HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON LIVE SPECTACULAR
Fire-spouting dragons that weigh as much as cars will swoop into Worcester this week.
The dragons are the animatronic stars of DreamWorks’ “How to Train Your Dragon Live Spectacular,” which comes to the DCU Center Wednesday through July 15. Adapted from the 3-D animated children’s movie “How to Train Your Dragon,” the show features 23 dragons that roam and fly alongside a human cast of actors, dancers, and acrobats.
Rarmian Newton, 18, plays the central role of Hiccup, a young Viking who befriends a black-winged dragon named Toothless. Newton, who has starred in “Billy Elliot: The Musical” in his native Australia, said he feels as if he’s riding a real dragon whenever he soars through the air on Toothless’s back.
“If I could share that role and let everyone in that audience have a go at flying that dragon, it would be the first thing I do,” he said from Pennsylvania, the first stop on the show’s North American tour.
Whenever Toothless grins and growls, Newton said, it’s easy to forget the creature isn’t alive. Before rehearsals, he will often greet Toothless as if he is a real pet.
“I’ll go up to him and be like, ‘Hey, Toothless, I’ve missed you.’ And then two seconds later I have to remind myself that this is a robot,” said Newton, who splits the role of Hiccup with Riley Miner.
The dragons are the handiwork of the Creature Technology Co. , the animatronics arm of Global Creatures, the Australian entertainment group that developed the arena show “Walking With Dinosaurs.” It took more than two years to create a dozen dragon species that travel up to 20 miles per hour, have wingspans of 46 feet, weigh as much as 2.6 tons, and require three or four people to operate each one.
With names such as Night Fury and Gronckle, the dragons are brought to life by a team of puppeteers and animatronics operators. Each land-based dragon has one driver who moves the creature around the arena, while puppeteers control the dragon’s vocals and movements, such as the swish of a tail. A flight-track system weighing more than 28 tons propels the dragons through the air.
“The challenge of making the film come to the stage is [giving] the audience what they loved about the film, but at the same time, you have to create a new experience for them,” Global Creatures CEO Carmen Pavlovic said.
Both the movie and the live show are based on Cressida Cowell’s book, the first in her “How to Train Your Dragon” series.
In the tale, the dragon Toothless teaches the boy Hiccup that dragons are not so terrifying after all. An epic series of events unfolds, in which Hiccup must prove to his friends and family that the dragons are not their true enemy.
For Creature Technology Co., Pavlovic said, the attraction to the project was “the opportunity to combine the high-end technology [it] developed with a story that had real emotion and heart.”
That technology includes nine movie screens and 20,000 feet of digital projection, all aimed at creating an immersive experience for the audience. Spectators watch Hiccup jump across mountains, dodge fireballs, and sink into the ocean.
The show, which has already toured Australia and New Zealand, will travel to 29 cities across the United States and Canada. Worcester is the third North American stop.
As for Newton, he said he wishes he could have a pet like Toothless, even if the dragon destroyed the house with fireballs.
“One day when this technology becomes standard,” Newton said, “maybe everyone will have their own animatronic dragon.”
A guy can dream, anyway.