Posted By Kathleen David on June 28, 2012
One of Caroline’s Favorite movies every is “How to Train Your Dragon”. She saw it numerous times in the theater and in just about every configuration of 2-D, 3-D, IMAX 3-D and on a real IMAX 3-D screen that one could possibly see. This movie spoke to her more than any other film up to that point in her life had. She loved this movie. She loved the Dragons. She loved the characters.
Fast forward to about two to three years ago when we found out there was going to be a “How to Train Your Dragon” area show. At the time of the announcement by Dreamworks, the only places where you could see this show they were working on was in either Australia or New Zealand but the web site promised that there would be other international dates soon. So Caroline waited and watched the videos on the website and looked longingly at the pictures really wanting to see the show for herself. Then the first dates for the US tour were announced.
Which is how we found ourselves in Wilkes-Barra Pennsylvania at the Mohegan Sun Arena at the North American Premier of the show. Caroline decided to pull out her old Astrid Costume and wear it to the show. She also brought her Deadly Nadder with her and her axe and shield. She wanted to show Astrid how much she loved the show and the movie. The costume fit better than when she first wore it. I had built it a little big but now it looked really good on her. We couldn’t find one of her boots but considering I had built those for walking around a hotel, it was better that we didn’t.
Before the show, we had our picture taken as Vikings. Caroline didn’t need a costume for that since she was wearing a costume. At first she felt a little self-conscious because she was the only kid in costume. We pointed out to her that there had been no HTYD Halloween costumes so any costumes had to be hand-made. As we went through the venue and all the people at the arena were stopping and complimenting her on the costume or she heard comments from people passing by, she got more comfortable with wearing it. She got to show her costume to Astrid and Hiccup before the show at the Hero’s Welcome. Astrid just loved it. Hiccup played the fact that Caroline was carrying a dragon to the hilt.
The show itself is magnificent and has really raised the bar for arena shows. Disney on Ice had got nothing on this. It is some of the best combination of technology and puppetry I have seen on this scale. One of the new elements is using video to be another character in the show. And this is best used in a way that will have Cirque du Soleil kicking themselves that they hadn’t thought of it earlier although the technology to do it probably didn’t exist before this show.
And then there are the Dragons. Wow! They had clever hand puppets. They had full body puppets. And they had massive full sized beasts with lots of expression and movement. Each of those dragons were operated by three puppeteers who watched the show from the back of the hall. The big guys aren’t programmed to make the same moves each and every show, rather they add another set of “actors” to the stage making the puppets as much of the show as the live meat on stage. There was also an almost stunning sequence with shadow puppets when Gobber tells the dragon trainees about various forms of dragons. It is obvious that they are still working out the best distance for puppet to light source and distance to screen but if one is not well versed in shadow puppetry, it looked rather cool. My inner puppeteer was very very happy.
Afterwards we listened to a short talk about the show and saw some of the inner workings of things and left the area almost 5 hours after we got there very happy.
We went back to the hotel and found out that we were at the hotel where the cast and crew were staying. Caroline got to meet the actress who played Astrid. I got to talk to some of the crew and puppeteers and the director. It was a fun evening that went into the night.
I can highly recommend this show to both children and adults. It is a fabulous experience that brings the possibilities of what an arena show can be. And then there are the dragons in all their puppetry magnificence. Go see and you too will believe in Dragons.
I am so grateful to everyone who made this adventure so magical for Caroline. She had a great time.