[Dragons: Race to the Edge from Dreamworks Animation premieres on Netflix on June 26. The first 13 episodes will all drop at once.]
Last week, I got a chance to visit the Dreamworks Animation campus in Glendale, CA, for an advance peek at two new shows coming to Netflix this summer. First up: Dragons: Race to the Edge.
In 2013, Netflix and Dreamworks Animation signed an unprecedented multiyear programming agreement for more than 300 hours of content. It was (and is) Netflix’s largest commitment to new content, and it was to a single provider.
The deal provided for three seasons each of 12 new shows. So far, fruits of that deal have already grown in the form of All Hail King Julien, The Adventures of Puss in Boots, Veggie Tales in the House, and Turbo FAST.
Dragons: Race to the Edge is the next show to bow on Netflix, and Dinotrux (the first show not based on an existing franchise but rather on a series of children’s books) will debut later this summer.
If you’ve been paying attention, this isn’t the first television show based on the How to Train Your Dragon films. Two previous series–Dragons: Riders of Berk and Dragons: Defenders of Berk–aired on Cartoon Network.
Like those predecessors, this new series takes place between the two feature films. It takes place about a year and a half before the events of the second movie, so obviously certain events in that film haven’t happened yet in Race to the Edge.
In the first few episodes, Hiccup comes into possession of the Dragon Eye, a mysterious object loaded with secrets that will point the way to undiscovered dragons and new islands and lead the Dragon Riders on countless adventures.
Hiccup, Astrid, Fishlegs, Tuffnut, Ruffnut, and Snotlout (i.e., the Dragon Riders) also set up camp on an outlying island–Dragon’s Edge–and each designs his or her own clubhouse. Linked together, this constitutes one heck of a cool place that I really want to visit. (Playset sold separately.)
There’s a plan in place to tell a single story over the course of the series that will ultimately lead directly into the second movie at the same time as How to Train Your Dragon 3 comes out in theaters (currently slated for June 2018). #Synergy
Following the Netflix model of “propulsive serialization,” Race to the Edge will be a serialized show with standalone stories every four or five episodes. Typically, those standalone episodes will introduce a new, previously undiscovered dragon.
Expect the world of Berk to open up significantly with this series as the creators have confirmed 52 episodes in production. Over the first season alone, we’ll meet at least two new female characters, eight new dragons, and several new islands and locations as Hiccup and the gang spread out and explore the archipelago. (The creators also confirmed that 7-8 new dragons will be introduced each season.)
Since the show is telling a single story (more or less) that is serialized over several seasons, you can also expect a more immersive world and deeper character exploration than is possible in a 90-minute feature film. The writers made a conscious effort not only to make the show enjoyable by both kids and adults but also to make the experience cinematic and not simply a “lesser” version of the films.
That’s more than just a nice PR quote. One look at the animation in Race to the Edge, and it’s obvious that the move to Netflix was decidedly good for Hiccup, Toothless, and the gang. The animation quality, character design, lighting, and everything else are vastly improved over the Cartoon Network shows, and Race to the Edge feels remarkably close to the films–not just in picture quality but also in spirit.
Indeed, most of the voice actors from the films are also back, including Jay Baruchel as Hiccup (who won’t let anyone else but him play the character) and America Ferrara as Astrid.
If you’re a fan of the How to Train Your Dragon films, if you’re a fan of the franchise, then you’ll be a fan of Race to the Edge.
If you haven’t seen the second film or the previous shows, you’ll be fine. There’s nothing here that requires either as prerequisites (but the creators have dropped in various Easter eggs for more hardcore fans).
If you haven’t even seen the first film, I’d wager that you’ll still be entertained. The writers do a good job of bringing the viewer up to speed quickly and clearly telling us what we need to know. Believe it or not, one of the other bloggers who was at Dreamworks last week hadn’t seen anything from the Dragons franchise, and she understood the first two episodes (what was screened for us) just fine. And you’ll be fine too.
Make a date with Netflix this summer, and take a ride on Toothless!