How to Train Your Dragon Beat Sheet
Today’s Beat Sheet of “How to Train Your Dragon” was created by Master Cat! Jose Silerio.
The 4-Q feature, “How to Train Your Dragon,” roared onto the big screen a few weeks ago, and was immediately christened a box-office bonanza. Based on the novel by Cressida Cowell, writers William Davies, Dean DeBlois, and Chris Sanders take an age-old story — a rites of passage tale of a teenage boy trying to fit in — and give it a fresh and modern twist that has delighted and moved audiences young and old around the globe.
Of course, we Cats! are particular champs of this film, as Blake’s involvement in the development of this film was chronicled by writer/director Dean DeBlois in a previous blog. Meow! (Read the L.A. Times review of “How to Train Your Dragon.”)
Let’s beat it out!
Opening Image: The quiet Viking island of Berk comes under attack from marauding dragons, as they steal the village’s sheep. In the midst of this chaos, we meet our hero, Hiccup. He isn’t a typical Viking. In fact, he’s not much of a Viking at all. While Vikings are known for their ferocity, toughness, and fearlessness, Hiccup is known for getting in the way, causing more trouble than they need, and, simply put, being more of a runt.
As the Vikings battle the dragons, Hiccup desperately wants to join the fight, but is constantly rebuked and told to stay indoors.
Theme Stated: Hiccup pleads with Gobbler, the village blacksmith for whom he has apprenticed his entire life, to let him fight so he may leave his mark and change his fortune. But Gobbler bluntly tells Hiccup that he can’t lift a hammer, he can’t swing an axe, he can’t even throw a steel ball. In fact, the only way he’ll ever fight dragons is if he stops “being all of him.” And this will be Hiccup’s dilemma throughout: will he need to change who he is, if he is ever to gain the respect of his fellow Vikings?
Set-Up: The fight escalates when the most feared dragon, a Night Fury, joins the raid. Hiccup sees an opportunity to make his mark! He quickly runs off with his homemade ball-and-net cannon, aims unsurely at the sky, and fires his cannon. Surprisingly, it works! Unfortunately, no one sees Hiccup’s success — except for another dragon. As Hiccup runs for his life, the dragon causes more damage to the village and almost kills Hiccup, if not for the intervention of Stoick — a mountain of a Viking, the village chieftain, and, unfortunately, Hiccup’s dad.
Frustrated and once again left to clean up Hiccup’s mess, Stoick tells Hiccup he will never be a dragon killer.
Faced with the coming winter and dwindling food supply, Stoick rallies his Vikings to once and for all end their war with the dragons by attacking their nest. Stoick talks with Gobbler about his frustrations and fears for Hiccup . He laments that Hiccup simply wasn’t born like other Viking children and his lack of skills — and recklessness — will get him killed one day. Gobbler can only tell Stoick that he can’t protect his son all the time.
Catalyst: Hiccup goes off into the woods and, to his surprise, he finds that he had shot down and injured a Night Fury dragon. However, Hiccup can’t bring himself to kill the dragon, and, instead, cuts him free.
Debate: Hiccup tries to tell Stoick that he was right about him — that he isn’t a dragon killer — but, to Hiccup’s surprise, Stoick tells him that he can train with Gobbler to be a dragon killer.
Break into Two: Hiccup starts his dragon combat training under Gobbler together with a motley group of teenage Vikings. Among them is Astrid, a tomboy, who embodies the Viking toughness and with whom Hiccup is smitten. As Gobbler warns the trainees that dragons always go for the kill, Hiccup wonders why the Night Fury that he released didn’t kill him when it had the chance.
B Story: Returning to the woods, Hiccup finds the dragon trapped in a small canyon, unable to fly away because of a missing tail wing. Hiccup takes a chance and befriends the dragon, which he names Toothless.
Fun & Games: Little by little, Hiccup gains Toothless’ trust. This allows Hiccup to build Toothless an artificial tail wing in order to help him fly again.
As Hiccup spends more time with Toothless, he gains an understanding and appreciation for dragons that no other Viking has had before. Using this new-found knowledge of dragons, Hiccup is able to progress in his dragon combat training, much to the surprise of Gobbler and the others. But Astrid is unconvinced and grows suspicious and jealous of Hiccup’s sudden success.
Hiccup and Toothless’ friendship grows even more as Hiccup builds a saddle that he can use to ride on Toothless, in order to help Toothless control his artificial tail wing and relearn how to fly.
Back in dragon combat classes, tales of Hiccup’s success spread throughout the village. Even Stoick, when he returns from an unsuccessful trip to find the dragons’ nest, is surprised to learn of Hiccup’s sudden fame among the villagers.
Midpoint: Hiccup and Toothless have an extraordinary test flight as they soar through the air. Working together, they climb through the sky higher than they ever have. Exhilarated from their flight and the bond he and Toothless now share, Hiccup tells Toothless,”Everything we’ve known about you guys is wrong.”
Bad Guys Close In: Stoick is so proud of Hiccup that Hiccup can’t tell Stoick the truth: that his Viking skills are because of Toothless and not because of some new-found brawn or courage. On top of that, Hiccup is chosen the winner of the dragon combat training and is honored by being given the chance to make his first dragon kill to celebrate his graduation.
Furious, Astrid follows Hiccup to the woods and discovers his secret. But before she can run off to tell the village, Hiccup takes her on a ride across the evening sky on Toothless to show her that dragons aren’t what they thought they were.
