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'How to Train Your Dragon' Opens to Critical Acclaim in China

Chinese film industry observers expect that How to Train Your Dragon’s opening will kick IMAX movie viewing into high gear. From the advanced press reviews from China, and response from the first day of screenings in China, the critics and audience absolutely LOVED this movie.

After my first press junket interview with How to Train Your Dragon directors Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois, and three voice talents Jay Baruchel (Hiccup), America Ferguson (Astrid), and Craig Ferguson (Gobber) in Beverly Hills on March 20, 2010, I was looking forward to news about the film’s China release.

My mom got in touch with Paramount’s China representative in Shanghai soon after my press junket interview in March.  At the end of April, we finally got confirmation of the movie’s China opening day: it is Friday, May 14 (TODAY)!  In China, I heard that the approval process for foreign films could be quite long and sometimes difficult.

How to Train Your Dragon Chinese movie poster.

Paramount invited me to attend the China premiere of How to Train Your Dragon in Beijing as a VIP guest, which was held on May 10 at the Beijing NewFilm Broadway Cinema (北京新影联院线百老汇影院). But considering I had to get my passport renewed in a very short time, prepare and do well for my “Star Test” (the annual school test for elementary students in California) the entire week of May 3-7, my mom and dad suggested that we let it pass this time. We will consider attending China premieres of major Western animations when they happen during the summer.  I am still a 4th grader, school is my top priority.

Chinese actors Re Zhayi, Liu Yuanyuan, and Sun Jian at How to Train Your Dragon China Premiere, Beijing, May 10, 2010 (photo by Yang Yaru).

I thought How to Train Your Dragon would have been an ideal movie for me to attend the first China premiere for, because of my "dragonologist" status, all the exciting activities I enjoyed for this movie, and the symbolic significance of dragons in Chinese culture.  Oh, well, next time… I am invited to attend the Beijing International Children & Youth Film Festival this summer with my mom as VIP guests, so stay tuned.

China Film Corporation spokes person Weng Li at Dragon China Premiere (photo by Yang Yaru).

The Chinese translation for the movie How to Train Your Dragon is “Xun Long Gao Shuo,” meaning “Master Dragon Trainer.” The film is shown in China in 2D, 3D, IMAX 3D, in English with Chinese subtitles, and dubbed into Chinese, so audiences can take their pick.  

From the advanced press reviews from China, and response from the first day of How to Train Your Dragon screening in China, the critics and audience absolutely LOVED this movie (remember in China it’s 15 hours ahead of our time here in California)!  My mom showed me the Chinese websites.  Critics and moviegoers alike raved about the amazing “true 3-D” effects in the Hiccup/Toothless flying scenes (many thought “Dragon” is as great as “Avatar” in 3-D visual effects, much better than other movies with 2D to 3D conversion). 

Chinese Film critics commented on the design similarity of Toothless with director Chris Sanders’ Stitch from his Disney animation Lilo & Stitch which he co-directed with his Dragon co-director Dean DeBlois.  They observed the difference in style and storytelling of “Dragon” versus other recent DreamWorks animations such as the Shrek series, and Kung-fu Panda.  “’Dragon’ is more similar in style to Disney and Pixar films with rich characters and details, perhaps because the directors came from Disney,” said one Chinese critic.  “In Western culture, dragons are often symbols of evil and tend to get negative portrayal.  The dragons in this film are kind and loveable, and are depicted with rich visual style and positive energy, similar to traditional Chinese dragons, a rarity in Western films.”

“I loved the emotion, humor, visuals, and set design. Every character, action, and emotion is shown with meticulous care.  Highly recommended!” raved one fan.  “I almost cried when Hiccup was in Night Fury’s embrace at the end.  When will we have such exceptional animation made in China?” remarked another viewer.  “Every dragon is adorable.  Great marketing opportunity for peripheral merchandise!”  A female viewer said, “I really want to keep a dragon as a pet after watching this movie.”

Chinese Film experts believe “Dragon” will be a blockbuster movie in China, leading the 3D and IMAX 3D markets.  Chinese audience embraced the storyline with the unusual friendship developed between a wimpy teenage boy and an injured and helpless dragon who was fierce yet adorable at different times.Chinese film industry observers expect that How to Train Your Dragon’s opening will kick IMAX movie viewing into high gear.  There are only 20 some IMAX theatres in the entire country of China.  A Chinese company announced recently that it will partner with IMAX to build 20 IMAX movie theatres in the next few years in China to meet the future demand.