And You Thought 3-D Was Cool: 'How to Train a Dragon Live Spectacular' Preview

Published on: December 30, 2013

dragon-blog-cropped1Post-show update/review: I'm always a little wary of getting too hyped about something that hasn't happened yet, especially when it comes to live performances, so I didn't really tell my kids too much about what they were going to see when I took them to the How to Train Your Dragon Live Spectacular. Since they were getting all amped over the Christmas lights on the construction cranes in downtown Seattle as we drove through, I figured we had this in the bag. And we did, it was a fantastic show. We did however, avert an expectations disaster when I realized the youngest was expecting actual live dragons. And he's nine. In retrospect I wish I had explained a little to my boys about the extraordinary technical feat it takes to make these creatures come to life -- the sheer scope of the engineering, the artistry of production, the performers' graceful interaction. They were wide-eyed anyway, but I'm not sure they really understood what it takes to put on this show. The grownups did, however, so we really enjoyed ourselves too. See below for updated "If You Go" information.

Don't be alarmed, it's only a fire-breathing dragon above your head. I'm pretty sure it won't bite.

Dreamworks' How to Train Your Dragon Live Spectacular will unleash 23 fire-breathing dragons — with wingspans up to 46 feet — into the Tacoma Dome, in seven performances starting tonight. I'll be taking all three of my boys, ages 9, almost 12 and 43. They don't know what they are about to see, but I'm hopping up and down in my chair, I'm so excited.

This is not your average string-puppet show. World-class acrobats and martial artists tell the story in what promises to be an eye-popping, jaw-dropping visual tour de force that takes advantage of the full scope and scale of the arena floor and fly space.

A state-of-the-art, wall-to-floor projection measuring more than 20,000 square feet sets the backdrop for crazy-cool animatronic dragons.That's like having live dragons and actors performing (and don't forget, flying) in front of the equivalent of nine movie screens.

This epic-adventure will take the audience deep into the mythical world of Viking dragon-slayers. Based on the book by Cressida Cowell, it centers on Hiccup, an awkward Viking teenager who falls short of his tribe’s expectations. When he encounters a dragon alone in the wild, the misfit begins to question his people's relationship to the winged dragons that share their land.

I've seen the movie and love the story. What's not to love about a boy teaching his people about the beauty of a creature once regarded as a menace useful only for target practice, chest beating and bragging rights?

The dragons in this production were years in the making and should astound even the kids raised on the movie magic of modern techno-theater. More than 50 model makers, digital designers, scenic artists, design and mechanical engineers, skins fabricators and control technicians worked together to bring these magnificent creatures to life. They walk, run, fly, breathe fire and make facial expressions.

The powerhouses behind the production are DreamWorks Animation, Global Creatures and S2BN Entertainment; it's produced by RZO Dragon Productions.

P.S.: Watch for an update that I'll post after seeing the show!

If you go ...

When: How to Train Your Dragon Live Spectacular runs Dec. 6–9: Thursday and Friday 7 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., Sunday 1 p.m. and 5 p.m.

Tickets: Buy online. Tickets cost $20–$65 + fees, which puts it in the "special occasion" category of the average budget, but promises to be worth it. Make sure everyone is well-fed and rested beforehand.

Good for your kid? The show runs just over two hours with a 20-minute intermission. It is loud and a little scary, and although there were quite a few really young ones there, I wouldn't take a kid under 5. Parking is $20 cash and the food is pricey, so plan that in your budget. They have souvenirs too, of course, so be prepared to shell out or have your speech ready. I'll admit, even though I was a mean mom and said no to the souvenirs, it was a hoot looking around the stadium at the multitudes of red and blue flashing Viking helmets.

About the author: Emily Metcalfe Smith lives and writes in Edmonds WA and is asking Santa for her very own dragon this year. Fingers crossed.

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