After How To Train Your Dragon's Live-Action Reboot, Dreamworks Needs To Seize One Crucial Advantage It Has Over Disney

Dreamworks Animation’s canon may be vast, but at the same time, even the more popular entries don’t seem to have the same cultural cache as Shrek. That fact made the announcement of a live-action remake of How to Train Your Dragon a bit surprising, as you’d think the studio would start such a venture with the ogre that brought them to the dance. In that light alone, this decision helps bring to light a crucial advantage that the company could use against upcoming Disney movies.

Should the home of Madagascar and The Croods decide to venture further into the world of live-action remakes, it doesn’t just have to be turning Kung Fu Panda into a more photorealistic spectacle. Through a combination of options that the relatively young production company has at its disposal, there are so many more stories that could be told if the right mindset is adopted. 

Dreamworks Animation's logo, a boy fishing while sitting on the moon.

(Image credit: Dreamworks Animation)

Dreamworks Animation’s Potentially Crucial Advantage With Live-Action

To get ahead of the curve, Dreamworks Animation needs to take one key factor into consideration: its library provides a richer ground for live-action remakes. How to Train Your Dragon occupies a sweet spot that makes its selection easier to understand. While the series is a recognized brand, it’s not so mythic that changes can’t be made to beef it up for a live-action context. 

Another unique facet of the Dreamworks Animation legacy is the library of movies that didn’t see the light of day. Throughout the years, the company has built up so many unmade projects that just couldn’t get out of development for one reason or another. If Universal’s animation shingle wants to get ahead of the game, using that library as inspiration could be a big deal. 

An armored Hiccup rides on Toothless in How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World.

(Image credit: Universal/Dreamworks Animation)

Why This Difference From Disney Still Matters, Even In Light Of How To Train Your Dragon

Over time, Disney started to remake the bigger ticket movies people remember fondly from its ‘80/’90s renaissance era. In the beginning, that wasn’t always the case, as movies like Cinderealla, Dumbo and Lady and the Tramp found space to turn into more fleshed-out stories. Even Cruella and the Maleficent spun fresh, anti-heroic takes on Disney villains we thought we knew from stories we definitely remembered.

There’s no question there's still a dedicated How to Train Your Dragon fanbase, but it’s not as intense as the Shrek following. Using properties that deserve more time in the spotlight is something that Dreamworks Animation has over Disney; especially with Renaissance-era animation currently occupying the studio’s slate. This highlights another pivotal truth we have to address. 

Stiller's character in Madagascar.

(Image credit: Dreamworks Pictures)

Dreamworks Animation’s Catalog Isn’t As Big As Disney’s

If Dreamworks Animation wants to get into live-action remakes, that seems like a simple case of good business. There’s just one problem: Disney’s collection of projects to draw from vastly dwarves that of the Jeffrey Katzenberg-founded studio. It can’t be helped, as Walt Disney’s company has been around for 100 years, while Dreamworks Animation was only started in 1994.

Looking further into the movies that do exist under the watchful eye of that boy sitting on the moon, some titles are more adaptable to live-action than others. Just as the public criticized the critically rotten remake of The Lion King in 2019, you’d probably hear the same sort of criticism if Madagascar was announced as the next movie on the docket. Limited options aren’t a game killer though, as Dreamworks Animation does have another untapped arsenal to utilize. 

Hiccup and Toothless in How To Train Your Dragon

(Image credit: DreamWorks)

Abandoned Dreamworks Animation Projects Could Become Live-Action Hybrids

Turning back to that library of unmade Dreamworks Animation projects that sadly fizzled out, there’s plenty of opportunity to keep this train rolling in fresh fashion. Me and My Shadow is the best example for using live-action projects to their fullest potential, as the story already employed a concept of mixing 2D and 3D animated worlds. It’s a concept that practically screams out for this sort of treatment

That’s not all, as other other abandoned pitches, like Monkeys of Mumbai and the Tim Minchin musical Larrikins, which would have starred Hugh Jackman and Margot Robbie, could be back in the game. While previous castings wouldn’t be guaranteed, potentially recapturing that sort of star power on hand would be another feather in the cap of Dreamworks Animation’s new experiment. 

Should How to Train Your Dragon’s live-action remake hit the way it’s supposed to, that saga would obviously continue forward. When teamed up with resurrecting fallen concepts from the Dreamworks Animation story stable, it’s a portfolio for even more diversification.

Ramses II in The Prince of Egypt.

(Image credit: DreamWorks Animation)

Dreamworks Animation’s Existing Library Still Has Some Hidden Gems

Still keeping pace with Disney’s live-action efforts, Dreamworks Animation still has plenty of lesser-known entries in its existing that could see improved life. Imagine an expanded version of Rise of the Guardians or even a live-action remake of cult favorite The Prince of Egypt that uses animation to get really biblical! There are so many other titles that the studio could revitalize that would fall in line with the current game plan, while also giving hidden gems their due through a bigger platform.

The point of this thinking isn’t to totally steer clear of remaking old animated movies, but rather to resist the temptation of cancelling Shrek 5 to do a live-action reboot starring Adam Driver and Andy Serkis. That lure is eventually going to be too powerful to resist, and it’d still be interesting to see Duloc scale up into a live-action remake.

The world is still working through its feelings on the Disney live-action movies, and the prospect of a How to Train Your Dragon variant of that same concept is absolutely being questioned. That being said, there’s still promise in Dreamworks Animation digging into its box of stories and spinning new takes on tales we know or haven’t heard yet.

It’s that diversity that could give all involved the advantage, even if that Adam Driver/Andy Serkis remake of Shrek happens to come to pass. So long as the company carefully picks and chooses what it’s going to move forward with, there’s no reason that old favorites can’t walk alongside the new kids in an effort to spice things up. Whatever happens with How to Train Your Dragon will be key to where things go next, and that’s something we’ll all have to wait until March 14, 2025 to experience. 

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.