How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is the long-awaited third instalment in Dreamworks’ blockbuster fantasy adventure series of animated films. The movies, based on the series of children’s novels by Cressida Cowell, take place in a mythical Viking world and follow the adventures of young Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and the mysterious dragon who becomes his best friend, Toothless the Night Fury.

Audiences have seen both Hiccup and Toothless grow, and many have formed an emotional attachment to one of this generation’s defining “a boy and his pet” stories. Fans have followed Hiccup through his wooing of eventual girlfriend Astrid (America Ferrara), the death of his father Stoick the Vast (Gerard Butler) and the rediscovery of his long-lost mother Valka (Cate Blanchett).

In How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, Toothless meets a Light Fury who could well be his mate, but in proving himself to the iridescent lady dragon, he is torn between his loyalty to Hiccup and to his own kind.Read on until the end of the article to find out how to be among the first in Singapore to watch the third instalment in this beloved series.

Toothless meets his potential mate in How to Train Your Dragon 3. Photo credit: IMDB

Dragons have featured in the mythology of cultures across the globe going back millennia, with the earliest drawings and sculptures of dragons closely resembling giant serpents. Why do dragons appear in mythology across the globe? It is hypothesised that dragons were a way of explaining early discoveries of dinosaur fossils. Anthropologists have also suggested that dragons are bestowed with the traits of predators like big cats and birds of prey, and that these myths reflect an instinctual fear of predators. Mythical creatures like dragons served as cautionary tales for people in ancient cultures.

Toothless and Cloudjumper in How to Train Your Dragon 2. Photo credit: IMDB

While Indo-European mythology often features dragons that must be slain, conquered or otherwise tamed as a trial in the journey of a heroic knight or warrior, the dragons in Chinese mythology are bringers of good fortune and are the highest-ranking member of the Chinese animal hierarchy.

Hiccup and Toothless in How to Train Your Dragon. Photo credit: IMDB

Like every great monster from myth and legend, there are many interpretations of dragons as creatures who, while powerful, are not necessarily hostile and who can be loyal, lovable allies to human companions. These dragons are sometimes portrayed as furry or fuzzy rather than scaly, or like Toothless, have typically sharp and pointy features rounded off to appear friendlier.

But outside the universe of How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, there are other dragons from the big screen who give Toothless a run for his money in the ‘most adorable dragon’ stakes. Here are five of them:

1. Dragon from the Shrek series

Dragon in Shrek. Photo credit: IMDB

Also from the Dreamworks family like Toothless, Dragon is not everything she seems. The Shrek movies are based on the children’s book by William Stieg, and delight in upending and deconstructing familiar storytelling devices from fairy tales, challenging audience’s long-held assumptions. In Shrek (2001), the fair princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) is held in a castle guarded by a dragon, and our heroes Shrek (Mike Myers) and Donkey (Eddie Murphy) must save her. When Donkey is cornered by Dragon, he attempts to smooth-talk his way out of the situation, which leads to Dragon falling wingtips-over-tail in love with him. This unexpected turn is in keeping with the first Shrek movie’s theme of not judging a book by its cover – and what seems to be a fearsome obstacle in our heroes’ path ends up as an affectionate and protective ally.

In Shrek 2 (2004), we find out that Donkey and Dragon have gotten married, and by the end of the film, Dragon has given birth to six “Dronkeys“, whom Donkey refers to as his “little mutant babies”. Their names are Debbie, Coco, Bananas, Peanut, Parfait and Eclair. A clever touch by the animators is that the Dronkeys and Shrek and Fiona’s children, the Ogre triplets, age in real time as the film series progresses.

2. Draco from Dragonheart

Draco and Bowen in Dragonheart. Photo credit: IMDB

The fantasy adventure Dragonheart (1996) from director Rob Cohen might star Dennis Quaid, but it is best remembered for the dragon Draco. The film has been described as “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Dragonand is about a knight named Bowen (Dennis Quaid) who forms a partnership with Draco (Sean Connery), who claims to be the last of his kind. They stage “dragonslayings”, defrauding villagers out of their money. It is revealed that Draco shares a mysterious connection with the tyrannical King Einon (David Thewlis), and Draco yearns to earn his place in the stars, where noble dragons go when they die.

