DreamWorks breathes fire into arena shows with "Dragon"

Fri Aug 17, 2012 4:59pm EDT
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By Lily Kuo

NEW YORK (Reuters) - To Ray Marino, $374 seemed a small price to pay to see flying dragons, a cast of wisecracking, back-flipping Vikings and the looks of wonder from his children as they watched a live stage show -- not just a movie.

"You get to kind of feel it, rather than just watch it on screen," Marino said at the intermission of "How to Train Your Dragon Live Spectacular," a massive arena show that played recently in New York and is based on the 2010 film from DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc.

DreamWorks, the studio behind the "Shrek" and "Madagascar" film franchises, is transforming its popular family movies into stage productions, extending their product lives in a strategy used successfully by The Walt Disney Co with its "Disney on Ice" arena show and Broadway shows.

Dreamworks teamed up with theater production group Global Creatures -- whose animatronics arm had already made another arena show based on dinosaurs -- and promoter S2BN Entertainment to create the live show.

The response from Marino -- who with his wife surprised their children, ages 7 and 10, with the front-section seats -- is exactly what DreamWorks hopes to get in cities across North America. The show, which recently played at New York's Nassau Coliseum, is now in Montreal. There are plans to continue to other U.S. cities through 2013, and makers of the show hope to tour next in Europe and Asia.

The show, which made its U.S. debut in June, tells of a Viking teenager named Hiccup and his tribe of dragon slayers. It uses 23 animatronically engineered dragon puppets, some with wingspans of up to 46 feet and weighing over 1.6 tons.

The story, in which Hiccup befriends a dragon and ends generations of war between man and fire-breathing beast, is loosely based on a popular children's book by Cressida Cowell and follows the 2010 DreamWorks movie that made nearly $500 million at worldwide box offices.

Action scenes are created through projected animation surrounded by real smoke and columns of fire. Cable-suspended beasts lift off the stage to achieve what the show's makers say may be its best feature, flying dragons.   Continued...

Actors Riley Miner and Gemma Nguyen are shown on the back of the character Toothless from the stage production of Dreamworks "How to Train Your Dragon Live Spectacular" in this publicity photo released to Reuters on August 16, 2012. REUTERS/Todd Kaplan/Handout