‘How to Train Your Dragon 3’ Blu-ray Review: A Perfect End to the High-Flying Franchise

Nearly ten years after the first movie wowed audiences around the world, followed by a sequel, two animated series, and four short films, Hiccup and Toothless return one last time to captivate fans with an adventure of a lifetime in DreamWorks Animation’s How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. The third and final feature film quest from Dean DeBlois is now available on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD, and On Demand from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. It’s a perfect conclusion to one of the best animated trilogies in cinematic history, and that’s reason enough to bring this movie home, but the release also features over an hour of exclusive behind-the-scenes bonus content including an alternate opening, two DreamWorks animated shorts, deleted scenes, and more.

What began as an unlikely friendship between an adolescent Viking and a fearsome Night Fury dragon has become an epic saga that spans their entire lives. In this final installment, the heroic pair finally fulfill their destinies as Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) takes on full responsibility as the village chief and ruler of Berk alongside Astrid (America Ferrera), while Toothless becomes the leader of his own kind. As the Vikings and dragons of Berk face their darkest threat yet in the evil strategic genius Grimmel (F. Murray Abraham), and Toothless discovers his soulmate in the mysterious Light Fury, the bonds of Hiccup and Toothless’ friendship are tested like never before. Be sure to read our own Matt Goldberg‘s review of the film here.

Fans of the franchise should absolutely pick up the final film on home video. Not only does it complete the trilogy in a satisfying way, the concluding chapter acts as a culmination of the story that began with Cressida Cowell‘s books and continued on the big and small screen. The excellent and entertaining bonus features include the cast and crew looking back over their 10 years spent with the franchise and offer an insider’s perspective at the evolution of the characters and their dragons. While I wish these special features highlighted some more of the technical aspects of the movies–like costuming, setting and background design, and even the stellar score that’s been a part of the experience since the beginning–they’re more than entertaining enough for fans, especially the little ones out there. This is an easy recommendation to buy based on the strength of the film alone, but bolstered by a retrospective look that lets viewers spend a little more time with Hiccup, Toothless, & co.

BONUS FEATURES ON 4K Ultra HD, BLU-RAY, DVD and digital:

Alternate Opening with Intro by Writer/Director Dean DeBlois

The animatic shows Hiccup attempting to domesticate a Goregutter while Toothless chases butterflies. It shows off Hiccup’s new armor, the mechanics of his fire sword (and its limitations), and reminds viewers how the Berk leader originally trained his first dragon. It also reminds us that Toothless is the dragon king whom all other dragons obey; he uses this ability to pacify the Goregutter when Hiccup fails, assisting his human counterpart in ways that foreshadow their story arc to come. DeBlois’ commentary confirms that this was going to be the introduction of Hiccup’s new costume and the Crimson Goregutter, which lives in this new island in an isolated, rocky, volcanic area. It was also meant to show that Hiccup was over-confident in his ability to deal with dragons, but that Toothless is still a necessary partner.

DreamWorks Shorts:

Bilby (~7 minutes)– Directed by Liron Topaz, Pierre Perifel and JP Sans; produced by Jeff Hermann and Kelly Cooney Cilella. Threatened daily by the deadly residents and harsh environment of Australia’s Outback, a lonesome Bilby finds himself an unwitting protector, and unexpected friend, to a helpless (and quite adorable) baby bird. Bird Karma (~5 minutes) – Directed by William Salazar and produced by Jeff Hermann, the beautifully artistic 2D short film Bird Karma tells a delightfully lyrical and fully unexpected tale of a long-legged bird’s journey of blissful joy, inescapable greed and the accidental discovery of the consequences when too much is not enough.

Deleted Scenes with Intros by Writer/Director Dean DeBlois

“Automatic Tail”

A previs scene that made it out of storyboards It was an extension of the idea of Hiccup’s creation of an automatic tail for Toothless so he could go off to court the Light Fury. If you wanted to know more details about how the prosthetic was made, this is the deleted scene for you. It’s a montage of showing Hiccup’s dedication to his craft, a lovely scene that just “dragged the pace down” a bit too much, so they opted to cut to Astrid showing up to see Hiccup having completed it instead.

“Protector vs Captor”

This discussion between Hiccup and Valka centered on the best way to protect dragons: Either keeping them in captivity or setting them free to live in the wild. They opted to cut it because it was “laying too much out there”, says DeBlois. They wanted a more organic way for Hiccup to come to the realization that the dragons should be left alone in the wild, something that everyone else understood well before Hiccup. The storyboard sequence also reveals Hiccup revealing a “dragon love nest” for Toothless so that he’ll feel comfortable bringing Light Fury back there. And, upon Valka’s return to the new camp, she confirms that Berk was burned to the ground and that Grimmel’s forces also discovered their camp to the far north.

