From his beautiful coloring and intricate detail, you might not initially realize how impressive (or dangerous) Deadly Nadder is. He is one of the 13 dragon stars of DreamWorks How To Train Your Dragon Live Spectacular, coming to the Honda Center this weekend. The show, two years in the making, debuted in Australia and has toured New Zealand, the US, and Canada.
Yesterday, I had an opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look at the show, and from the looks of it, it’s going to be spectacular.
Fascinated by the sheer magnitude of these creatures, I spent a few minutes talking to Gavin Sainsbury, Head of Publishing for How To Train Your Dragon Live Spectacular. With over a dozen dragons to puppeteer, it is incredible to comprehend that the team is quite small. In addition to the 2-3 puppeteers at the controls, there are additional people inside the chassis of the larger dragons, who remain in constant communication with the puppeteers.
Sainsbury worked on Walking With Dinosaurs for over 5 years, but stated that there is nothing quite like the technology used in this show. Using a blend of movie and theater technology, Sainsbury described it as such: “It is almost like a marionette controlled string puppet without the strings. Instead, we have radio frequencies that send through signals. It is very high tech and requires a strong correlation between what the puppeteer is doing with the device, and what he is seeing with his eyes as to how the creature is responding.” Interestingly enough, the ideal person for a job such as this is a puppeteer.
We first observed this technology in the show Walking With Dinosaurs, however, it has been updated to create creatures that are faster and more agile with additional sounds and the ability to fly.
How To Train Your Dragon Live Spectacular was created in partnership with DreamWorks and Global Creatures and features 8 different species of dragons, circus artists and acrobats, and new technologies to bring families a fully immersive live experience. The live show was inspired by and an adaption of the film How To Train Your Dragon, and tells the story of Hiccup, a Viking teen who doesn’t fit in with his tribe’s longstanding tradition of heroic dragon slayers. When Hiccup befriends an injured Dragon, his world is turned upside down as he is challenged to see the world from a different point of view.
During my backstage tour, I had a brief moment to chat with Gemma Nguyen, an accomplished stuntwoman who holds a third degree black belt and is a six time martial arts world champion. Originally set to audition for a teen role in the show, Nguyen was recognized for her martial abilities that had a striking semblance to the character of Astrid.
During the 3 months she spent preparing for the show in Sydney, she underwent aerial and martial arts training in addition to learning how to work with the dragons. When asked about the challenges of working with puppeteered dragons, she smiled, “Working with the dragons is not challenging…it’s more challenging for me to forget that they’re not real. They all have their own personalities based on whoever is voodooing them. It’s incredible.”
As the lead female in the show (and in the film/series), Astrid is also the most skilled of all the teen vikings/dragon trainers. She is determined and emulated, and I imagine little girls across the world will want to take a martial arts class after this show. When asked what her favorite part of the show is, she stated “every part [of the show] is incredible…equally exciting and incredible in it’s own rite.” She did mention that when her and Hiccup get to fly on Toothless, they get to see the show from a different vantage point. “It’s breathtaking!”
When asked about how audiences will react to the show, Nguyen stated “This a show for everyone…a visual treat! It has a great storyline, great acting, and it’s exciting to see the dragons.”
How To Train Your Dragon Live Spectacular opens tonight at Honda Center in Anaheim, California and runs through January 20th, 2013. You can purchase tickets online or at the box office.
No compensation was received for this post. Media tickets provided.
Photos: Rockin’ Mama unless noted.