Dragons with 46-foot wing spans are flying around 27 arenas in the North American tour of the “How to Train Your Dragon Live Spectacular.” The Dreamworks academy award nominated animated movie How to Train Your Dragon, which has grossed nearly $500 million worldwide, has been made into a live spectacular and is currently touring North America.
The show consists of 23 gigantic dragons that snarl, breathe fire, and attack the 20 actors who are performing as the Viking warriors in the story of a teenager, Hiccup and his dragon friend, Toothless. Audience members are right in the middle of real live action. The “How to Train Your Dragon Live Spectacular” has already toured in Australia and New Zealand where it was a hit, according to WinnipegFreePress.com. The American tour kicked off on June 27, 2012 with a one week engagement in Wilkes-Barre, PA.
Eric Stevens, head of DreamWorks Theatrical said, “The movie connected with audiences, really children and adults alike, because it has a lot of heart. It’s really about a father-and-son relationship as much as about a boy and his dragon, which I guess is another version of a boy and his dog,” according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
DreamWorks Theatrical is the live entertainment division of the movie studio. DreamWorks has teamed up with RZO Dragon Productions, and Global Creatures to produce the show, which is being presented by S2BN Entertainment. Global Creatures is the company behind the arena show “Walking with Dinosaurs,” which was the number one grossing world tour of 2010.
The dragons are massive puppets that are brought to life by puppeteers. It can take four puppeteers to move just one of the larger dragons and at least two puppeteers to move the other dragons. The audience is further brought into the mythical legend as 24 projectors and 20,000 square feet of wall-to-floor backdrop is used to change the world and scenes around them. It takes 30 semi-tractor trailer trucks to carry the dragons, props, scenery, lighting, and vikings from city to city.
Gavin Sainsbury, the head of puppetry noted in The Washington Post, “Mainly, I think, the kids come and see the characters they have fallen in love with. And to feel like you could reach out and touch the creatures is amazing.”
Nigel Jamieson is the director of the spectacular. Jamieson has directed other spectaculars in the past including Sydney 2000 Olympic Opening ceremony and the opening and closing ceremonies of the Melbourne Commonwealth Game, along with several operas. Jamieson won the 2011 Helpmann Award as Best Director for his production of “Opera Australia’s La Fanciulla del West.”
The director toured the globe twice to find his star cast of actors, circus artists, puppeteers, and acrobats, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. The two young Viking stars of the show, Hiccup and Astrid are shared by two actors, because of the rigorous performance schedule and acrobatic/dance skills required.
Hiccup will be played by the American dancer and musical theater performer, Riley Miner and Australian Rarmian Newton, who won a Helpmann Award in 2008 for his role in the Australian musical of “Billy Elliot.” Astrid will be played by Gemma Nguyen, an American third-degree black belt and six-time martial arts world champion. The role of Astrid will also be shared by Sarah McCreanor, an Australian dancer and acrobat who has performed in numerous musicals and comedy shows. The singer-songwriter Jónsi from the Icelandic group Sigur Ros and composer John Powell, who created the original score for the feature film also created the score for the live spectacular.
DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg told The Hollywood Reporter,
“For this type of show it’s probably the biggest and most ambitious themed arena show that anybody’s ever done before. I think that this will hopefully set a new standard. This is real 3D — it’s the real thing.”
For more information on the full tour schedule visit: dreamworksdragonslive.com.