Glisten Effect
Editorial Reviews
Scoreboard Forum
Viewer Ratings
     1. Black Widow
    2. Boss Baby: Family Business
   3. The Tomorrow War
  4. Luca
 5. F9: The Fast Saga
6. The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard
         1. Alice in Wonderland
        2. Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker
       3. LOTR: Fellowship of the Ring
      4. Solo: A Star Wars Story
     5. Justice League
    6. Gladiator
   7. Harry Potter: Sorcerer's Stone
  8. Spider-Man
 9. How to Train Your Dragon
10. Alice Through the Looking Glass
Home Page
How to Train Your Dragon
Album Cover Art
2010 Varèse
2020 Varèse
Album 2 Cover Art
Composed and Produced by:

Co-Orchestrated and Conducted by:
Gavin Greenaway

Co-Orchestrated and/or Arranged by:
John Ashton Thomas
James McKee Smith
Paul Mounsey
Dominic Lewis
Michael Mollo
Dave Metzger
Germaine Franco
Jessica Wells
Stefan Schneider
Labels Icon
Varèse Sarabande
(March 23rd, 2010)

Varèse Sarabande
(Deluxe Edition)
(October 2nd, 2020)
Availability Icon
The 2010 Varèse album was a regular U.S. release. The 2020 Varèse "Deluxe Edition" is limited to 3,000 copies and available initially for $25 through soundtrack specialty outlets. It was also made available digitally for $15.
Nominated for an Academy Award and a BAFTA Award.
Also See Icon

Decorative Nonsense
(inverts site colors)

Availability | Awards | Viewer Ratings | Comments | Audio & Track Listings | Notes
Buy it... if you have always appreciated John Powell's dense and rowdy orchestral style for animated films and seek the opening entry in his resoundingly exciting and thematically rich trio of award-winning scores for this concept.

Avoid it... if you become easily overwhelmed by bombastic fantasy music of immense size or cannot accept hearing Celtic specialty instrumentation at the forefront of a score meant for Vikings.
Review Icon
WRITTEN 4/10/10, REVISED 4/26/21
How to Train Your Dragon: (John Powell) The first of author Cressida Cowell's novels about young, medieval Viking Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III was loosely translated by DreamWorks into an early 2010 film of 3D technology and the same name. After a series of ridiculously juvenile animated topics from that studio throughout the 2000's, How to Train Your Dragon is an epic fantasy adventure aimed at children and adults while carrying moral themes of tolerance and family bonding. It follows the unlikely development of a friendship between a nerdy Viking teenager and an injured dragon he was meant to kill as part of his culture's ongoing feud with the beasts. Through his tender relationship with the dragon, he not only seeks to bring peace between the species but also earn the respect of his father, the Viking chief, and the young female warrior of his liking. An absence of much stupid humor, a plot with actual meaning, an effective cast, and a spectacular, completely computer-generated visual design combined to lead How to Train Your Dragon not only to overwhelmingly positive critical reviews but also surprisingly robust earnings. The film blew past its $150 million budget in grosses within the first two weeks of theatrical release and the concept's viability as a feature franchise was affirmed four years later. The trilogy of How to Train Your Dragon films stands among the best narrative arcs in animation history, and its soundtracks have played a vital role in cementing its legacy. The music in DreamWorks' 19 previous films had traditionally been the domain of Hans Zimmer and, by association, his Remote Control army of clones. John Powell, one of the two most successful graduates of Zimmer's organization, has been involved with several of these productions but always sharing credit. Zimmer long praised Powell's abilities, on more than one occasion asserting that Powell is the far superior composer between them, and it was refreshing to finally see Powell helm a DreamWorks production on his own. That doesn't mean, however, that there isn't an army of assistants, orchestrators, arrangers, specialty performers, and engineers that dwarfs the usual ensemble for the crew on the other side of the glass from the orchestra.

