Monday, April 7, 2014

Dragons: Defenders of Berk Part 1 DVD Review

Reviewed by Jami Ferguson
DreamWorks Animation’s How to Train Your Dragonfans can soar higher than ever before when Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment releases on DVD the first part of the award-winning top-rated TV series, DreamWorks Dragons: Defenders Of Berk. Based on the DreamWorks Animation Academy Award nominated movie How to Train Your DragonDragons: Defenders Of Berk Part 1 follows Hiccup and his fellow dragon trainers as they battle to protect their island home. Before the June 13th theatrical release of How To Train Your Dragon 2, get your little ones psyched up with these ten episodes where the young Vikings must put their dragon training skills to the test to defeat dangerous and surprising new enemies! The series features original voice talent from the film including Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera and Christopher Mintz-Plasse and will include, Zack Pearlman and more. 
Show (3 out of 5 stars)
Based on the book series and the film, Dragons Defenders of Berk Part 1 follows Hiccup and his Viking friends. They've learned to ride dragons, know they use them to defend their home. I saw the movie How to Train Your Dragon but did not get a chance to see Parts 1 and 2 of Dragons: Riders of Berk. It’s fairly easy to jump in and figure out what’s going on knowing the basics from the movie. As the show starts, they don’t explain who the characters are or how the Vikings and the Dragons become partners but I’m sure most kids would jump on board and accept that the “nice” dragons are like pets.

The DVD contains two discs and the following episodes:

Disc One
  • Live and Let Fly – Hiccup’s father institutes a ban on flying.
  • The Iron Gronckle – A dragon tummy ache results in an exciting and super strong new material.
  • The Night and the Fury – A training mission on Dragon Island causes unexpected problems.
  • Tunnel Vision – A mysteriously empty well leads Toothless and Hiccup on an adventure where they uncover a new dragon.
  • Race to Fireworm Island – Even dragons and Vikings play games!
Disc Two
  • Fright of Passage – A terrifying lighted dragon known as the flightmare appears every ten years.
  • Worst in Show – The dragons and riders compete in various activities.
  • Appetite for Destruction – The dragons and tagged and tracked on the various islands and they turn up in unexpected locations.
  • Zippleback Down – The variety of sizes and types of dragons requires a variety of traps.
  • A View to a Skrill Part 1 – A dragon is found frozen in ice.
The series features the voice talents from the film including Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera and Christopher Mintz-Plasse. The episodes are short and were very entertaining to my six year old. It should appeal to those a few years younger or older, as well as fans of the first movie. The stories all have good lessons for kids to learn and they are delivered in an entertaining way that doesn't feel preachy. I also liked the fact that this set contains a "play all" option which allows a parent a nice way to get dinner prepared uninterrupted. This show is a nice continuation from the original movie and it's a great way to get ready for the sequel coming this summer!
Video (2 out of 5 stars)
Dragons Defenders of Berk Part 1 would probably look amazing on Blu-ray. Unfortunately the DVD’s image just isn’t sharp enough and writing on the screen amplifies the issue. The dual layer DVD transfer just isn’t the bright and crisp Blu-ray quality like the last animated film I watched (The Pirate Fairy) and I wish I didn’t have such a recent comparison. There is obvious time and effort put into details like dragon skin texture and human facial hair, and I applaud that – I just wish I could see a crisper image.
Audio (2 out of 5 stars)
Dragons Defenders of Berk Part 1 is presented in English Dolby Digital 5.1 with optional Spanish 2.0 Dolby Digital Surround Sound. Subtitles are available in English SDH, Spanish and French. The sound quality would have gotten a higher mark than the video but the timing is occasionally off. The dragon’s roars and various noises are believable and dialogue is clear.
Extras (3 out of 5 stars)
I was surprised that this show had some decent extras, and that the video quality was significantly better on the features. I’m used to that being the other way around.

  • Dragon Tracker Part 3 – The interactive dragon tracker map lets you select the dragons you would like to learn more about. The selections can be made individually or with a play all option.
  • Evolution of the Screaming Death – Visual Effects Supervisor talks about the about the new dragon, the Screaming Death.
  • “Superfly” Dragon Mash-Up – A look at all the dragons you’ll find in and around Berk, set to music.
  • Sneak Peak – Previews for Turbo, The Croods and Walking with Dinosaurs.
Summary (2 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Parents be warned, the DVD auto starts with previews and a commercial for some very cool looking dragon toys. Toothless and his plasma blast will be a big hit this year with kid, as will part one of this show. Whether you and your children are hard core dragon fans or if you are new to the concept, you should enjoy the show. As with most movies and shows, the more background you have about the universe before watching it the better. The audio and video quality were a little disappointing, but I’m getting to the point where most things on DVD are a let down to me compared to Blu-ray. At least there are a short list of special features that are worth watching. One thing is for certain however, this show is the perfect way to get ready for the summer release of the film's big screen sequel!

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