Australian Council on Children and the Media

How to Train your Dragon

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Not recommended under 8, PG to 13 (Violence and scary scenes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for How to Train your Dragon
  • a review of How to Train your Dragon completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 25 March 2010.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 8 Not recommended due to violence and scary scenes
Children aged 8-13 Parental guidance recommended due to violence and scary scenes.
Children over the age of 13 OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: How to Train your Dragon
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild fantasy violence
Length 98 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Young Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) dreams of being a true Viking, killing dragons and defending his people. His father Stoick (Gerard Butler) is the leader of the Vikings. He is the strongest and most fearless of them all, while Hiccup is a scrawny youth who feels he will never be worthy of his father’s attention or praise.

Hiccup’s life changes when tries out one of the inventions he has been working on and manages to take down a  Night Fury, the one dragon that has never been seen and that is believed to be the most dangerous of all. No one believes him when he tells them what he has done, but when his father goes off with a fleet of ships in search of the dragon’s nest Hiccup sets off to find the dragon that fell from the sky. On the brink of giving up, Hiccup stumbles across the trapped and injured creature that is more magnificent and terrifying than anything he has ever imagined.

When faced with the chance to kill the dragon Hiccup finds that he cannot. Instead he slowly befriends the creature, whom he calls Toothless. When Hiccup discovers that Toothless cannot fly he fashions a prosthetic tail, teaches Toothless to fly again and, in the process, discovers that everything his people know about dragons is wrong.

Hiccup begins to win the respect of the Viking village as they watch him control dragons with the little tricks he has learned. More importantly he begins to get noticed by Astrid (America Ferrera) who is an aspiring dragon slayer on whom he has a huge crush.

Stoick is furious when he learns that his son will not kill dragons and launches a mammoth attack on the dragon’s lair. Hiccup and Toothless now have to show the villagers, and also the dragons, what can be accomplished by simply working together.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Cruelty to animals, family breakdown.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • Dragons attack a Viking village, destroying everything they can. The Vikings retaliate trying to kill as many dragons as possible meanwhile swords are clashing and houses are exploding.
  • It is said that Stoick killed a dragon when he was just a baby by snapping off its head.
  • Hiccup’s invention backfires and knocks out one of the Vikings.
  • Hiccup is chased by a dragon that almost sets him on fire and eats him.
  • Hiccup shoots a cannon-like apparatus at a Night Fury and hits him. The dragon falls from the sky.
  • Hiccup holds a dagger over the downed dragon and tells him that he is going to kill him.
  • Toothless (the Night Fury) jumps onto him with a terrible scream and then flies away.
  • A group of youths are thrown together to learn to fight dragons. There is much running, screaming, bashing, hiding, throwing, hitting, dodging fire and shoving.
  • Hiccup reads a book on dragons and all of the information is heinous and dreadful. They have names like Bone-napper and Whispering Death. Some spray acid, other set themselves on fire, some turn their victims inside out.  All are to be killed on sight.
  • The Viking Flag depicts a dragon with two swords thrust through its body.
  • One dragon blasts spikes at a child.
  • Astrid punches Hiccup.
  • A huge dragon eats whole, live animals.
  • The Vikings fire rocks into the dragon’s lair with a catapult. A huge dragon comes to attack them, eating people and burning the catapults.
  • Astrid is almost eaten by a dragon.
  • Hiccup and Toothless try to kill a huge dragon who is also trying to kill them. They burn holes in his wings but are then struck by fire themselves. Hiccup is knocked unconscious and loses part of his leg in the battle.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • The dragons are depicted as fearsome and deadly creatures throughout most of the film. Their menacing appearances may frighten some younger viewers, especially after the opening scenes in which they are furiously attacking a village, burning and destroying everything they can. There is one dragon that bursts into flame before advancing on Stoick, his appearance was especially alarming.
  • When Hiccup finds the Night Fury he decides to kill it. It is trapped, injured and helpless and Hiccup stands over it with a dagger trying to make himself plunge it into the dragon’s body. Their eyes meet and he can’t do it. Instead he cuts the dragon free and immediately it pounces on him, pinning his head between its claws as if about to kill him. Hiccup is completely terrified. The dragon releases a horrifying scream before dashing away and Hiccup faints.
  • Hiccup fashions a tail for Toothless and tries to teach him to fly. They have a rocky start and some trouble when they get into the air. Hiccup falls out of the safety harness and is plummeting out of control towards the earth. Toothless has tail troubles and is unable to help until the last possible second. They pull out of the dive and whiz in between rocky islands and caves at breakneck speed. The scene is pretty intense.
  • Hiccup is meant to kill the dragon that sets itself on fire, but he refuses and is about to show the people there is another way when the dragon gets spooked and begins to attack. Toothless comes to Hiccups aid, only to be captured and taken away by Stoick who plans to use Toothless to find the dragon’s nest. Hiccup is devastated as he watches his father chain and subdue his friend. He launches a plan to save him and is nearly killed along with Toothless when they are knocked overboard into the water and Hiccup is unable to break the chains that bind Toothless. The scene is fairly suspenseful until Stoick comes to the rescue and saves them both.
  • A huge dinosaur-like dragon bursts out of the mountain, attempting to destroy everything in its path. It eats Vikings, burns their ships and tries to kill Toothless and Hiccup who draw it up and away from everyone else. There is an all-out battle in the sky between the two friends and a creature that could annihilate them both. The scene is very suspenseful and very dramatic. It appears that Toothless and Hiccup have won by destroying the dragon’s wings, but then something happens to Toothless’ tail and they plummet to earth. The last thing we see of Hiccup is that he is falling into a wall of fire.
  • Stoick locates Toothless’ limp form lying on the ground but Hiccup is nowhere to be found. Toothless is injured, but alive and Stoick is devastated by the loss of his son. While assuming the worst Stoick thanks Toothless for his efforts to help them and apologizes for all he has done. In response Toothless unfurls a wing to reveal an injured and unconscious Hiccup. He is alive, but he has lost a leg in the battle and must come to terms with that when he awakes.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group may also be disturbed by some of the above-mentioned scenes.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Children in this age group may also be disturbed by some of the above-mentioned scenes.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Children in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this film.

Product placement

None of concern

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • One of the guys in the special training class tries to come on to Astrid making suggestions such as, “I’ve got a basement room…want to come and see it?”
  • Astrid falls on Hiccup while fighting a dragon. She lies on top of him for a second and someone calls out “Love on the Battlefield.”

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • Astrid wears a tight top throughout the film and is shown in a sexy pose while Hiccup ogles her from afar.

Use of substances

None of concern

Coarse language

There is some name calling in the film including “idiot,” “devil,” “son of a…,” “useless reptile” and “butt elf”. The phrase “All hell is gonna break loose” is used once.

In a nutshell

How to Train your Dragon is a computer generated animated adventure featuring fantastic special effects, especially in relation to the facial expressions and personalities of the dragons. The plot is predictable yet intriguing and, while the violent content limits its suitability for younger viewers it is certainly a film that families with older children can enjoy together.

The main messages from this movie are

  • to be positive and focus on what you can do, not at what you can’t
  • to be true to yourself and to be willing to see things that others cannot, even when they appear impossible.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • developing a sense of justice
  • mercy and compassion
  • ingenuity and creativity
  • tolerance and understanding

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • parents not listening to their children
  • going off on your own without anyone knowing where you are
  • taking the path less travelled.

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