While flying through the sky, they come across another dragon night raid and follow the dragons back to the nest. Despite this amazing discovery — a discovery that Stoick would kill for — they learn that the reason dragons raid the Viking’s stock is to feed a much, much, much larger dragon… one that eats them if they do not bring it food.
Returning to the woods and trying to protect Toothless, Hiccup convinces Astrid not to tell the villagers about the nest. Astrid agrees, and gives Hiccup a punch and a kiss before leaving.
In his final test, instead of killing the dragon, Hiccup lays down his weapons and tries to show the villagers that dragons are not what they think them to be. But Stoick will not have any of it and, in a moment of rage, frightens the dragon. The dragon goes after Hiccup. Sensing Hiccup’s danger, Toothless flies from the canyon and comes to Hiccup’s rescue in front of the entire village. Seeing the Night Fury, the Vikings take Toothless down and capture him.
Trying to explain to Stoick that their perception of dragons is wrong, Hiccup unintentionally tells Stoick where the dragons’ nest is.
All Is Lost: Believing that Hiccup would rather protect the dragons than the Vikings, Stoick disowns Hiccup as his son, and uses the captured Toothless to lead the Vikings into the dragons’ nest.
Dark Night of the Soul: As Hiccup helplessly watches Stoick and his raiding Vikings sail away, Astrid reminds Hiccup why he didn’t kill Toothless when he first captured him — because he’s not like any other Viking. And even if he is the first Viking not to kill a dragon, he is also the first to ride one. Hiccup admits that he saw himself in Toothless.
Break into Three: Hiccup gives Astrid and the other graduates of his class a quick lesson on how to handle and ride dragons.
Finale: As Stoick and his Vikings attack the dragons’ nest, they’re surprised to see the dragons fly away in fear without putting up a fight. But soon they learn why, as the giant dragon reveals itself. Despite their numbers and weapons, they are no match. Stoick orders his Vikings to retreat to a safe place as he tries to distract the giant dragon.
Before the giant dragon can pounce on Stoick, Hiccup and his gang arrive flying on the dragons they trained against. The giant dragon fights back as it sets the ships on fire, including the ship that Toothless is tied to. The ship sinks with Toothless. Hiccup quickly dives into the water to save him. Before Hiccup drowns trying to save Toothless, Stoick dives in and releases Toothless from his bonds.
Reunited, Hiccup and Toothless quickly engage the giant dragon, forcing it to chase them in an aerial battle. Drawing it in close enough, after Toothless’ artificial tail wing is damaged, they defeat the giant dragon in a mighty explosion. Hiccup is knocked unconscious and Toothless flies after him just as they’re engulfed by the giant fireball.
As the smoke clears, Stoick finds only Toothless. Thinking he’s lost Hiccup, he apologizes to the dragon for bringing all this upon them. As he approaches Toothless, the dragon raises its wing to reveal Hiccup protected beneath it. Stoick can only thank Toothless for saving Hiccup.
Final Image: Hiccup wakes up back in his house with Toothless next to him … and an artificial foot. As he walks out of his house, he is surprised to see Vikings and dragons rebuilding the village together in peace. Not believing what he sees, Stoick tells Hiccup that all they needed was a bit of “… all of him.” Hiccup is warmly greeted by Gobbler and his friends – and another punch and kiss from Astrid.
Together with his friends and their dragons, Hiccup flies into the air atop Toothless with Astrid by his side.
Calling all Cats! There is just one day left for you to enter your pitches into the FREE Hollywood VYPE Pitch Contest! Get them in, and make them ROOOOAAARRR!
- Jaime Bengzon
Thanks for beating it out, Jose!
On another note, I thought there was something distinctly feline about Toothless’s body language and vocalization. Then again, that could just be my imagination!
Amazing movie, and like ‘Oneguy’ I used Blake’s beatsheet to follow the beats. My children loved it and were engaged from start to finish – the sign of a compelling story, well told. All the elements were there and it’s testimony to Blake’s incredible knowledge and expertise – his beatsheet works!! The mention of Blake in the credits made this movie doubly special.
Looking forward to the DVD release!!
- Melody Lopez
This movie delivered on the promise of the premise! Poster and Title!!! F&G… amazing to watched Hiccup train a dragon…and arc!!!
I really loved that Blake was a part of its development… remind me that he’s still with us! That’s special.
- Sander de Regt
Hi, I finally got around to watching this film today, but my vote for the midpoint would be where Stoick tells Hiccup he’s proud of him etc. because that’s a false victory if ever I saw one: now Hiccup finally gets his dad’s approval and it’s for all the wrong reasons. That can’t be good.
I love “How to Train Your Dragon” almost as much as I love “Save the Cat.” I think it’s a wonderful example of the beat sheet in action. Can I just gently point out that the blacksmith’s name is Gobber, not Gobbler? Thanks, now I can sleep.
- Dane Hurt
dude…the midpoint is obviously when the A and B stories combine, i.e. when Astrid and Hiccup ride the dragon together and they discover the NEST. he even gets the kiss from the girl a.k.a. “sex at sixty.” brush up on your Snyder dude…
Any thoughts about the genre?
I would call it “Fool Triumphant” with a lot of Buddy Love …
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Just watched this movie Sunday with my family and sat there trying to keep a mental clock going to catch all the beats. I missed some only because I was enjoying the movie so much! Great writing throughout the whole movie.
Thank you for taking the time to beat this one out. Gives me a chance to check my own “notes” against it.