Dreamworks Readies 'How to Train Your Dragon,' 'Kung Fu Panda' Live Shows for 2012


‘Dragon’ rehearsals get under way down under, 'Panda’ to premiere in China.

SYDNEY -- DreamWorks Animation’s live theatre division, Dreamworks Theatricals, might be the company’s youngest division but its got plenty of well, bite.

After traversing the globe to promote holiday feature Puss In Boots, DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg spent Tuesday at Sydney’s Fox Studios meeting his latest stars, Gronckle and Nadder, the massive 3D animatronics dragons created by Melbourne’s Global Creatures, DreamWorks joint venture partner, for their upcoming live show, the How To Train Your Dragon Arena Spectacular.

Talking to The Hollywood Reporter on the first day of rehearsals for the show, which has its world premiere in Melbourne in March, Katzenberg said it is the most ambitious live arena show of its type – with its aerial acrobatics, martial arts and stunt displays, oversized creatures and pyrotechnics in a Viking village backdrop, it is a style of show normally reserved for the opening of a major sporting event.

“For this type of show its probably the biggest and most ambitious themed arena show that anybody’s ever done before. I think that this will hopefully set a new standard,” Katzenberg told THR. “This is real 3D – its the real thing”

And its part of a long term plan to capitalize on the company’s animated properties.

“While it's a new business, for us it's very important,” he said noting that Dragon is one of two major arena shows opening DreamWorks Theatricals is opening in 2012. Kung Fu Panda: The Arena Spectacular is currently being developed in China and slated to premiere there in Sept. or Oct. Both arena shows will then tour globally, with Dragon hitting the US in July.

Watching the dragons and the cast strut their stuff on sound stage 7, Katzenberg said it was “thrilling” to finally see them, three years after the idea was born for the show.

“We were so excited when we first saw Walking With Dinosaurs and saw this amazing and singularly unique technology that Global Creatures was able to bring dinosaurs to life in an arena setting. That was frankly nothing that I’d ever imagined. Now to see them do that with these dragons, to take then from film and now bring them three-dimensionally, it's extraordinary,” he said.

Certainly Gronckle and Nadder put on a full fire-breathing, roaring display, the first two of 24 dragons in the show to be publicly unveiled, and which will also include the film's hero Toothless, who will fly around the arenas at 30 miles per hour, carrying his "trainer," Hiccup.

Meanwhile the lead human roles of Hiccup and Astrid are shared by two performers: two Australians and two Americans have been cast. They include including the former Australian star of Billy Elliot here, Rarmian Newton, and 17-year-old U.S. dancer Riley Miner who’ll share the role of the Viking boy Hiccup while Astrid will be played by six-time martial arts world champion, Gemma Nguyen, and Australian dancer and acrobat, Sarah McCreanor.

Nigel Jamieson, no stranger to spectacular, having directed portions of the Sydney 2000 Olympics opening ceremony, and the opening and closing ceremonies of the Melbourne Commonwealth Games as well as numerous operas, is directing the show.