Draco and Bowen in Dragonheart. Photo credit: IMDB

Director Cohen drew inspiration from several sources for Draco’s design, with the main influence being the guardian lions that originated from Imperial China. “It has a certain lion-like elegance, a fierceness, but it’s ultimately an incredibly proud and visually powerful creature,” Cohen said of the guardian lions. Real-life animals like the boa constrictor and the highland gorilla also informed the design of Draco. The character was created to have a more mammalian face than most traditional dragons, so that it could be expressive and a little human-like.

While much of Draco’s personality is derived from the unmistakable voice of Sean Connery, ground-breaking photo-realistic computer-generated animation was key in bringing him to life. Jurassic Park’s “dinosaur supervisor” Phil Tippett designed and created sculptures of Draco that served as a guide for the digital artists. ILM animator Cary Phillips developed a ground-breaking facial animation system called Caricature, that was more user-friendly and could handle larger amounts of data than earlier systems. The animators closely studied extensive footage of Sean Connery, referencing specific expressions that conveyed amusement, surprise, anger, happiness and so on to map onto Draco. Full-sized animatronic models of Draco’s head and foot were also used on set for the actors to interact with. A microlight aircraft stood in for Draco in the flying scenes, with the plane painted out and replaced with the CGI Draco afterwards.

3. Falkor The Luckdragon from The NeverEnding Story

Falkor and Atreyu in The NeverEnding Story. Photo credit: The NeverEnding Story Facebook page

The NeverEnding Story (1984), directed by Wolfgang Petersen, has been a nostalgic favourite for decades. The film is based on Michael Ende’s novel of the same name and, like many tales that capture the imagination of young readers and viewers, is about the magic of storytelling itself. Ten-year-old Bastian (Barret Oliver) escapes into the engrossing world of a mysterious book, which tells of young Atreyu’s (Noah Hathaway) adventures in the realm of Fantasia.

Falkor the Luckdragon (Alan Oppenheimer) is one of Atreyu’s most loyal allies and saves Atreyu’s life early in the story, when Atreyu is trapped in the Swamp of Sadness. Falkor was designed to look like a cross between a golden retriever and a dragon, as a way of making him appear kinder and less threatening than traditional dragons. While Falkor has such a huge fan following that as recently as 2016, Falkor plush toys were still in high demand, author Ende disliked the design because it strayed from the traditional portrayal of a regular dragon, and was not happy with how the film interpreted his work overall. When it was released, the film was the most expensive movie made outside of the US and the USSR. Like many major German films, The NeverEnding Story was shot at Bavaria Film Studios in Munich. Visitors to the studio can get their picture taken astride the actual Falkor prop used in the filming of the movie.

4. Elliot from Pete’s Dragon

Elliott and Pete in Pete’s Dragon (2016). Photo credit: IMDB

Like Falkor, our next dragon is also furry and doglike, but he’s also green. Elliot is the star of Pete’s Dragon (2016), a very loose remake of Disney’s 1977 live-action/animated movie of the same name. While Pete’s Dragon wasn’t as high-profile a Disney remake as the likes of Beauty and the Beast or the upcoming Aladdin and The Lion King, the film was well-received by critics for its nostalgic, warm-hearted adventure story and the interaction between Pete (Oakes Fegley) and Elliot (John Kassir).

Pete and Elliott in Pete’s Dragon (1977). Photo credit: IMDB

The film is completely recontextualised from the 1977 original, changing the setting from a 1900s Maine seaside town to the Pacific Northwest forests in the 1980s. Robert Redford and Bryce Dallas Howard star as a father and daughter who take in a feral child named Pete, who has befriended a dragon who can sometimes turn invisible. Karl Urban plays the villain who wants to hunt the dragon down.

Director David Lowery wanted to a create a dragon that “you could really give a hug to”, hence Elliot’s fuzzy coat. Elliot the dragon was created in CGI by Weta Digital, the visual effects company based in New Zealand, where the movie was also shot. The animators watched YouTube videos of clumsy animals as research to make Elliot’s movements endearing. To create Elliot, the film’s artists took inspiration from real-life animals: Elliot’s wings were patterned after that of the Australian flying fox, the texture of his fur of was based on a polar bear, his roar was made with the combined sounds of a lion, tiger and elephant, and certain movements were based on director Lowery’s own cats. “He’s 20 feet tall, but on an aesthetic level I wanted him to be friendly and furry. Like my cats,” Lowery explained.

