How to Train Your Dragon: Just the Right Amount of Yuck

Welcome to my blog!

Welcome to my blog!

You have to admit that it’s pretty amazing when two movies are made from one book: “How to Train Your Dragon” written by Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III and “translated by” Cressida Cowell has been made into two animated movies – “How to Train Your Dragon” and the current  “How to Train Your Dragon 2.” But what really amazes me, is how the screenwriters were able to look past so much of the “yuck” of the book, concentrate on the story and create a beautifully animated version that doesn’t assault anyone’s sensibilities.

I’m a great believer in analyzing what makes a book excellent ( or in this case, popular). I can’t pretend to like the book. It’s way too ooey-gooey for my taste but kids love it, and that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?

Let’s take a look at the plot. Hiccup is a small, skinny, sensitive, reasonable son of a great Viking Chief and must prove himself in the annual dragon killing fest. Hiccup, however, believes that dragons are innately good and only attack out of fear and provocation. He decides to capture a dragon, train it and demonstrate how Vikings and dragons can live in harmony. After many false starts, Hiccup  and his dragon, Toothless (who got older and no longer fits that description) are able to accomplish what was thought to be impossible. Hiccup does this by speaking softly, not yelling as advised. They are put to the test, when the biggest, baddest dragon that ever lived prepares to attack the people of  Berk. Hiccup teaches the other kids how to train the smaller “good” dragons and the young people of this Norse kingdom save the day. Hiccup the Useless is now Hiccup the Useful!

Why do kids love the book? Beside the emergence of the underdog as a hero, we have a variety of techniques guaranteed to attract attention. There are numerous side illustrations that resemble childlike pencil doodles. The print utilizes different fonts, italics and bold. LARGE and small in the same sentence, as well as sentences without any spaces between words. The characters have names like Dogsbreath the Duhbrain, Gobber the Belch, Clueless, Snotlout, Fishlegs, Baggybum the Beerbelly. There are two competitive tribes: Hooligans and Meatheads. Lots of hyperbole, onomatopoeia, alliteration. Loads of name calling and aggressive, confrontational language. Let’s not forget that Hiccup speaks and understands the forbidden Dragonese which puts him at an advantage. For example, “Nee-ah crappa inna di hoosus, pishyou” translates into “No poo-ing in the house, please.” How about this one? “Mi Mama no likeit yum-yum on di bum” translates into “My mother does not like to be bitten on the bottom.”

Thankfully, the creators of  “How to Train Your Dragon” the movie eliminated most of the crappa inna di hoosus, downplayed the names, spared us a lot of the silly confrontation, made the characters older and of course, made the girls as tough or tougher than the boys which is de rigeur these days. What they wound up with is a beautifully animated movie that appeals to a broad age range. Screenplay by William Davies, Dean DeBlois, Chris Sanders and the uncredited Adam F. Goldberg. Directed by Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders. Dreamworks recently released “How to Train Your Dragon 2.” which I have not  yet seen. I think we can expect the same level of excellence from the sequel.

Gentlemen,  you don’t know how relieved I am that you’ve left the crappa outta di hoosus.

© 2014 All rights reserved. No part of this content may be reprinted or used in any form without express permission from Elaine Donadio Writes.

To view some scenes from “How to Train Your Dragon” you can watch this short video.

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