Anna Kendrick Trolls
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Zooey Deschanel, James Corden, Justin Timberlake, Christine Baranski, Russell Brand, John Cleese
Directors: Mike Mitchell, Walt Dohrn
Genre: Family, Animation
Running Time: 92 minutes
Synopsis: From the creators of Shrek comes DreamWorks Animation's Trolls, a smart, funny and irreverent comedy about the search for happiness, and just how far some will go to get it. The film transports audiences to a colorful, wondrous world populated by the overly optimistic Trolls, who have a constant dance in their step and a song on their lips, and the comically pessimistic Bergens, who are only happy when they have Trolls in their stomachs. After the Bergens invade Troll Village, Poppy (Anna Kendrick), the happiest Troll ever born, and the overly-cautious, curmudgeonly Branch (Justin Timberlake) set off on a journey to rescue her friends.
Their mission is full of adventure and mishaps, as this mismatched duo try to tolerate each other long enough to get the job done.
Utilizing music to further the film's narrative, the Trolls soundtrack is produced by Justin Timberlake, who serves as the film's executive music producer, and features four original songs, including songs by Justin Timberlake Gwen Stefani, Anna Kendrick and Ariana Grande, in addition to a number of classic hits from the 1960s through the 1980s, rearranged and sung by members of the cast.
Trolls features a stellar cast, including Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Russell Brand, Zooey Deschanel, Jeffrey Tambor, Christine Baranski, James Corden, Kunal Nayyar, Ron Funches, Icona Pop, Quvenzhané Wallis, with John Cleese and Gwen Stefani.
The film also showcases a unique world inspired by fibers, flocked materials, fur, glitter and bright colors. Audiences will be totally enveloped in this tactile and inviting universe"the filmmakers call it 'fuzzy immersion""which is unlike any experienced before on film.
Then, there's the hair"bright, candy-colored coifs grown to gravity-defying heights, the hallmark and crowning glory of Trolls everywhere.
Release Date: December 1st, 2016
About the Production
Find Your Happy Place
Trolls can be enjoyed by youngsters as a unique world rich with unforgettable characters, music, humor, adventure and color; as well as by adults, for whom the film's overarching theme of the search for happiness will resonate long after the end credits have rolled. Indeed, the Trolls' all-singing, all-dancing, all-hugging world is all about happiness, which infuses every frame of the film. Trolls explores how we treat others and, more importantly, how we treat ourselves. Its emotion-charged message is that happiness comes from within, and can be a powerful and infectious force when it's spread. That's a potent and relevant idea, especially in today's world, which has largely given way to negativity, fear and imbalance. The story of Trolls suggests that each of us can bring change through positive thinking and actions, while highlighting the importance of doing the right thing, even"or especially"when facing formidable challenges.
Happiness was foremost in the minds of Trolls director Mike Mitchell and co-director Walt Dohrn, even during the earliest stages of story discussions with screenwriters/co-producers Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger and producer Gina Shay.
The two filmmakers had worked together on DreamWorks Animation's blockbuster Shrek franchise, and their familiarity with the beloved ogres of that world led them to their distant cousins, the Trolls.
Their research into Troll lore, which sprang from Scandinavian mythology, revealed that Trolls came in myriad shapes and sizes, from monstrous giants to tiny creatures who granted wishes. As DreamWorks had done with Shrek, Mike Mitchell and Walt Dohrn decided to adapt the Trolls mythology to create a new universe and set of characters. The filmmakers note that they did embrace one aspect of previous Trolls history. 'We were fascinated by how these creatures were originally scary-ugly and evolved over time into being cute-ugly," says Mike Mitchell. 'In the 1970s they became a symbol for happiness."
Adds Walt Dohrn: 'Their simplicity and imperfections were relatable and made people feel good."
As they continued their explorations of all things Troll, Mike Mitchell and Walt Dohrn zeroed in on the motifs of happiness and optimism, and their imaginations ignited.
'Those ideas compelled us, as did the opportunity to create a story and mythology from scratch," says Walt Dohrn. 'We decided it was time to start spreading some joy again. Mike Mitchell and I had a blank slate, from which we could create anything with these characters, their story and their environments. With happiness as a guidepost, we wanted to create a film with a mix of fun, adventure, heart, music, colour and textures."
In many ways, says producer Gina Shay, another of Mike Mitchell and Walt Dohrn's Shrek franchise alumna, Trolls hearkens back to the 1970s, a time 'when there was this feeling of freedom; disco, pop and dance music was everywhere; and everybody seemed to be roller skating. We wanted the Trolls to reflect that joy in their society. They're also very peaceful."
The Trolls even have a special kind of watch that reminds them to hug every hour on the hour. No matter what they're doing, when the watch blooms, it's 'hug time." Notes Mike Mitchell: 'Part of being happy is connecting with others, and what better way to show that than with a hug."
'On the other hand, the Trolls' neighbours, the Bergens, are neither enlightened nor peaceful," Shay notes. 'So the Trolls must try to apply that -70s feeling to the Bergens and teach them that happiness comes from within, and that you can find it in many different ways." That's no easy task because the Bergens lack harmony and joy and can find happiness only through outward, more harmful means. Their bliss is less in their control, and less satisfying when it's achieved.