“Spy Mission”

This conversation between Astrid and Valka was meant to be about marriage, between future daughter and mother-in-law. It’s a lovely scene that sheds some light on Valka and Stoick’s early relationship but also lets us see behind Astrid’s defenses a bit.

“Mind Before the Sword”

One of six originally planned flashbacks from the film. This one would have arrived after Grimmel’s attack on Hiccup’s home and the village of Berk. It features Hiccup trying to decide what to do about it and seeking to discover the hidden world, before addressing the town hall. The flashback centers on Stoick playing against a young Hiccup in a game of “dragon chess.” Stoick reminds him to “always use the mind before the sword.”

“Your Responsibility”

Another flashback to Stoick. It was too “on the nose”, according to DeBlois, and it was cut to let Hiccup discover on his own that he had to let Toothless go. The flashback sees Hiccup playing with a sword, hunting imaginary dragons. But when Hiccup happens upon an injured young bird, he wants to help it heal and recover. Stoick wants to end its suffering, but then decides to splint its wing and give him to Hiccup, who’s tasked with feeding and caring for it until it’s able “to fly free and return to the wild.”

How to Voice Your Viking (2 minutes) – Go behind the scenes with the cast as they record the Viking voices of How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World.

Creating an Epic Dragon Tale (3 minutes) – Discover what filmmakers learned while crafting this epic dragon trilogy.

DeBlois, Bonnie Anderson, Pierre-Olivier Vincent “POV”, Bradford Lewis, and Simon Otto talk about “expanding the world” and “bringing more wonder” to each installment in the trilogy. This movie centers on Toothless’ relationship with the Light Fury and his place as the King of the Dragons. Lewis reveals that DeBlois was afraid that, when he separated Hiccup and Toothless, he’d never be forgiven for it. The filmmakers look back on a decade spent together in the film franchise and the bittersweet but rewarding ending.

How I Learned from Dragons (3 minutes) – The diverse cast of characters reveal why they think the dragon trilogy is so special.

Baruchel, Ferrera, Harington, Mintz-Plasse, Butler, and DeBlois talk about their experience of bringing their characters to life. They also look back on the last decade with the franchise and reflect on how they’ve grown along with their characters.

Brave Wilderness Presents: Nature + Dragons = Awesome (8 minutes) – Join Coyote Peterson, host of Brave Wilderness, as he explores what it takes to make the dragon’s characters come to life.

“Bird and Bats Are Awesome” – DeBlois and Otto talk about “flight school” for their animators, who study the movement of wings for birds and bats; the physics of lift, turbulence, and drag; and animal inspirations for their dragons, from hummingbirds to sparrows to parrots to bats. “Animal + Animal = Dragon” – DeBlois talks about Toothless’ creation as a combination of a black panther and a salamander. POV adds that all of the dragons are a combination of mammals and reptiles or amphibians, like the Hobgobbler as a combo of French bulldogs and tree frogs. Cloudjumper, Valka’s dragon, is based mainly on attributes of an owl; Gronkles are walruses, mostly; the Light Fury is “the lioness” and based on snow leopards. The Deathgrippers are part scorpion while the Goregutter is based on the ancient Great Elk. The idea was to strive for physical accuracy while making them relatable to animals we know in our world.

The Dragon Sheep Chronicles (3 minutes) – Protecting sheep from the dragons of Berk is no easy task but Hiccup has a plan.

“Friend vs Food” – From Hiccup’s journal, we learn about his plan to keep the many many dragons of Berk from eating the village’s sheep. Possible solutions: Keeping them separated? Training them? Getting rid of the sheep? Nope! Dress the sheep up in dragon disguises! “The Secret Sheep Society” – From Margary the Sheep’s journal, we learn about this problem from the sheep’s own perspective. (Apparently they’ve been quite active while we weren’t looking.”

A Deck of Dragons (3 minutes) – Observe four new dragons as Fishlegs unveils his original deck of dragon trading cards.

Learn about: the Crimson Goregutter (8 Viking chief’s tall with an 18 Viking chief wingspan, weighing in at about 10 Night Furies). It breathes exploding balls of molten lava and can crash straight through rock with its massive antlers. Hobgobbler: When fully grown, they can still hide anywhere. They eat anything and everything, especially in a pack. Expect lots of drool. The Light Fury is just as fast as the Night Fury, but they weigh two sheep less than their male companions. They can also “disappear” by super-heating their scales with a plasma blast in order to turn them into mirrors as a sort of camouflage. The “ridiculously adorable offspring of the Light Fury and Night Fury” are known as Night Lights. Their abilities aren’t known just yet but they have shown to mimic the powers of both of their parents.

Growing Up with Dragons (3 minutes) – After years of being with these characters, hear the lasting effects of the dragon trilogy from the filmmaker’s perspective.

DeBlois talks about the beauty and wonder of childhood, and moments of fiction like those in HTTYD that help us to “blossom into the grown-ups we become.” The idea that this period of time when dragons actually roamed the world was always fascinating to DeBlois and they wanted to circle back around to the first line from Cressida Cowell’s first book.

