How to Train your Dragon

John Powell

" How to score your Computer Animated movie "

Written by Thomas Glorieux - Review of the regular release

Computer animated movies continue to rain from the sky, and after meatballs come apparently fire breathing dragons. Dreamworks' How to Train your Dragon is the next fireproof example that today, computer animation is hot. Powerful enough to sustain a volcanic eruption, there is no dust powerful enough to knock these dragons out of the sky, because apart from critical acclaim, How to Train your Dragon is also a huge financial box office winner. Part of this invincible strategy comes from computer animated crack John Powell's exhilarating score.

How to Train your Dragon is John Powell's 11th score for a computer animated motion picture, and it is fair to say he has gotten pretty good at it. Sadly the last couple of results weren't exactly good listening experiences, because Ice Age 3 and Horton had a couple of questionable productions flaws (no matter the brief and stunning material that was discovered during it). Luckily, I can say that none of those faults return in How to Train your Dragon. And it will especially mesmerize you completely, once you discover how amazingly it works inside an already amazing film.

The score opens as it opens all the time, with theme statements. As always, John Powell knows how to construct themes and how to make em memorable. In "This is Berk" we discover 3 themes, the opening theme which will become the flying theme, the main Viking theme which explodes with a choral menace on CD, only to be brought to a halt due to the sudden appearance of the romantic theme. And then I'm not even talking about the main Viking theme variations throughout the adventurous ruckus.

The themes are the driving force of this score's most powerful moments. Or it's because the Viking theme ignites the relentlessness of training in "Dragon Training", or it's because it brings forward the powerful "New Tail" through a somewhat Norwegian sound. Yet all that fades when we discover the worth of flying once Toothless takes Hiccup up on a wonderful soaring ride, this with the flying theme's most brilliant version in "Test Drive".

Luckily How to Train your Dragon isn't all blazing heroics. John Powell is also clever enough to leave some room for growth. In "Wounded" and "The Dragon Book" mystery is heightened through the use of a solo vocal, in the absolutely brilliant "Forbidden Friendship" various instruments create a foundation for the flying theme to build on, and in "Romantic Flight" goosebumps are felt through the use of the romantic love theme. There is definitely room for everything.

Yet when it comes down to actual adventurous battle music, How to Train your Dragon doesn't stay in the background too. In "Dragon Battle" and "Focus, Hiccup!" we already received a part of that bombast, after the lovely "The Cove" it just continues to explode. "The Kill Ring" is relentless music at it's best and "Counter Attack" tries to counterbalance it through the Viking variation theme and a lot of choral fanfares.

The crowning achievement however is "Battling the Green Death". This is a 6 minute firecracker that gets an encore of upbeat adventure music, taking the overkill button even up a notch. Luckily this is all brought forward in a too upbeat manner that it kinda makes fun of itself (a bit like the horde sequence music of Horner in Avatar). The track luckily knows how to silence your doubt when bringing forth powerful flying theme statements during the second part of the track. And trust me, it underscores one of the most amazing visual scenes ever created.

The lovely finale leaves room for that flying theme to be stated even more surprising than ever before. Or how else would you mention the absolutely surprising piano version in "Where's Hiccup?", after it has just delivered us its biggest performance yet! The soaring versions during "Coming Back Around" are just a reminder of just how strong this theme actually is.

I've heard a lot of people mentioning that How to Train your Dragon is worthy to be put alongside Chicken Run when it comes down to computer animated music. Perhaps that is stretching it a bit, but I have to agree that once you've seen it in the context of the film, there is no denying that it is bloody brilliant whatsoever. This because goosebumps will appear once you experience "Forbidden Friendship", "Test Flight", "Romantic Flight" and "Battling the Green Death" in the initial scene. Because then High Definition and groundbreaking music suddenly become the reason why you live for film(music) in the first place. So I advice you to see it for yourself if you ever think How to Train your Dragon isn't cutting it.


1. This is Berk (4.12) Excellent track
2. Dragon Battle (1.55)
3. The Downed Dragon (4.16)
4. Dragon Training (3.11)
5. Wounded (1.25)
6. The Dragon Book (2.22)
7. Focus, Hiccup! (2.05)
8. Forbidden Friendship (4.10) Excellent track
9. New Tail (2.47)
10. See You Tomorrow (3.52)
11. Test Drive (2.36) Excellent track
12. Not So Fireproof (1.11)
13. This Time for Sure (0.47)
14. Astrid Goes for a Spin (0.45)
15. Romantic Flight (1.55) Excellent track
16. Dragon's Den (2.28)
17. The Cove (1.10)
18. The Kill Ring (4.27)
19. Ready the Ships (5.14)
20. Battling the Green Death (6.18) Excellent track
21. Counter Attack (3.05)
22. Where's Hiccup? (2.44) Excellent track
23. Coming Back Around (2.49) Excellent track
24. Sticks & Stones: Jónsi (4.08)
25. The Vikings Have Their Tea (2.04)

Total Length: 71.49
(click to rate this score)  
(total of 111 votes - average 4.77/5)

Released by

Varèse Sarabande 302 067 012 2 (regular release 2010)

Conducted by

Gavin Greenaway

Orchestrations by

Daniel Baker, Dave Metzger, Angus O'Sullivan, John Ashton Thomas & Jessica Wells