Chatting with the men behind ‘Trolls’

Currently on Digital HD and coming to Blu-ray/DVD on Feb. 7 is DreamWorks and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment release of “Trolls.”

Cuteness, dancing and song are the absolute highlights of this animated film. It tells the story of Troll Village and the very colorful inhabitants. Surrounding them are the Bergen, very grouchy creatures who believe that they can only be happy one day a year during the Trollstice!

Knowing it’s time to leave, the entire village escapes led by King Peppy (Jeffrey Tambor) who makes sure his beloved daughter Poppy (Anna Kendrick) is safe. Twenty years later the Trolls want to celebrate their Bergen-less life. There is one troll who isn’t happy about this. Branch (Justin Timberlake) tries to tell everyone that the party will bring their worst fears.

When it happens and the evil Chef (Christine Baranski) captures Poppy’s friends, she makes it her mission to find and rescue them – all well documented in her scrapbook. Talking Branch into going on the journey, the two go back to the Bergen’s town now being led by young King Gristle (Christopher Mintz-Plasse).

Poppy meets Bridget (Zooey Deschanel), a scullery maid in the castle and both discover that happiness is found within as everything the Trolls and Bergen’s have experienced is about to change!

I had the amazing opportunity to speak with directors Walt Dohrn and Mike Mitchell who have brought this wonderful animated story to us. Both directors have a history in animation as Dohrn has been part of the “SpongeBob SquarePants” series as well as “Dexter’s Laboratory” when not lending his voice in ‘Shrek the Third” and “Penguins of Madagascar.” He is also the voice of one of my favorite characters in “Trolls” – Cloud Guy!

Mitchell had directed animation before with “Shrek Forever After” and “The SpongBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water.” He also lent his voice in the films “Shrek Forever After,” “Megamind,” “Puss in Boots” and “Kung Fu Panda 3.”

An animated combination of both of these gentlemen brings them perfectly together for “Trolls.” I had the awesome opportunity to speak with Walt and Mike about the film, the impact on audiences, the ridiculously fantastic animation and a cast that is flawless.

Jeri Jacquin: Hi guys, thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me today. If my 18-month-old granddaughter could actually use bigger words together, she might be the one wanting to talk with you.

Walt: We don’t use big words too much so we’d be fine with her on the line.

Mike: Yes, put her on the phone!

JJ: She would rather sing in her own way and dance than talk I think.

Walt: That is a very good way to be.

JJ: She has seen the film more times that I can count.

Mike: It really is a positive film for kids isn’t it? It is a feel good in these troubled times happy film.

Walt: We see the movie as one big party and encourage people to dance.

Mike: It was really amazing to see people in the theatres get up and dance. This movie does make you get up and dance.

JJ: Obviously you both have a love of animation in film with your history, but what made you want to get involved with “Trolls?”

Walt: We adore music and we always wanted to get back to a film that tells a story using music in the way that we got to with “Trolls.” That was one of the things is the excitement of telling a story through music more so than we have in the past and in a non-traditional way. The other thing that made us both excited about the project is that there were no established characters and we had a blank slate. It is the idea of these little stubby ugly-cute creatures with this big shock of hair.

JJ: Most people see trolls as these characters with orange or green hair with weird faces and kind of scary actually. “Trolls” has taken the scary right out of them and made them adorable.

Walt: That was definitely what we were going for, making them contemporary. We made them cute and fun.

Mike: We updated them but kept the retro feel I think.

JJ: The one thing that took my breath away immediately was the crispness down to the fuzz on their vests.

Mike: That’s a real testament to the film. Walt and I know these CGI films have become so realistic. We wanted to take the technology and go in a different direction. We wanted to make a tree that seemed realistic but cover it in felt in such a way and make the ground carpet while make the leaves look like they were stitched by hand. Even this warm hand made fuzzy quality is a real testament to our Production Designer Kendal Cronkhite-Shaindlin took and went even further. Even the fire is made out of hair if you look very closely. Instead of skin, these trolls look like gummy bears that have been flocked in felt. It gives this a look like…I don’t know Walter, what would you call it?

Walt: A handcrafted feel and it gives the audience a more personal connection to the characters. They are more intimate and they look like items that you could easily hold in your hands.

JJ: The whole Troll section in the store is paradise if you haven’t been to one lately. You are right, they are colorful and there is this pull to just want to hold them!

Walt: I think all those colors just ignite a part of the brain that makes you feel good. Looking at all those colors its like with my own young daughter who plays with the “Troll” toys, just vivid. Getting all those colors was important to us.

Mike: It’s like a big rainbow dream.

Walt: That’s what is so amazing to have “Trolls” with the technology of video streaming and Blu-ray is that the older audience will take a risk now and see the film. They will realize it is for them as well.

Mike: When they see it for the first time many people are surprised and tell me it is not what they expected. It has this weird irreverent comedy that is for grownups as well as for kids.

JJ: The cast, you don’t have just a few names, you have a huge cast! It’s an amazing, were you even surprised at how many wanted to come on board with “Trolls?”

Mike: Yes, it was amazing and it started with the triple threat. Every single actor starting with Anna Kendrick and then Justin Timberlake and all are tremendous actors and every single one of them has a sense of humor. They are all naturally funny, funny people!

Walt: And lastly – they can all sing! That was very important.

Mike: Zooey Deschanel can sing, she has an amazing voice. Christine Baranski is very funny and she can also sing.

Walt: You know we asked them to come in to pitch the story and talk about the characters and play them some of the music. They all fell in love with it. Justin immediately connected with the story and loved it.

Mike: Everyone, right away, came on board because of the characters and the music.

JJ: When you hear Anna and Justin speak mixed with the facial expression of their characters, you kind of forget its Anna and Justin because of how adorable the Trolls are and their personality.

Walt: That goes to the design and animation team because they are amazing at what they do. I have never worked with the level of talent and crew as I have with “Trolls.”

JJ: Taking a story like this from your brain to animation to screen and to Blu-ray, what is that like for each of you?

Mike: For me it was a gift because there was no story initially, just an idea. It was a creature with a shock of hair and small body. We were able to create a whole world, which we did and tap into everything I love, like “The Muppets” and Dr. Seuss. We have friends that work on the strange show called Adventure Time and the challenge was to bring some of that strange comedy into a big cgi film and craft a story with everything we wanted. It was really fun.

Walt: The day-to-day process working with these incredible artists was so enjoyable. I think now that it’s going to Blu-ray and digital streaming, it is another level of excitement to actually get more people to see the movie and hear their reactions. I get people sending me photos on Facebook with their kids looking like one of the “Trolls” characters and even their pets!

Mike: I get pictures of dogs wearing “Troll” wigs!

Walt: I mean my cat wears one.

JJ: I want to thank you both personally from the bottom of my heart for creating something that my granddaughter will be watching for years to come and I can’t wait to see what you both do next to top that.

Walt: Thank you Jeri, it was so nice talking to you.

Mike: Thanks Jeri, that means a lot.

 

Coming to Blu-ray and DVD on Feb. 7 and currently on Digital HD is the happiest bunch of “Trolls” that will totally make your day. Get ready to sing, dance and take up scrapbooking with DreamWorks and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainments release of “Trolls!”

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About the Author

Jeri Jacquin

Jeri Jacquin covers film, television, DVD/Bluray releases, celebrity interviews, festivals and all things entertainment.