Dreamworks’ ‘Dragon’ Set to Fly Again

— by ROB COX —

Dreamworks Animation is planning a sequel to its surprise hit “How to Train Your Dragon.”

“Dragon” is a “surprise hit” because its opening weekend gross fell well short of expectations (despite placing first at the North American box office that weekend with over $43 million). Opening weekend is typically when big-studio releases earn the majority of their profits, making that three-day period the most critical predictor of financial success.

A funny thing happened on the way to pop-culture obscurity, though: word of mouth and wildly-favorable critical reception combined to make “Dragon” one of DWA’s biggest hits. To date, the film has grossed over $192 million domestically, adding another $196 million internationally. It’s remained in the top five throughout its six-week run, never falling lower than No. 3 and holding the top spot twice. Pretty impressive for a “disappointment.”

So, just in time for “Shrek’s” curtain call, “Dragon” now goes from also-ran to animated franchise. DWA’s “dragon milking,” however, doesn’t end there. There are also plans for a live arena show, an animated TV series and, most intriguingly of all, an online virtual world. Doubtless, that online world — whatever it looks like — will include some form of multiplayer role-playing game.

I’ve seen “Dragon” myself and found it fairly entertaining — as family films go. It wasn’t as funny as I’d imagined and neither would I rank it among the best animated films of all time. I can easily see it as the basis for a franchise, though; I can see the concept being improved upon with subsequent films, too.

The other stuff — the TV series, the arena show, the virtual world — might prove a bit much taken on the whole. As such, DWA will need to be mindful of over saturation. Then again, it’s not like major studios are predisposed to over marketing hit properties, is it?

“Dragon” may eventually face a backlash, but, all in all, this fledgling franchise is off to a solid start. The sequel is projected for a late-2013 release. In the meantime, “How to Train Your Dragon” is playing at a multiplex near you.

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