Powell had already attracted so many collaborators that questions arose about how much of the success of a project like How to Train Your Dragon should be credited to the primary composer, though such concerns were eventually assuaged as he came to dominate the 2010's with the quality of his solo work. What the score for How to Train Your Dragon proved was that Zimmer was indeed correct about Powell's superiority when you take into consideration the incredible density with which he writes. Among those that used Zimmer's friendship to spawn their own careers, Powell continues to write music that is, on a technical level, more impressive in its orchestral mastery than any other. A veteran of almost a dozen animated projects since the late 1990's, Powell had always provided workmanlike music for the genre. Ranging from proficient to outstanding in his tackling of these assignments with personality and style, these scores are often hyperactive and abundant in the creativity department. Usually, however, they lack focus and a consistent flow, likely by necessity. You have to go back to his collaborative efforts for Antz and Chicken Run to be able to assemble listening experiences that tell a fluid narrative on album and feature highlights of significant length. Building off of the majesty and greater continuity exhibited in X-Men: The Last Stand, however, Powell finally managed to create a well-rounded and more easily digestible variation on his typical mannerisms for How to Train Your Dragon. He knew that this assignment would be a watershed event for his career, in part because of the high quality of the film, and he sought to take his base sound to the next level. The score's employment of both rhythm and brass layers will be extremely familiar for any enthusiast of Powell's music, as will some of the progressions in the composer's many themes for the film. A sense of exuberance in the score's lighthearted portions is especially reflective of the composer's previous works, as is his affinity for using rhythm-setters of light percussion to carry the momentum of a cue. But the film's longer narrative format, absent the lurching, unwieldy slapstick nonsense and quick cuts that had plagued DreamWorks films for years, allowed the composer to explore themes with long lines and formal interludes and develop them throughout the score in satisfactory fashion.

While the instrumentation of How to Train Your Dragon remains a point of moderate controversy given that it emphasizes Celtic tones rather than Nordic ones, Powell managed to compensate for misgivings about the ethnicity of the work by concocting a really strong set of themes for the picture. He not only establishes these identities tactfully but he manipulates them in ways that James Horner masterfully accomplished in his animation projects of the late 1980's and early 1990's, twisting them with altered major/minor modes, slower tempos, and excruciating performance emphasis. While none of the ideas truly defined itself immediately as the "main" theme of the first film, a byproduct of the quantity of themes and the fact that the actual main theme has two distinct parts each qualifying as its own representation of the concept as a whole, Powell eventually came to clarify them in the sequels. There are eight consistently applied themes in How to Train Your Dragon, the main one's two parts potentially considered separate and thus making nine. The suite of primary themes for Hiccup and his dragon, Toothless, starts with a descending arpeggio figure that comes to represent their lasting friendship; for some listeners, this motif may be the most memorable tune from the score. It forms the cyclical foundation of the popular "Forbidden Friendship" cue, the "don't screw it up" music-only moment in the film that Powell tackled near the end of his work. The idea originates from a tentative statement near the start of "Training Out There" before taking on dramatic minor-mode duties later in the cue. It finally enjoys the exuberance of its future in "See You Tomorrow" and "Test Drive," the latter allowing the idea to fully mature. Powell wraps back to this bonding motif in "Where's Hiccup" and "Coming Back Around." By then, the composer has explored his main theme for How to Train Your Dragon, the two-part identity doubling for the concept of flight. The two phrases of this theme often operate independently but serve the same purpose, one loftier by design while the other more muscular and anthemic. The primary phrase opens the score in "This is Berk" and wafts through "Wounded" before finally erupting with joy under the friendship theme early in "See You Tomorrow" and throughout "Test Drive." It likewise exudes heroics throughout "Where's Hiccup" and "Coming Back Around."

