Blu-ray
Rent it
3.5 stars
Overall Grade
3.5 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
3 Stars
HD Video Quality
4 Stars
HD Audio Quality
4 Stars
Supplements
1.5 Stars
High-Def Extras
2 Stars
Bottom Line
Rent it

DreamWorks Dragons

Street Date:
November 15th, 2011
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
November 17th, 2011
Movie Release Year:
2011
Studio:
DreamWorks
Length:
39 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Unrated
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

DreamWorks Animation has become a major player in the world of computer animated family flicks. Over time, it's established itself as the second-best company next to the one that started it all and raised the bar so high - Disney/Pixar. One problem they've had in the past is keeping their cash cow franchises on track - yes, I'm referring to their first big hit, 'Shrek.' Recently, Guillermo Del Toro has stepped in as the "godfather" of DreamWorks Animation to oversee all features. That first two under his watch were 'Kung Fu Panda 2' and 'Puss in Boots,' both of which showed DreamWorks' decision to bring him aboard was a smart one. Hopefully he'll be able to keep a smooth track record while holding this position because the 'Dragon' franchise is one of their very best, completely entertaining for both children and the adults who bring them to see it.

I didn't expect 'How to Train Your Dragon' to be as good as it was. With humor, adventure, laughs, fantastic animation, and great big heart, it gave Pixar a run for their money. Knowing that a sequel is in the works, it's interesting to see this Blu-ray released with two new animated short features. Considering the original Blu-ray release carried another short feature of its own ('The Legend of the Boneknapper'), how have these guys had the time to make three 17+ minute short movies while also making a second theatrical feature-length film?

The two short features on 'DreamWorks Dragons' are 'Gift of the Night Fury' and 'Book of Dragons.' Easily the best of the two, running 22 minutes, 'Gift of the Night Fury' is a fun little holiday-esque tale that furthers the mythos of the 'Dragon' series. It's winter time in our viking village and the townsfolk are noticing odd behavior from their newfound pets - all of the dragons are taking flight and heading off into the snowy gray clouds. Since Toothless, the dragon of our hero Hiccup, needs his human-controlled doohickey on his tail for flight, he cannot join the others on this mystery shrouded journey. Feeling bad for him, Hiccup makes Toothless a gift for the non-denominational holiday - a new tail fin that allows him to take flight on his own. The moment that Toothless realizes he's no longer earthbound without Hiccup as navigator, he too splits and leaves Hiccup way behind.

The fun begins when Hiccup discovers that a friend has chained his dragon to the ground to keep it from leaving. As Hiccup releases the beast, he hops about to see where all the others have flown off to. Without spoiling the rest, I'll tell you that it's just as fun, funny, entertaining and heartfelt as you'd expect from the 'Dragon' franchise.

While 'Gift of the Night Fury' is legit, 'Book of Dragons' is a sham. With a 17-minute runtime, 'Book of Dragons' is a lazy filler episode. The only new high quality computer animated bits in it are the bookends, showing the gang enter the Great Hall for Dragon Training class. You, the viewer, are supposed to be a new student studying the different species of dragons. Once class begins, we flip through the Book of Dragons to see lame new 2D animation or re-edited clips from the previous features. Any new CG animation resembles that of a 1996 PC game. In all reality, 'Book of Dragons' is so lazy and emotionless - it simply goes through the motions - that it won't even keep the kids entertained. Although my four-year-old intently watched 'Gift of the Night Fury,' she wouldn't have anything to with 'Book of Dragons.' Frankly, I didn't want to be watching it either.

Although I loved 'Gift of the Night Fury,' the $15 or more price for this disc is hardly worth it - especially when you consider how lame 'Book of Dragons' and the special features are.

The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats

'DreamWorks Dragons' arrives on a Region A BD-25 in a standard two-disc blue keepcase. A DVD copy of both short films is included, as well as a limited time card that includes codes that unlock the online video game for free. Housing the entire Blu-ray case is a carboard slip cover. Upon inserting the disc, a forced DreamWorks vanity reel and copyright warning play, followed by a skippable trailer for 'Puss in Boots' and a short ad for the 'Kung Fu Panda 2' Blu-ray release.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

'DreamWorks Dragons' is presented with a scattered 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encoding in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Just like the quality of the two short films themselves, the video quality of the two is night and day.

'Gift of the Night Fury' is a 5-star demo-worthy animated short film. Perfectly flawless, this is one of the highest detailed animated videos in my collection - possibly even better than that of 'How to Train Your Dragon.' Each strand of hair, each beard whisker and each freckle on every character is always 100 percent visible. Bubbles, explosions and flaming debris look better than their CG counterparts seen in live-action flicks. The picture features great depth, giving the video a great third dimensional look. Set against white and gray winter backdrop, the brilliant wide range of colors pop on screen. Banding, aliasing and artifacting are completely absent.

