. Even their vividly detailed faces, with glowing eyes and chomping, smoke-spewing mouths, are capable of registering more emotion than the average action star.

The story closely -- perhaps too closely -- follows the plot of the movie: A Viking nerd named Hiccup (Riley Miner) aspires to be a dragon killer to please his chieftain father Stoick (Robert Morgan), and to impress the village cool girl Astrid (Gemma Nguyen). But Hiccup doesn't really have a killer nature, and anyway, when he accidentally captures a fearsome, dark "Night Fury" dragon, he studies the creature, and actually helps fix its broken tail. (He names it "Toothless.")

Hiccup realizes the various breeds of dragon have been profoundly misunderstood by his fellow Vikings: "Everything we think we know about you guys, it's all so wrong."

If a useful message is required in your kids' entertainment, this piece of writ-large theatre has a good one about not being led astray by assumptions.

Mostly, though, it's simply a really good, really big show.

Consider yourself put on notice, giant-headed Goofy.

 

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 23, 2012 A26

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Updated on Saturday, November 24, 2012 at 2:27 PM CST: adds fact box

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