Dragons: Riders of Berk pretty well picks up where How to Train Your Dragon leaves off. Now that the dragons have befriended the town of Berk, Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and his gang of rowdy friends are enlisted to train them as pets and loyal comrades who help the community rather than accidentally work to destroy it. It’s a pretty huge task for a young man, but luckily Hiccup is as much of a problem solver in the TV series as he is in Dreamworks’ film.
Impressively, not just Baruchel, but a good chunk of the film’s cast has returned for the cartoon endeavor, including America Ferrara’s Astrid, Christopher Mintze-Plasse’s Fishlegs, and T.J. Miller’s Tuffnut, who continue their task of helping Hiccup to get the dragons living in the town under control. There are some new names and faces, some new dragons, and some problems that pop up, but the one thing the series is missing is a true villain. To combat this, the series introduces one grumpy Berk resident who mutters a lot, however, that’s hardly the same thing.
Villains or no villains, the series looks great. Even with a DVD copy the picture pops, and the attention to detail on the dragon’s skins or the sheep’s hair, and even the teens’ costuming is noticeable. As a whole, Dragons: Riders of Berk pays a lot of attention to the details, maintaining the same narrative frame as the movie that proceeded it, and creating scripts that are as charming and lesson-filled as they are funny. The characters adapt well to television, the stories adapt well to television, and the series is a great bridge to the upcoming How to Train Your Dragon film sequel in the works at the studio.
Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about the set. The $14.99 DVD seems like a great deal at first glance. However, so far 10 episodes of the series have aired on Cartoon Network and the disc only offers the first four of these. We’re talking about four 22-minute cartoons, so there shouldn’t have been a problem with space within the one-disc set. Instead, it seems like the type of DVD that was simply thrown together in time for the Christmas season to hopefully bring a little notice to the series. I can’t say I blame 20th Century Fox, who put together the set. However, I can’t recommend you buy the DVD, either.
Dragons: Riders of Berk comes with a set of five-trading cards that each features a different dragon. The cards explain the strengths and weaknesses of the creatures, as well as offers training tips. If your kids are huge fans of Dragons: Riders of Berk they may be briefly entranced and excited about the cards, but it’s the type of toy a person might find at the bottom of a cereal box, useless and easily lost or forgotten. I’m sure you’ll be adding the cards to the pile of random crap your kids already own.
The other big bonus feature is the “How To Train Your Dragon Live Spectacular!” This is a behind-the-scenes look at the How To Train Your Dragon live show that is currently in production. The dragons created for the live show are extremely complicated and textured creatures meant to standout even for people sitting near the back. We also get to meet the actor and actress who play Hiccup and Astrid in the live show, which tells nearly the same story as Dreamworks’ big budget film. The extra really has nothing to do with Dragons: Riders of Berk, but it’s a decently interesting watch, nonetheless.
Previews round out the extras, and they aren’t particularly spectacular. For a cheap set, it’s nice that the disc features a few unexpected bonuses to complement the four episodes, but it doesn’t really serve to make the set any better, overall.
Dragons: Riders of Berk is currently airing its first season on Cartoon Network with new episodes hitting the airwaves on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET. I highly recommend the series for anyone who loves How to Train Your Dragon and for the whole family, but the DVD is far less exciting. Keep your wallet on hold until something better comes along.
Length: 88 minutes
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Release Date: 11/20/2012
Starring:Jay Baruchel, America Ferrara, Christopher Mintze-Plasse
Directed by:Anthony Bell
Created by: Chris Sanders, Dean DeBlois