'Book of Dragons' lies at the other end of the spectrum. Even though it contains footage from both the original film and 'Gift of the Night Fury,' the images are heavily darkened to the extent that quality and parts of the images themselves are lost. Blacks are too deep, engulfing everything and bleeding into objects that should be clearly visible. The picture quality is soft, scrubbing away the fine details that should lie within the picture. All-in-all, 'Book of Dragons' feels like you're watching a lower quality special feature than main animated short film.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

'DreamWorks Dragons' offers a spectacular English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD audio track. Again, 'Gift of the Night Fury' sounds amazing, but 'Book of Dragons' is sub-par.

From low frequency bass-filled wing flaps soaring by the screen to small explosions going off all over town, 'Gift of the Night Fury' utilizes all of channels, matching the demo-worthy quality of the picture. Levels are perfectly balanced and no sound details are lost.

However, 'Book of Dragons' is again lazy. With the low quality video, there's a matching low quality audio track. There is no ambiance because the film itself doesn't offer it. Unless all channels are filled it, music is the only thing that plays in the rear channels other than a few fire-breathing blasts from 2D dragons. Other than that, it's a plain an uneffective use of lossless 7.1 audio.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

  • Gobber's Training Secrets (HD, 2 min.) - Via short tutorials with Craig Ferguson's character, learn the tricks to training six different species of dragons.

  • 'Gift of the Night Fury' Deleted Scenes (HD, 5 min.) - Instead of containing deleted animated scenes, these are simply storyboards with low quality voice-overs introduced by the director.

  • 'Spot the Difference' - Like those picture games in Highlights magazine, you must spot the differences between two different images on the screen.

  • 'Learn How to Draw: A Baby Gronkle' (HD, 4 min.) - In this step by step tutorial, an animator teaches you how to pencil one of the new baby dragons from 'Gift of the Night Fury.' Honestly, this requires a level of skillty that I don't have, let alone most kids.

  • 'Dragons Online Video Game' (HD, 1 min.) - A short ad for the video game to inspire you to use your free codes soon.

  • 'World of DreamWorks Animation' - This multi-layered menu plays out more like a BD-Live feature. The first menu level offers five films to choose from - 'Shrek,' 'How to Train Your Dragon,' 'Kung Fu Panda,' 'Madagascar' and 'Megamind.' After choosing a franchise, you're taken to another menu with unlabeled icons that trigger movie and game trailers, music videos and ads for the specific film(s). This is basically a DreamWorks self-promotional feature.

  • 'Hatch a Dragon' (HD, 1 min.) - Watch two kids' crayon dragons come to animated life. I'll give you a hint: it's not interesting nor entertaining in the least.

  • 'Previews' (HD) - If the 'Puss in Boots' and 'Kung Fu Panda 2' trailers were so good that you'd like to watch them again, this feature is for you.

  • 'Sneak Peeks' (HD) - Considering there's only one sneak peek here, shouldn't this feature be called "Sneak Peek" - without the "s"? Like Disney on Ice, this is a preview for next year's ariel show "'How to Train Your Dragon' Arena Spectacular." Honestly, it looks pretty sweet - like "Princesses on Ice" for boys.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

  • 'The Animator's Corner' (HD) - This feature is only available on 'Gift of the Night Fury.' Watch the entire 22-minute animated short feature with a picture-in-picture screen with a few animators describing the process.

  • 'Ultimate Book of Dragons' (HD) - Flip through an interactive book that teaches about the dragons, their abilities and their weaknesses. Easter eggs are plentiful, but this is nothing more that what you've already seen in 'Book of Dragons' and the special feature 'Gobber's Training Secrets.'

Easter Eggs

Easter Eggs are abundant in the 'Ultimate Book of Dragons' Blu-ray exclusive special feature. Basically, that feature is one giant nest for Easter Eggs. Enjoy.

Final Thoughts

If you love the direction that DreamWorks is headed in, as well as 'How to Train Your Dragon,' then you'll truly enjoy the animated short 'Gift of the Night Fury.' Just like 'How to Train Your Dragon,' it's a fun and heartfelt animated adventure - only it's 22 minutes long. It furthers the mythos of their dragons and just might help bridge the gap between the first and second films. Surprisingly, the video and audio quality of this made-for-Blu-ray feature is perfectly demo-worthy; however, the second short 'Book of Dragons' isn't. It won't hold your attention - let alone your kids'. The quality of the video and audio is just as low as that of the 17-minute short itself. The special features made for adults aren't entertaining and the made-for-children features are boring are repetitious. Unless 'DreamWorks Dragons' is a $5 Black Friday special, it's simply not worth a purchase one good short film. This is best as a rental.

Technical Specs

  • BD-25
  • DVD

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/AVC-MPEG-4

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 1.78:1

Audio Formats

  • English Dolby TrueHD 7.1
  • Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
  • French Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
  • English Descriptive Audio

Subtitles/Captions

  • English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese

Supplements

  • Deleted scenes
  • Gobber’s Training Secrets
  • Spot the Difference
  • Learn How to Draw a Baby Gronckle
  • World of DreamWorks Animation
  • Previews

Exclusive HD Content

  • Gift of the Night Fury: The Animators’ Corner
  • Ultimate Book of Dragons

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