Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Dragons Review: "Animal House"

Cartoon Network's new series Dragons: Riders of Berk officially premiered tonight with what is actually the third episode to air, "Animal House."  Once again the plot was centered around another challenge of living peacefully with Dragons.  This time, it turns out that the farm animals are terrified of the big scaly beasts that suddenly coexist with them.  And, out of sheer terror, the chickens have been rendered unable to lay eggs and the yaks have stopped giving milk.  With a terrible blizzard on the way, it's up to Hiccup (who else?) to figure out how to get the farm animals to relax so the Vikings won't starve during the storm.  But when the blizzard hits early, can Hiccup and the dragons round up the terrified animals before they all freeze to death?

The story isn't going to win any awards.  It's simple and predictable.  The episode beginss with an otherwise unrelated scene about snowboarding on dragons where we learn that dragons have a natural instinct to protect non-dragons in times of peril.  It doesn't take a rocket scientist to put two and two together and figure out where the story is going well before the halfway mark.  It's also a bit strange to see Hiccup so shocked and surprised that Toothless would be willing to save his life given that Toothless kind of did that a whole bunch of times already in the movie.  Plus the whole concept of dragons having a natural instinct to protect all other living creatures is a bit strange.

However, story nitpicks aside, "Animal House" has once again proven to be an enjoyable and well executed extension of the film's world.  The writing continues to be top-notch with lots of great one liners and visual gags that are perfectly in line with the film.  Plus, the tone does a good job of shifting to a more serious side once the blizzard hits.  Stoic continues to lack personality in the show, but all the other characters are spot on.  Toothless gets lots of screen time in this particular episode and he steals the show, as expected.  His animation looks great for a television budget and he even gets to reprise his trademark awkward smile from the film.  The score also does a brilliant job of creating the right tone and atmosphere, with a liberal sprinkling of the movie's themes throughout.

So in the end, even though it's easy to point out how predictable and flawed the story of "Animal House" is, it didn't actually detract from my enjoyment of the episode.  It matches the style and tone of the film perfectly, even if it doesn't offer a lot of surprises.  Plus, it was pretty cool to finally see one of the terrible snow storms mentioned in the film.  And snowboarding on a Night Fury should totally be in the next Winter Olympics.  Dragons: Riders of Berk is off to a good start!

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