How to Train Your Dragon – Kid’s Book – Review

On April 6, 2010

"How to Train Your Dragon" is the latest CGI animated film from DreamWorks Animation, the studio that brought us the first ever winner of the Best Animated Feature Oscar, "Shrek," as well as the forgettable bee movie, "Bee Movie." The film, based on the children’s book by British author Cressida Cowell, boasts of breathtaking 3D animation and a universally appealing story about the special bond between man and animal. But does "How to Train Your Dragon" have what it takes to join "Shrek" as one of the studio’s best reviewed films, or will it unfortunately end up like "Bee Movie"? Well, as someone who’s seen the film at least twice, I’m happy to report that it is arguably DreamWorks Animation’s best film in quite a long time.

DreamWorks, in partnership with several developers, is also bringing their new critically acclaimed film from the big screen to the three-and-a-half-inch screen of our favorite mobile device. With iPhone apps such as 3D games and storybooks now available, iPhone and iPod touch users can easily relive the magic of "How to Train Your Dragon." One such app is the How to Train Your Dragon – Kid’s Book from iStoryTime, a company that specializes in developing storybooks optimized for the iPhone.

How to Train Your Dragon – Kid’s Book is based on the film and not on Cressida Cowell’s bestselling book, but that certainly doesn’t make it any less of a good read. The app is, as expected, geared towards children, and as such contains only a sort of synopsis of the storyline of the film. It took me all of fifteen minutes to finish the story, but it was fifteen minutes well spent. The app consists of several pages of CGI pictures taken from the film or created especially for the app. These pages are provided with captions that in effect tell the story of "How to Train Your Dragon." You have the option to have these captions read by a narrator (with actor Jay Baruchel providing the voice of the lead character) or to turn off the voice-over narration, the option to have the captions highlighted a la karaoke in sync with the narration or to turn off the text highlighting, and the option to have the pages automatically turned or to manually turn the pages by swiping from right to left (or vice versa) at your own pace.

This app is actually quite simplistic, but the excellent summarization of the film, the topnotch narration, the brilliant still images, and the intuitive page-turning method all make up for it. Indeed, I am happy to report that How to Train Your Dragon – Kid’s Book is an excellent iPhone equivalent of the film it’s based on.

Quick Take

Value: Medium
Would I Buy Again: Yes.
Learning Curve: Zero.
Who Is It For: Fans of the film and/or the original book, and people who like to read good stories to their little ‘uns on their iPhones.
What I Like: The narration is pitch-perfect and the pictures are well chosen.
What I Don’t: No option to pause in the middle of reading or to have the storybook open on the page where I left it off.
Final Statement: In keeping with the comparisons with DreamWorks’ best and worst film, I have to say that How to Train Your Dragon – Kid’s Book is almost as good an app as "Shrek" is as a movie, and it’s definitely no "Bee" app.