Bottom Line: If your child is a fan of the film How To Train Your Dragon, they will be beyond thrilled with the new Cartoon Network Series. All the aesthetics and fun from the film remain, and the universe of the vikings of Berk is expanded. This is also a great precursor to the upcoming movie sequel.
Network: Cartoon Network
Age Recommendation: 6+
Episode Length: 22 minutes each
Subject Matter: Dragons and vikings
If you liked the movie How To Train Your Dragon, you're going to enjoy the new series on Cartoon Network, DreamWorks Dragons: Riders of Berk. DreamWorks has kept the same level of animation clarity that they used in the film; it's something they're rather good at, both with this new show and the Kung Fu Panda series on Nickelodeon. The show features the same characters--both human and dragon alike--and the same setting on the fictional viking island of Berk.
The series takes place after the events of the film, How To Train Your Dragon. The inhabitants of Berk have learned to use the dragons to their advantage, and are now keeping them as pets. There are still transitional issues with the dragons, and the series focuses on how the vikings of Berk are making things work out and their continued discoveries of what skills the dragons possess and various new species of dragon. The series premiere episode focused on the fact that while the vikings themselves have come to accept the dragons and coexist with them, the animals on the island aren't nearly as receptive and have stopped producing milk, eggs, etc.
The other thing they've kept is a good portion of the original voice cast from the film. Hiccup, the main character (a young viking, who in the film discovered the secret that the dragons were, in fact, trainable and tame), is still voiced by Jay Baruchel. Astrid, the female lead character (a fellow young dragon rider), is still voiced by America Ferrera (of Ugly Betty fame). Christopher Mintz-Plasse (better known as McLovin') remains the voice of the dragon-geek, Fishlegs. TJ Miller stays on as the voice of Tuffnut, the male twin, although his female counterpart is no loner Kristen Wiig. This makes the transition from film to television series rather seamless, and kids won't be left wondering why their favorite character doesn't sound quite the same as they did in the movie.
New character voices include Chris Edgerly (as Gobber), a popular voice-over actor for shows like The Simpsons and Family Guy and movies like Happy Feet and Disney's Chicken Little, Zach Pearlman (as Snotlaut), who plays Jay Cartwright on the new MTV series, The Inbetweeners, and Stephen Root (as Mildew), who is best known for his role on the '90s series News Radio, as well as the voices of Bill Dauterive and Buck Strickland on King of the Hill and the voice of Bubbles the fish in Finding Nemo.
Review for Parents:
As I said before, if your child enjoyed the movie from which this series stems, you are in for a treat. They're going to have lots more dragon-filled adventures to keep them happy and entertained. However, if your child finds mythical fire-breathing creatures with large teeth frightening, you may want to steer clear of this show.
There is a little crude humor in the show, just as it was in the film: there are burp jokes galore. I didn't find it too over the top, and it lends a tame humor that most people can get on board with. There are also still instances of bickering between the younger vikings, including some physical arm-punching and noogie-giving.
Check out the Kids' TV & Movies Guide's review of the movie How To Train Your Dragon to learn more about what you can expect from the characters and situations. The film and the series are really very similar, something which a true fan can certainly celebrate.
*Dreamworks has also released a couple of online video games to coincide with the premiere, DreamWorks Dragons: Wild Skies and DreamWorks Dragon Training Legends on the Cartoon Network website. They are free to play.
*You can catch the dragons and vikings of Berk in the new live performance show, How To Train Your Dragon Live Spectacular, which is currently touring North America. The stage show consists of some of the largest animatronics ever made, and is produced by the same company who did Walking With Dinosaurs.
*There is a sequel in production for the film! It's currently scheduled to hit theaters in the summer of 2014.