The main theme's secondary phrase is the most simplistic idea in the How to Train Your Dragon franchise and eventually becomes its dominant anthemic identity over the course of the trilogy. Explored softly near the outset of "This is Berk," this theme bursts to the forefront at 0:39 into "Test Drive" and finally ditches its interlude placement by 2:00 into that cue. The end of its melody soothingly closes out "Not So Fireproof," and it becomes a choral hymn at 0:35 into "Ready/Confront." It returns to interlude duties for the primary phrase of the main theme in "Where's Hiccup" and "Coming Back Around," the former on delicate solo piano. These themes become Powell's standard send-off for the finales of these scores, the descending friendship motif always in tow. The two-part theme of redemption and excitement fights for air time with a formidable foe in the first score that eventually loses the battle by the third film's score: the Berk theme that Powell associates with Viking mischief. This rollicking identity is heard both in tender and monumental modes in the first 90 seconds of the score, rolling through "This is Berk" with all the spirit Powell can muster from Chicken Run for the introduction of the Vikings' island. It is typically the opener for these films and embodies a sense of high adventure that takes buoyant progressions from the swashbuckling days of Erich Wolfgang Korngold and accelerates them to a hyperactive pace and frenzied depth of instrumentation. Often conveying a spirited Scottish flavor, this theme is as memorable in its enthusiastic conveyance as it is in its repetitive insertion to represent the story's overarching adventurous personality. Rowdy explosions of the theme persist at 0:50 into "Anybody See That?," at 2:02 into "New Tail" (where Powell just this one time debut's the idea's awesome interlude sequence that gloriously returns in "Dragon Racing" in the next score), and throughout "This Time For Sure" and "Astrid Goes for a Spin." Sometimes serving as a formal interlude to the Berk theme is the Viking fighting theme alternately representing Hiccup's father. It proudly stomps at 1:27 and 1:49 into "This is Berk" before backing off the menacing tones later in that cue and turning mysterious in "War Room." The idea dominates early cues but diminishes in presence thereafter, occupying portions of "Anybody See That?," "Training Out There," and the outset of "Dragon Training." It does reassert itself at 0:27 into "This Time for Sure" amongst the brighter Berk material.

Ratings Icon
Average: 4.18 Stars
***** 1,348 5 Stars
**** 498 4 Stars
*** 259 3 Stars
** 155 2 Stars
* 113 1 Stars
  (View results for all titles)

Comments Icon
Read All Start New Thread Search Comments
How Not to Release a Score on Vinyl
RedTower - August 31, 2021, at 6:40 p.m.
1 comment  (76 views)
Nothing short of a masterpiece
A Loony Trombonist - April 29, 2021, at 8:56 a.m.
1 comment  (102 views)
An Alternate Review from SOUNDTRACKBEAT.COM
K.S. - March 12, 2017, at 6:59 a.m.
1 comment  (810 views)
Alternative review at Movie Wave
Southall - May 19, 2014, at 1:05 p.m.
1 comment  (1475 views)
FVSR Reviews How To Train Your Dragon
Brendan Cochran - March 20, 2014, at 12:52 p.m.
1 comment  (1366 views)
How to Train Your Dragon- Brilliant
Deane Nelson - May 6, 2012, at 2:12 p.m.
1 comment  (1998 views)

Track Listings Icon
Audio Samples   ▼
2010 Varèse Album Tracks   ▼Total Time: 72:06
• 1. This is Berk (4:12)
• 2. Dragon Battle (1:55)
• 3. The Downed Dragon (4:16)
• 4. Dragon Training (3:10)
• 5. Wounded (1:25)
• 6. The Dragon Book (2:22)
• 7. Focus, Hiccup! (2:05)
• 8. Forbidden Friendship (4:10)
• 9. New Tail (2:47)
• 10. See You Tomorrow (3:52)
• 11. Test Drive (2:35)
• 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)
• 16. Dragon's Den (2:28)
• 17. The Cove (1:10)
• 18. The Kill Ring (4:27)
• 19. Ready the Ships (5:13)
• 20. Battling the Green Death (6:18)
• 21. Counter Attack (3:02)
• 22. Where's Hiccup? (2:43)
• 23. Coming Back Around (2:49)
• 24. Sticks & Stones* (4:08)
• 25. The Vikings Have Their Tea (2:04)
* written and performed by Jonsi
2020 Varèse Album Tracks   ▼Total Time: 105:26

Notes Icon
The insert of the 2010 Varèse album includes lyrics to the song and extensive credits but no extra information about the score or film. That of the 2020 product contains extensive details about both.
Copyright © 2010-2021, Filmtracks Publications. All rights reserved.
The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten
or redistributed without the prior written authority of Christian Clemmensen at Filmtracks Publications. All artwork and sound clips from How to Train Your Dragon are Copyright © 2010, 2020, Varèse Sarabande, Varèse Sarabande (Deluxe Edition) and cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 4/10/10 and last updated 4/26/21.
Reviews Preload Scoreboard decoration Ratings Preload Composers Preload Awards Preload Home Preload Search Preload