Why 'How to Train Your Dragon' Works

How to Train Your Dragon is a great movie.  I've always liked it; but over my last few viewings of it in recent years, I've been impressed by just how great of a film it is, and how much I really do appreciate it.

I re-watched it just the other day, and felt compelled to compile a little list of some of the elements that make this movie unique and successful.

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- it's self-aware. 

I know the satirical, self-deprecating style of humor present in this movie isn't terribly unusual today, but I think that when it came out, it was one of the first animated offerings to kickstart that new normal.  I could be wrong, but that's my speculation.

Regardless, it's adorably wry, witty, and tongue-in-cheek.  It's good-naturedly skeptical, if that makes any sense.

"You, sir, are playing a dangerous game!  Keeping this much
raw Viking-ness contained . . . There will be consequences!"

- that music, tho. 

For real.  HAVE YOU LISTENED TO THAT MUSIC LATELY??!  Because you should.


- the teenagers are believable.

They're all at differing maturity levels, but none of them feel like 20-somethings pretending to be adolescents.  They all have different interests but share similar hopes, fears, etc.  (And the sibling dynamic between Tuffnut and Ruffnut is fun. 😉)


How many movies do you know that feature a giant cat masquerading as a dragon for a major character???

Yeah, that's what I thought.

TOOTHLESS MEMES!!!!! | School of Dragons | How to Train Your Dragon Games:

Toothless is an invaluable asset to this franchise.  He's such a unique presence, and the person/pet dynamic is sadly underrepresented in fiction, so.  (The happy person/pet dynamic, I mean.  Lookin' at you, every "Newberry Honor winning" middle grade children's novel ever about the boy and his dog that's inevitably going to end with the dog dying. *pointed glares*)

- vivid cinematography.


- the girl's dragon, at the end, is proportionally bigger than the boy's. 

This might not seem like anything, but during this latest viewing, it struck me.  So often, sexism is still portrayed (completely unintentionally, in many cases) in movies, books, etc.  There's still the idea that the hero must have something bigger and stronger and more impressive than his "love interest".


But in How to Train Your Dragon, Hiccup stands on his own two feet in the end.  (Well . . . I mean . . . )  He and Astrid are completely different people, but they're completely equal.  It doesn't matter if Astrid rides a bigger "steed" than he does.  And it doesn't matter that he won the elder's vote instead of Astrid.  Both of them are successful.  Neither of them has to be more than the other.

*shrugs*  Just a thought.

- the hero doesn't come out of his conflict whole. he lives, but he's "damaged". he's lost something, and something valuable, to boot.  (dang it, these insensitive puns really are unintentional.)

The twist at the end adds maturity to the film that many other "hero's journey" stories don't have.  Sure, Hiccup falling into billowing clouds of fire and being saved from certain death at the last minute is a giant fake-out that we've all seen before.  But, unlike most other movies that feature that shtick, How to Train Your Dragon recognizes the improbability of someone coming out of such an experience unscathed.  And what I love about this is the way this story handles the amputation.  It's sympathetic but non-victimizing.  Obviously, this will be hard for Hiccup.  There are many levels to this that will need to be navigated.  But, while the movie allows him to be shaken, it never for a second suggests that he won't ultimately be okay.  He can do this.

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So.  Those are some of my thoughts.   What are yours? 😃

"We have dragons."


  1. I've never seen this movie, and I probably shouldn't promise that I ever will, because . . . one thing I've realized about myself lately is I DON'T SPEND A LOT OF TIME WATCHING MOVIES and that's a conscious choice, even when I have the time; because movies just aren't my absolute preferred medium of storytelling. So most of the time when I hopefully say "Oh, I'll watch that someday!" . . . it never happens. *facepalms @self*

    Howeverrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr I LOVE your point about sexism and how it seeps into so many stories where the guy has to come out "on top" with the "bigger, better" stuff; and I'm so glad to hear this movie doesn't fall into that trap! :D

    1. Hey, if they're not your favorite thing, they're not your favorite thing! No biggie. :) (Though I DO always love discussing them with you. ;D)

      If you ever ARE in the mood for a new animated movie, though, I do think there's a decent chance you'd enjoy this one. :)

      Thanks! Yeah, it just struck me this last time I watched it, and I was impressed.

    2. And I love discussing them with you!! :D There are specific movies I really, really enjoy; but I don't always enjoy the ACT of watching movies? if that makes sense?? And I've realized I'm a lot more inclined to experiment with new things in book form, than in movie form . . .

      I'll keep in mind, then! ;-)

    3. :D *hugsies* That does make sense, yes!

  2. YESSSSSSS to all of this!!! It's such a fantastic movie, and you've successfully made me want to watch it again. Mainly for Toothless and his adorable smile. xD Amazing points!

    1. Success! Haha. ;)

      Toothless's smile is A Gift. ;)

  3. Yes, and yes, and yes again. My only HTTYD regret is that it took me until last year to watch it! And now I've seen all 3 movies, and my kids and I are working our way through the TV series.

    Want to know something I never expected? I really love Tuffnut. He makes me laugh consistently, and he's like the perfect blend of sunshine and sarcasm. And I love how he cares for Chicken. (In the TV shows, he has this pet chicken named Chicken that he cherishes...) Hiccup is still my fave, but Tuffnut comes second. Hee!

    1. But hey, sometimes we can appreciate animated movies even MORE if we watch them later in life, right? Silver linings and all that. ;-P *I* still need to see the third one. I thought the second one was a good movie, but I didn't personally care for it all that much. I'm interested to see what I think of the third, though I know from talking to you/some other people that it might make me Emotional.

      I should try the TV show sometime, probably. Haha! Tuffnut is great. (He has a chicken called Chicken?? That's fantastic. <3)

    2. Yes, except I was 30 when it first came out. I would've loved it tons. But I wasted 8 years not watching it! Lol.

      I liked the third one way better than the second. But yes, emotionalness happens.

      The TV shows are a little confusingly named because there are several, Riders of Berk and Defenders of Berk and Race to the Edge (I think that's all of them). But they are LOADS of fun, even though they have different voices for a few characters, most noticeably Stoick. All the teens are the same, tho.

      Yes. A chicken named Chicken. And the way Tuffnut lovingly says, "Oh, Chickennnnnn" makes me laugh and want to hug him every time.

      The guy who voices Tuffnut also voices a character in Big Hero 6 and he was kinda my favorite part of that movie just cuz the voice was the same, but the character was way more mellow and mature than Tuff. Hee!

    3. Wait, the person who voices Tuffnut also voices Fred? I had never realized that!

    4. True. :-P

      Okay, good to know.

      That sounds fabulous. Maybe I'll try those out sometime. XD

  4. Yes to all of this!!! The first time I watched HTTYD I hated it, and I have no idea why! I guess that I thought it was weird. I watched the second one and still didn't care. But, last year I started watching it a lot and LOVED it!! The humor, the chatarcters, the story, the MUSIC (*screams* I love it to bits!!!!), just all of it is so great! I saw the third one in the theaters and loved it, too.

    1. Interesting! That's funny because I actually didn't love HTTYD the first time I saw it, either. I think I've always liked it, but I didn't start REALLY liking it until more recently.


  5. I am here for this HTTYD appreciation post!! It truly is a good movie. The first one will always be the best, announce a special and nostalgic place in my heart. It's so gorgeous and cozy and FUN and deep and warm.

    1. Isn't it, though?? I've yet to see the third one, but I have a feeling I'll always like this one best.


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