Cursed into the form of a talking cartoon fish by a half-mad deity known only as the Writer, the Infallible Fish has no idea who he is, or where he comes from, all he does know is that he has a burning urge to watch some animated stuff.
How To Train Your Dragon is probably my favourite animated film of all time, which is odd, because it’s a DreamWorks film. Not that I have anything against DreamWorks, they make some really good films, but never anything on the same level as Disney and Pixar when they’re on their A-game. Despite that though, HTTYD found a magic formula that leaves me enjoying every minute of it, and its sequel. It has a funny, witty script. The animation is gorgeous, helped along by some jaw-dropping cinematography. The flying scenes are especially beautiful, and they capture the sensation of soaring through the air. I even enjoy just admiring the lighting on each scene. The soundtrack morphs between soft and sweet, to epic and grand effortlessly, seriously this is one of the best soundtracks to, well, anything. The characters are all likeable, with oodles of personality and believability. You feel each character’s joy and sorrow. The only tiny complaint I have with the first film is that we don’t get to see enough of the supporting cast. Most of the other students are reduced to basic character-traits. I like them, and they’re all funny, I just wish we got to know more about them.
That brings me to today’s review, the HTTYD Christmas special, Gift of the Night Fury. It’s a short film, lasting a measly 22 minutes, and while I wish there was more, I’m more than happy with what I got. The story is this, it’s Christmas (It’s never called that, but it’s the season in all but name), and as our favourite Vikings prepare to celebrate the holiday with their new dragon friends for the first time, disaster strikes. Suddenly all of the dragons leave with no sign of coming back, and Astrid’s attempts to cheer everyone up (“Let’s create new traditions, you know, to bury the sadness.”) only lead to one calamity after another. It’s up to Hiccup to find out where the dragons have gone, and save Christmas!
Firstly, just let me say, this is a really funny, and really heart-warming tale. It has just the right amount of sweetness to give you that warm feeling without being so sugary that you almost overdose. There are also some really good jokes and lines throughout this episode. My favourite has to be Astrid’s reaction when her little plan with the dragon eggs goes awry (“The eggs explode!”). I also like that we get to see more of our supporting cast. They’re given a good chunk of the story, and while it’s not like we any deep character moments, we do get to see more of their personalities, and how they play off of one another. Astrid definitely gets the best deal out of this short film, as we get to see more of her goofy side, as opposed to the her warrior side that was on display in the first film.
Hiccup has his moments too, showing more of his ingenuity, and how the village has come to respect him (everyone immediately rushes to Hiccup once the dragons disappear). The moments between Hiccup and Toothless are really sweet and lovable too, showing the deep bond that has developed between them. This entire short film feels like a natural and logical continuation of the first film, and I think bridges the two films perfectly.
The aspect I love most about this special though is that it’s not overloaded with Christmas. It’s a genuinely good story, with Christmas as a backdrop. Yes there’s snow, and a tree, and presents and lights, but none of that is shoved into your face. I’ve seen all of that stuff in every other Christmas special, and I’m tired of it. Most series don’t get the idea that those parts are nice, but they’re not the point of Christmas. It’s a time of giving, of good will to all, of spending time with those you love. Gift of the Night Fury gets that, the focus is on the characters and the bond between them. I will happily cosy up on the sofa, in front of a warm fire, and watch this every Christmas. That’s what makes this special, well, special. In fact, I think I’m going to go and watch it again right now.
Thanks for reading everyone, now go be with those you love. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.
Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.