With its third outing, the animated fantasy epic becomes an unlikely contender in the conversation of ”greatest trilogies”
How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is new on 4K UHD and Blu-ray this week. Be sure to check out our giveaway below where you can win both the CD soundtrack and the complete Trilogy on Blu-ray!
The original How to Train Your Dragon was a pleasant surprise for audiences who half-expected another mindless CGI animated movie from the house that built the dreck that is Shrek and eyeroll-inducing Madagascar. But instead of tired pop-culture jokes and lowest common denominator gags, this was a thrilling adventure in classical form. The humor was still there, but Dragon presented the coming of age story of a misanthropic young Viking with a loving but hard-to-please father, and the dragon he befriends. In a lot of ways it’s the classic “boy and his dog” tale, but told in such a refreshingly vibrant and emotionally resonant adventure.
It was part of a general upswing as Dreamworks Animation’s computer-animated films expanded into legitimate storytelling with resonant character arcs, a bit less silliness, and homage taking precedence over parody, with How to Train Your Dragon, Kung Fu Panda, and others leading the new charge (and behind them, new production arm DWA Glendale).
Amazingly, How to Train Your Dragon 2 only improved upon the original, continuing the journey of Hiccup and Toothless, now on the cusp of adulthood, with a deeply earnest and emotional arc exploring love, loss, and family (what I’m stepping around is, this is one of my hard-cry movies). That tale leaves off with Hiccup as the new chief of his tribe, and Toothless similarly the new Alpha dragon of his kind.
If the franchise had simply ended with How To Train Your Dragon 2, it would have felt a fitting conclusion, with the story seemingly finished. It would be difficult to continue this story and still carry the same weight — what could be next?
The franchise’s third and likely final film The Hidden World closes the trilogy, expanding on developments of the second film, in which the dragons are being ruthlessly targeted by a new class of dragon hunters. The town of Berk, now a haven for the dragons, is being inevitably drawn into war with these powerful enemies. Realizing the dragons are no longer safe from human exploration and exploitation, Hiccup and his allies seek out the ancestral home of the dragons, an apocryphal “Hidden World” at the intersection of legend and reality — which may or may not actually exist.
Meanwhile, there’s a new development for Toothless. He was believed to be the only Night Fury left, but a female (dubbed a Light Fury) is discovered, not only giving him a new lease on life, but a chance for his species to survive — but can Hiccup and Toothless’s friendship survive this new change?
In the fashion of the previous films, The Hidden World deftly combines humor and action with honest and heartfelt emotional beats. As always, there’s an adventure and warm humor here that will appeal to kids, but this is also the triumphant culmination of the coming of age story that began in the first film. Both Hiccup and Toothless are grown now, each the leader of their own tribe with new responsibilities, and each now with their own courtships blossoming into what comes after. There’s a palpable and pensive sense that after six years together (and perhaps more pointedly, nearly a decade that we’ve shared with them as the audience), that this may be where their paths must diverge.
If you’ve loved the first couple films, this one won’t disappoint — it somehow manages to continue the story, bring additional depth to the characters and their world, and deliver a satisfying conclusion.
If you’ve not really given the series a chance, don’t sleep on it. The trilogy is perfect for both kids and adults for entirely different reasons, and maybe what excites me most is that with time it will only become even more beloved as kids who grow up with it — my kids — find new things to love and discover as they grow into it.
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is now available on 4K, Blu-ray, and DVD, as well as Digital. My copy of the 4K edition came with a metallic, embossed slipcover.
In addition to the standard releases, there are also some retailer exclusives available from Target, Best Buy, and Walmart with alternate packaging, as well as a Blu-ray 3-pack with all three films.
The movie has some densely packed scenes with tons of dragons and wild colors filling the screen, and the Blu-ray and 4K discs handle this beautifully. The screens below are from the Blu-ray, and the 4K UHD upscale takes this up a notch.
Special Features and Extras
This disc is packed with tons of extras in the way that only big-budget, tentpole blockbusters can be.
- Alternate Opening with Intro by Writer/Director Dean DeBlois
- DreamWorks Shorts: Bilby (8:01) — A bilby (a small marsupial) encounters and protects a baby bird who is unaware of the predators and dangers all around. It’s pretty cute, and I love the Australian setting.
- DreamWorks Shorts: Bird Karma (4:48) — A gangly aquatic bird obsesses after a lustrous goldfish for his dinner. Humorously animated, if just a bit dark in tone. My 4 year old cackled throughout at the bird’s manic movements and expressions.
- Deleted Scenes with Intros by Writer/Director Dean DeBlois
- How to Voice Your Viking (1:33) — featurette with the voice cast — it’s always fun to see the actors while doing the voices
- Creating an Epic Dragon Tale (4:25) — filmmakers reminisce on the experience of making the trilogy and what they’ve learned in the process
- How I Learned from Dragons (3:42) — the cast discuss their experience
- Brave Wilderness Presents: Nature + Dragons = Awesome — Coyote Peterson of Brave Wilderness looks at how the dragon designs take inspiration form nature
- The Dragon Sheep Chronicles (2:35) — Hiccup shares journal entries about on Berk’s wooliest denizens
- A Deck of Dragons (3:29) — Fishlegs shares his “trading cards” of the film’s new dragons
- Growing Up with Dragons (3:34) — Exploring the film’s coming of age themes
- The Evolving Character Design of Dragons (3:18) — recognizing growth in design from film to film across the trilogy
- Drawing Dragons (3:09) — the art of designing dragons, including thoughts on drawing from reference, and the new dragons in this film
- Epic Villain (1:44) — exploring Grimmel, the new villain played by F. Murray Abraham
- Astrid’s Whole Dragon Trilogy in 60 Seconds (1:09) — Astrid gives a compressed rundown of the entire trilogy from her POV.
- Welcome to New Berk (2:13)— Hiccup describes the Viking’s new home New Berk, introduced in Hidden World
- Feature Commentary with Writer/Director Dean DeBlois, Producer Bradford Lewis and Head of Character Animation Simon Otto
- This Blu-ray disc also has various ads and trailers including spots for Brave Wilderness (1:01) and She-Ra (:33)
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All 16:9 screen images in this review are direct captures from the Blu-ray disc (not 4K) with no editing applied, but may have compression or resizing inherent to file formats and Medium’s image system. All package photography was taken by the reviewer.