DRAGONS: RIDERS OF BERK – PARTS 1 & 2
MOVIE: *** (out of 5)
DVD EXPERIENCE: ** (out of 5)
Jay Baruchel as HICCUP
America Ferrera as ASTRID
Christopher Mintz-Plasse as FISHLEGS
Zack Pearlman as SNOTLOUT
Julie Marcus as RUFFNUT
T.J. Miller as TUFFNUT
Created by: Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois
BY KEVIN CARR
DreamWorks Animation has learned a lot from Disney. Not only have they developed some pretty excellent animated films for theatrical release, they have also found ways to extend these properties into secondary markets.
Just as Disney spun popular television shows featuring everything from Mickey Mouse and Winnie-the-Pooh to Mater from “Cars” and Peter Pan’s pirates, DreamWorks has put together an impressive roster of children’s cartoons featuring the popular characters from its animated films. We’ve seen this a while back with “The Penguins of Madagascar” and more recently with Po and the gang in “Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness.” Now, there’s another show on the dial: “Dragons: Riders of Berk.”
Based on the extremely popular film “How to Train Your Dragon,” “Dragons: Riders of Berk” follows the further adventures of Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and his dragon Toothless. After making peace with the dragons of Berk, the people in town must face the changing world. Instead of hunting dragons, they must learn to work with them and accept them as part of a peaceful harmony. Of course, this is easier said than done, with the dragons accidentally causing destruction and needing to be fed… a lot.
The series is meant to be a bridge between “How to Train Your Dragon” and its sequel due out in the summer of 2014. It has aired on Cartoon Network and now the first season is available on DVD in two parts.
As you might expect from a big-budget film that has been transferred to a television series, the animation takes a mighty step down. That’s true, though it’s not as big of a step as was seen in “Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness.” The animation still offers a vibrant look at the world of Berk, and the various dragons give a cool look with some imaginative imagery.
More noticable to someone like myself is the presence of much of the original cast. Not only does Baruchel return for the lead (and with an impressive film resume, he didn’t need to), but also joining him are America Ferrera, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and T.J. Miller. There’s a consistency this offers without having to find voice doubles (or recast completely) to continue the show.
Of course, being a TV show, “Dragons: Riders of Berk” isn’t nearly as breathtaking as the film was. It’s also more self-contained from episode to episode. Especially in the beginning, there are lessons to be learned by the riders, and the flow of the series tends to be more about learning to deal with challenges of living together than fighting a grand obstacle. Let’s save that for the movie’s sequel, shall we?
However, there are some character arcs that extend through the bulk of the season, leading to a nice two-part cliffhanger for the season finale. We do get a villain (who may or may not show up later in the series or the theatrical sequel).
There seems to be more care put into “Dragons: Riders of Berk” than other television cartoon spin-offs, which is nice. Let’s see how well things roll into the second season, which has been renamed “Defenders of Berk.”
“Dragons: Riders of Berk” comes in two separate 2-disc DVD sets, labeled “Part 1” and “Part 2,” and featuring 11 and 9 episodes, repsectively. Both sets have similar special features, including “Dragon Tracker,” “Evolution of” behind-the scenes of key story elements, a dragon mash-up and a featurette on the “World of DreamWorks Animation.”