Earlier this week I was invited to a private screening of Trolls on the Dreamworks lot. A reunion of the most creative minds at Dreamworks, including directors Mike Mitchell and Walt Dohrn and writers Glenn Berger and Jonathan Aibel, Trolls lives up to its early hype. Dohrn was gracious enough to spend the evening presenting clips of his latest achievement.
If you’re anything like me you don’t really have an attachment to the popular 70’s toy. For me, Trolls were a collection of creepy dolls that decorated my older, much cooler, cousin’s room in the late 90’s. I was instantly enthralled with the look, story, and performances within the film.
So why a Trolls movie?
Zero origin story is what attracted Dorn to Trolls. An established product, easy to sell, and popular across multiple generations from which creators can construct a new fandom is the rarest of Hollywood jems. However, the creators weren’t mad with power. They were aware authenticity would be an important factor for long time fans.
So, they went back to the beginning. Conversing with super fans, the film’s creators discovered hundreds of types of Trolls. They flipped through toy trade magazines, went to museums, anything to learn more about trolls.
But, it was the initial creation that sparked the fire. Thomas Dam made the first troll for his daughter in 1959. He couldn’t afford to buy her a present for Christmas so he carved her a doll. A cute troll, the opposite of every grim fairy tale version so she would not be afraid. That carved piece of wood covered in felt became the most coveted toys of its time.
Therefore, the creative team decided that trolls were going to be all about happiness. The same happiness a father tried to give his daughter. Trolls sing, they dance, they even wear light-up watches that remind them to hug once every hour. King Poppy secured this happiness 20 years ago by getting all of his subjects away from the Burgen – foul beasties who eat trolls to feel happiness.
Felt and crafting materials are used exclusively to craft the landscape of Trolls. Almost anything can become sentient at any time, providing a lot of spontaneous laughs. Just thinking about the hours of coding it took to make a cotton ball cloud or glitter rain makes me want to take a nap.
“When I was growing up I liked to be taken to another world,” Durn said. Two major stand-outs of the film are the visual look and the funky grooves. Influences for the film includes The Muppets and Dr. Seuss; both contain strong musical performances and character with a handmade feel. Durn described picking the music as an “intense process” saying they listened to over a thousand songs. Each song chosen had to add to the story. They wanted it to feel like a real musical and it does thanks in part to the stars.
Trolls features Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake, two actors so stinking cute, funny, and relatable their presence nearly guarantees a grand slam. Kendrick plays Princess Poppy an atypical troll. She enjoys hourly scheduled hugs, spending time with her friends, and most importantly singing. Timberlake’s character, Branch, has seen hard times and though he lives amongst the Trolls, he does not share in their enthusiasm for blinding joy.
The vocal cast includes performances by James Corden, Zooey Deschanel, Christine Baranski, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jeffrey Tambor, John Cleese, my queen and yours Quvenzhané Wallis, Gwen Stefani, and Ron Funches. I cannot wait to watch this film in its entirety. Unfortunately, I don’t really have a choice. Trolls will be in theaters everywhere November 4, 2016.