Our family loves the How to Train Your Dragon series. Mister Man started reading the books by Cressida Crowell before the movie came out, and he couldn’t wait to see the movie. We’ve since rented it at home so Little Miss can see it, too – as she was too young when it came out in theaters. We’ve watched the “Christmas special” as the wee ones call it, and now there is a tv series on Cartoon Network (airing Wednesdays at 8/7pm CT) and now DVD.
Dragons: Riders of Berk ($14.98) was released November 20 by 20th Century Fox and features four episodes from the animated tv series. The series is set after Gift of the Night Fury, which was the “Christmas special” – as the knowledge that dragon eggs are explosive was not a surprise in this DVD. Now that the dragons are well established in the town of Berk, the same crew has to work to train the dragons to keep the town in one piece.
I was expecting many of the same characters to appear in the tv series on DVD, but what surprised – and pleased – me was to see the most of the voice actors returned for the series, as well. Jay Baruchel who plays Hiccup is there, as are America Ferrara (Astrid), Christopher Mintze-Plasse (Fishlegs), and T.J. Miller (Ruffnut). The DVD quality is much higher than I had expected, as well. The animation doesn’t give short shrift to the details like the movement of the dragons’ skin or the hair of the people. That was impressive to me.
Slightly less impressive was the fact that the DVD contains four episode of Riders of Berk, a television show that as of this week will have aired its eleventh episode – including the four on the DVD. I’m somewhat hard pressed to pay $14.99 for a DVD that includes content available for free on television, but the episodes are well put together. They all have lessons and show Hiccup solving problems, just as he did in the other movies. The episodes – “How to Start a Dragon Academy,” “Viking for Hire,” “Animal House,” and “The Terrible Twos” – continue the story from the peace achieved after the dragons were no longer the enemies of the village of Berk through training them, surviving the desolate winter, and more dragons being introduced to the mix. It appears to bridge the gap between the last movie and the sequel coming in 2014.
To the wee ones’ delight, the DVD does come with extras. This DVD includes not just the typical on screen extras like the behind the scenes look at the live action production of How To Train Your Dragon that just toured Chicago and is continuing around the country. In addition, there are five trading cards featuring different dragons from the DVD. The wee ones loved learning more facts about them because they are fact kids. More fun, the cards are linked to an augmented reality app – the new must have marketing tool. You simply download the app for either iPhone or Android smart phones and hold it over the cards. That brings the dragon on each card to life, something the wee ones thought was pretty fantastic, especially since they’d not seen augmented reality before. The cards are not simply more bookmarks once the wee ones have memorized the facts on them.
I appreciate that Dragons of Berk isn’t something that I hesitate for the wee ones to watch. It’s about problem solving, not being mean or trying to one up everyone. While it’s set in Viking-time which of necessity has some violence, it isn’t overly done and it is not at all graphic. It’s more destruction of property by the dragons, usually accidentally, rather than anything else. Having family friendly television is important to me. More than anything, this DVD will encourage us to watch the show on Cartoon Network.
In the interest of full disclosure, I received a copy of the DVD for review purposes. I was not otherwise compensated, and all opinions remain my own.