Think of all the nostalgic animated movies you watched when you were young. It could be from Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks, and the list goes on. Our childhood is essentially built upon the movies that we watched when we were young.
Now, what does a good movie opening bring to an audience? Some may say an opening needs to be eye-catching and attention-grabbing. Others may say that it needs to introduce the audience to what’s to come. Regardless of how popular a movie may be, a good movie opening consists of a few MAJOR aspects that need to be accounted for. In more ways than one, an opening establishes the fundamental components of the movie itself. The establishment of the world (in which the film takes place) and the characters are crucial, followed by a kickstart to the plot, getting the story rolling. An opening needs to grasp the audience’s attention, intriguing them to dive deeper into the narrative of the movie.
There is one film that takes into consideration all of these well-thought-out factors: How To Train Your Dragon. This simply phenomenal movie, with its brilliant worldbuilding and storytelling, masterclass theme writing, stunning character and sound designs, and without a doubt, one of the best soundtracks and animations of all time, manages to execute its opening perfectly. In the very first scene, the first 7 minutes of the entire movie, this film instantly hooks the audience in, complimented with narration by Hiccup. This sequence introduces the world and backstory, regarding Berk and the situation between Vikings and dragons. Scene by scene, we get introduced to each and every important character, as well as Hiccup’s daily routine before embarking on his journey. How to Train Your Dragon truly establishes the opening remarkably, as it takes a simple story and makes it captivating to watch.
How to Train Your Dragon excels at developing an opening to its film and soundtrack. One of the reasons why it is so fascinating is the way John Powell is capable of musically establishing each and every one of the themes utilized throughout the film to guide the story (Vikings, Hiccup, Stoick, Astrid, Teenagers, and Dragons). How to Train Your Dragon successfully, concisely, and efficiently informs the audience of the necessary information they need to know by setting its own starting point, as well as who and what are the significant aspects of the film. Such consists of the protagonist, antagonist, population, driving cause, and the narrative environment (each of the characters and main ideas). The entire opening essentially creates the very themes that come back later throughout the film. This allows audiences to not only be encapsulated by the opening scene, but able to visually “see and notice” the different characters, events, and symbols that are reappearing later on in the movie. One can argue that the strength of the movie comes solely from the musical and narrative establishment in the opening, as each of the thematic elements/ideas of the film is introduced. All except for one: Toothless’s theme. In doing this, it gives Powell the ability to show the musical development of Toothless as a whole as he becomes more known and familiar to the Berkians. Undoubtedly, this film’s enthralling nature is entirely built upon the carefully planned events and themes organized in its astonishing opening.
Similarly, the Oscar-winning Japanese animated film, Spirited Away excels at working with scenes where “nothing happens.” In these scenes, viewers are able to recognize the coinciding themes and understand the true meaning and depth behind the movie itself. These scenes comparably manage the themes, symbols, and characters, in correspondence with Chiriro’s personal journey. Along with the soundtrack and animation that perfectly compliments the themes displayed in the film, Spirited Away is famous for making a magical scene seem more realistic. Spirited and How to Train A Dragon are both skilled at accomplishing these feats, especially within the first opening scenes, which then mature as the film progresses.
These captivating scenes and movies continue to make an impact on individuals in their soon future. When we are young, we don’t realize or understand the extent to which any and every experience could affect us in the future. Writer Barry Lopez describes, “Whenever I recall it I am moved…by a sense of responsibility toward children, knowing how acutely I was affected at that moment…The effect, for all I know, has lasted a lifetime.” How to Train Your Dragon, a movie watched by many throughout everyone’s childhood will continuously influence viewers, in any aspect of their lives. And this movie owes its success solely to the one-of-a-kind opening that stems from the amazingly thematic soundtrack, storyboard, and character development that make this movie perfect.