Niagara Gazette

Night & Day

September 13, 2012

'How to Train Your Dragon' is fiery spectacle

Niagara Gazette — Anyone who's ever longed to see fire-breathing dragons soaring down upon them is in luck.

The First Niagara Center will host the “How to Train Your Dragon Live Spectacular” Sept. 20-23. The show features 23 dragons in all - some as large as a blue whale, with a wing span of 46 feet - and is based on the 2010 DreamWorks animated film about a Viking boy who wants more out of dragons than to war with them.

The movie spurred enough of an audience - $217.5 million box office domestic, $277.3 million international - to warrant the live show.

Puppeteer Amanda Maddock, who worked to create the show over the course of 12 months, said piggy-backing off such a beloved film gives the arena show crew a leg up.

“It works to our advantage. A lot of people coming to the show already know the characters,” she said. “Our challenge was, ‘It was a great story, so what else can we do with it?’ You can’t just play the movie on the big screen, so you have to adapt it and make it your own.”

The show, like the movie, follows teenage viking Hiccup, who’s encouraged by townsmen to join them in fighting the dragons despite his more artistic inclination. He comes across a dangerous night fury dragon that he names Toothless, but rather than kill it he learns how to ride it and interact with it. He’s eventually forced into a tough decision about what species he’d rather defend.

Maddock controls the Toothless puppet in the show, but there are no strings involved. She mans the puppet from atop the arena, using remote controls to make it fly, dive and breathe fire.

“People wonder how we’re going to do it. What are the puppets going to look like?” she said. “We focused on creating an immersive experience, make it feel like dragon attack is going on overhead.”

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