 

5. Mushu from Mulan

Mushu in Mulan. Photo credit: IMDB

Before Eddie Murphy voiced a dragon’s unlikely love interest, he voiced a dragon himself in Disney’s 1998 animated musical adventure Mulan. Fa Mulan (Ming-Na Wen/Lea Salonga) believes that her ancestors have sent her a mighty dragon to be her guardian as she enlists in the army in her father’s place. Unfortunately, they have sent her Mushu, who has been demoted to incense-burner and gong-ringer because he failed to protect one of Mulan’s ancestors Fa Deng, the ghost of whom is seen carrying his own head around. Together with Mulan’s second animal sidekick, the cricket Cri-Kee (Frank Welker, who was also the voice actor for Dragon in Shrek), Mushu accompanies the young woman into battle, eager to prove that he is a “real dragon” since he is often mocked for not being one.

Mulan and Mushu in Mulan. Photo credit: IMDB

Mushu is in many ways a classic roguish character, who starts out looking out for himself but gradually warms to and grows protective of our hero(ine). The concept of Mushu went through a few iterations: he originated from a Scottish folk tale project that Disney was working on concurrently with Mulan, but that was eventually shelved. At first, there were going to be two reptilian sidekicks to Mulan, which later became one two-headed green dragon, before becoming the Mushu we know and love. The filmmakers were hesitant to make Mulan’s sidekick a dragon, until they learned Chinese dragons can come in many sizes and shrunk the character down. Joe Pesci was originally cast as the voice of Mushu, but the film’s animators decided he didn’t fit the character. Steve Martin, Sinbad, Chris Tucker, Chris Rock and Drew Carey were also considered.

Die-hard Disney fans, known as “Disnerds”, are known for seeking out deleted songs from Disney animated musicals, some of which get reinstated in special editions. Mushu had three different songs written for his introduction, with “Keep ‘Em Guessing” recorded, storyboarded and included as a special feature on the DVD release.  “It was like rejecting an organ transplant,” composer Matthew Wilder said of the process of writing songs for Mushu. In the end, Murphy’s personality was enough to carry the character without him getting a song.

There is great speculation as to whether the live-action Mulan remake due in 2020 will include Mushu, but early indications are that director Niki Caro has deemed Mushu worthy of making a reappearance.

Watch How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ahead of everyone

How to Train Your Dragon 3 GV family day. Photo credit: Golden Village

If you are a GV Movie Club member, you’re in luck. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World opens in Singapore on January 31, 2019, but you and your family can catch the movie before anyone else on January 26, 2019 at the GV Movie Club Family Day screening.

The Light Fury in How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. Photo credit: IMDB

Where: GV Suntec
When: Jan 26, 2018 (Saturday); pre-event activities start at 2pm, movie starts at 3.30pm
Price: $24 per pax for GVMC members
What: 1 x preview screening ticket, 1 x entry to Family Day event (Glitter tattoo & movie themed craft – limited slots available on a first-come first-served basis), 1 x movie tattoo sheet and 1 x Kiddie Popcorn Combo (1 x 32oz popcorn & 1 x 16oz Drink)

Activities besides the movie itself include a glitter and airbrush tattoo station, and the event will be held at GV Suntec from 2 – 3.30pm, with the screening beginning at 3.30pm. Tickets are $24 per head for GVMC members (children below the height of 90 cm will only be allowed entry with an accompanying ticket-holding adult).

Toothless in How to Train Your Dragon 2. Photo credit: IMDB

You stand to win 1 of 5 sets of exclusive How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World movie premiums when you purchase a minimum of 2 tickets online from January 10–22, 2019. Each set of prizes includes 1 x Reversible Sequin book, 1 x tote bag and 1 x stationery set.

Take flight once more with Toothless, Hiccup and the dragons of How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World when the film opens on January 31, 2019!

 

Sources: IMDBShrek wikiDragonheart wikiScreenRantCartoon BrewNews.com.auScreenRantDangerous MindsHollywood.comEsquireDisney wikiDeseret NewsGolden Village

 

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