Animation is an art form. Hayao Miyazaki
the director of some of the most classic animated film of all time like Totoro (1988)
, Spirited Away (2001)
, and Princess Mononoke (1997)
is regarded as a national treasure in his native Japan and his announcement that he would retire at the grand old age of 73 was met with dismay the world over.
In the past decade there have been some wonderful animated films such as The Incredibles (2004), Ratatouille (2007), and my personal favourite to date Up (2009). These films are as much made for grown ups as they are for children. The films have complex characters, tragic turns in the story line that are true to real life, nebulous villains who are not always that villainous but flawed rather, and yet of course there are also flights of fancy and moments of glorious beauty – an essential component of some of the most brilliant works of animation.
How to Train Your Dragon is another classic from DreamWorks.The first installment chronicled the story of a young Hiccup (voiced adorably by Jay Baruchel), a Viking boy who lives on an island plagued by dragons. Convinced that there is more to these creatures then just their fiery capacity to destroy, something his father Stoick the Chief (voiced with bombastic pleasure by Gerard Butler) is convinced of, Hiccup sets about befriending Toothless – a baby Night Fury dragon. As Hiccup and Toothless become fast friends and learn to fly together, Hiccup starts the impossible task of trying to convince his village that dragons are sentient, sensitive creatures and not the monstrous killers everyone imagines.
In this second film the entire village has been converted – everyone rides their own beloved dragons, who are more their friends than pets. But of course, disaster looms in the form of Drago Bludvist (Djimon Hounsou) a dragon hunter who captures and tortures his dragons to serve his vast dragon army.
As a grownup Hiccup struggles to reason with Bludvist he discovers a whole new world, animated with much detail and loving care. This second story offers some truly original new pleasures with the addition of some wonderful new characters, one of whom is voiced by the spectacular Cate Blanchett.
Toothless the dragon is one of the main attractions of the film even though he doesn’t speak a word and undoubtedly one of the most loveable and intelligent creatures ever to be borne of animation. Aside from a few slightly too long maudlin moments in this film – it is a near perfect pleasure. Take your children but be warned, at the end of it you might be wanting a dragon of your own.