The Evolving Character Design of Dragons (3 minutes) – Cast and crew reveal what it was like to evolve not only the characters of How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, but themselves as well.

DeBlois, POV, and Otto walk viewers through the evolution of design in the characters over the course of the three movies. They had to find the core look of Hiccup so that he’d be recognizable from a toddler to an adult; they kept the focus on his eyes. For Astrid, who was “conceived as a bit of a tomboy” and was “the ideal Viking of a new generation”, the fun was in seeing her grow into adulthood and see the culmination of her relationship with Hiccup.

Drawing Dragons (3 minutes) – Get a glimpse of what goes in to designing a DreamWorks dragon.

POV, DeBlois, and Otto talk about the process of taking a base dragon idea and then expand upon it. Toothless went from a small, dog-sized dragon who spoke in the books to a legendary being in the movies’ folklore. The Light Fury’s design was a bit sleeker and “flowier”, suggesting speed and stealth. DeBlois also talks about the cute creations: The Night Lights. They passed the audience cuteness test with flying colors. Cowell populated her story with all types of dragons, giving the DreamWorks animators free rein to create a bunch of different looks and designs.

Epic Villain (2 minutes) – A different kind of villain, Grimmel brings great challenges to the village of Berk. Go behind the scenes as filmmakers breakdown this epic character.

DeBlois didn’t just want a physical brute but rather a strategist and psychological villain; a wry, shrewd planner. Lewis talks about Grimmel as the polar opposite of Hiccup. He also praises F. Murray Abraham’s performance and his care for his character. Viewers get to see a brief glimpse of Abraham behind the scenes.

Astrid’s Whole Dragon Trilogy in 60 Seconds – Hold on tight as Astrid sums up the whole dragon trilogy in a legendary 60 seconds.

America Ferrera gives us Astrid’s side of things in this wrap-up/recap.

Welcome to New Berk (2 minutes) – With Hiccup as your guide, get a firsthand look at the updated Viking village of New Berk.

It’s been 10 years since leaving the original Berk. The Berkians designed their homes based on their beloved dragons. They’re “nine days east of the edge of the world and a few degrees north of permanent frostbite.”

Feature Commentary with Writer/Director Dean DeBlois, Producer Bradford Lewis and Head of Character Animation Simon Otto

The early battle aboard the ship in the fog was one of the toughest challenges the animation team faced; it’s also one of the longest shots ever created by DreamWorks. It’s about a thousand frames with no cuts. They pulled animators off of other movies to work on it, making a sort of short film in the middle of the larger picture. The Crowds department were up to the tough task of absolutely filling the scenes with tons of dragons and people without cluttering the screen or making it too distracting. Newcomer dragons include the Goregutter (based on an ancient elk), the Hobgobblers (“tree frog meets French bulldog”; this critter was partly voiced by an actual pupper who has since passed), and Fishmeat, the baby Gronckle. Additionally, the strange insect-like Deathgrippers posed a design challenge to the team. Normally they figure out the casting of a character early on, but they had settled on the design of Grimmel (from Carter Goodrich). As it was being modeled, supervising animator Rani Naamani did a test animation with an audio clip from F. Murray Abraham, which led to the casting. Originally, the first flashback was meant to be one of six; the ones that didn’t make the cut were included here as deleted scenes. The scene in which Hiccup and Toothless play fetch with a prosthetic leg, and other similar jokes, were run by Amputee Coalition of America, a prosthetics advocacy group to make sure it was acceptable; the scene itself got a lot of laughs and was approved in good taste. Simon Otto sounds a bit like Arnold Schwarzenegger; that’s not really important, just one of my odd observations. Image via DreamWorks Animation The Light Fury’s camouflage is achieved by heating her scales to the point of giving them a mirror-like finish, reflecting the environment around her until they cool off again. Keep an eye on Fishmeat in the background of different scenes; it’s always entertained by whatever’s going on around it. The team did a lot of research in the animal kingdom to find interesting mating behaviors for Toothless and the Light Fury. The Snotlout/Valka dynamic had to be tweaked to avoid implications of there being a romantic interest. He just wanted to be the teacher’s pet and be #1 at something, anything. Toothless looking to Hiccup for courtship tip was a nod to Cyrano de Bergerac. So how was Toothless’ new tail fin made fireproof? Astrid collected dragon scales that Toothless shed, which Hiccup ground up with a mortar and pestle, mixed with Toothless’ spit to make a fireproof paint. The end of this movie, and the trilogy, not only matched up with author Cressida Cowell’s final book that dealt with the disappearance of dragons from our world, but also got to the very first line from her books in which an older Hiccup says, “There were dragons when I was a boy…” The epilogue is a ten-year time jump. The baby dragons are called “Nightlights” and they have a combination of the Light Fury and Toothless’ features.

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