The Adventure Begins
With that through line of happiness in place, Mike Mitchell and Walt Dohrn began mapping out the story, enlisting the help of the screenwriting team of Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger, who had been the architects of another animated film universe, having written the three Kung Fu Panda blockbusters for DreamWorks Animation. Glenn Berger calls the new assignment 'a real creative change of pace, and so much fun." Jonathan Aibel adds that 'the biggest gift to us as writers on Trolls is its very premise. We started with the world's most optimistic character and the world's most pessimistic, and then launched them on a road trip."
Trolls opens, of course, on an upbeat note, depicting how the Trolls live to sing, dance and hug; dance, hug and sing…well, you get it.
After an action-packed backstory that depicts Troll King Peppy's (Jeffrey Tambor) heroic rescue of his people, who had been captured by the Glenn Bergens, and the setting up of a new Trolls home in the forest, we meet Peppy's now grown daughter, Poppy, who leads a celebration because…they really love to celebrate!
Unfortunately, Poppy and the Trolls' non-stop revelry attracts the attention of the Glenn Bergens, and the Trolls' twenty year period of freedom from their unhappy neighbours comes to an end when the ever-scheming Bergen, Chef (Christine Baranski), nabs Poppy's friends and whisks them away to Bergen Town.
With nowhere else to turn, Poppy seeks the help of the only Troll who knows how to find Bergen Town"the always prepared, overly cautious and decidedly unhappy Branch (Justin Timberlake). Branch is the only Troll who doesn't sing or dance, and he never, ever, hugs.
To rescue Poppy's friends from a less-than-happy fate, she and Branch must journey to the dangerous world of the Bergens. Along the way, Poppy and Branch hit every imaginable obstacle. At a critical juncture, the power of positive thinking seems to fail Poppy, who despairs and loses her resolve. Negativity, like happiness, is contagious, so when Poppy falters, so do her friends. It falls on the least likely member of the group to bring happiness back to the Trolls.
Poppy & Branch: When Opposites Collide
But when we meet Poppy, she is an eternal optimist who finds the inspiration for optimism from within. She is the ultimate purveyor of positivity. Moreover, she is an empowered female who is capable and confident, strong and resolute, collaborative and inclusive.
'Poppy is unlike any princess you've seen before," says Mike Mitchell. 'In addition to her leadership skills, she has a quirky edge, which Anna Kendrick really helped bring to life. Adds Gina Shay: 'Anna Kendrick is herself a little cynical, and it was wonderful to have her give Poppy gravitas, depth and layers."
Poppy's unique qualities also include her appearance, which resonated with Shay, who explains: 'As filmmakers, I feel it's our responsibility to create memorable characters that don't make girls feel inadequate in body image. We broke every princess rule in the book on this one because we kept the Troll shapes round and shoeless.
'My daughter is eleven," Gina Shay continues. 'She has a really powerful mind and I'd rather have her using it to be imaginative, instead of obsessing in the mirror. Because all girls are beautiful!"
Anna Kendrick appreciates Poppy's toughness, sassiness, can-do attitude, loyalty and, most of all, her leadership skills. But when she first met with Mike Mitchell and Walt Dohrn to discuss the role, the actress notes she had some concerns. 'I hardly felt like the person to play the happiest Troll; sugary sweet isn't really my forte. I warned Mike Mitchell, Walt Dohrn and Gina Shay that I might lead Poppy down a feistier path. I think I used the term -sparkplug.'"
When the filmmakers assured Anna Kendrick that her vision for Poppy was in sync with theirs, she embraced her inner Troll with a vengeance. 'Each time I stepped into the recording booth and was greeted with a picture of Poppy's smiling face, I couldn't wait to add some fire, sarcasm, sass and determination to her," Anna Kendrick recalls. 'That's what makes the difference between a relentlessly happy character that's a little irritating and one that really comes to life.
'That said, I usually ruined the first five minutes of each recording session by talking in my -adorable voice.' I couldn't help it; Poppy is so cute! But Mike Mitchell and Walt Dohrn encouraged me to make this tiny pink creature feel real and complicated. Poppy might not look like Shrek, but she's complex, like him."
After viewing some early footage, Anna Kendrick discovered even more unexpected aspects to the character, thanks, she says, to the 'animation dream team at DreamWorks, which had captured the little firecracker inside Poppy with every minute expression.
'Every time they asked me to do another recording session, it made my week. I experienced that moment of recognition when I wondered, how does a six-inch-tall pink Troll kind of remind me of myself? Watching Poppy and the other Trolls fills me with joy."
Poppy's disgruntled counterpart/partner, Branch, is the sole paranoid Troll. Long after the Trolls' liberation from Bergen captivity, he was the only one who continued to see the Bergens as a threat, but no one in town believed him. Branch lives a discontented existence and is constantly preparing for the worst. He's lost his sense of joy and is flummoxed by the over-the-top positivity of the other Trolls. Branch often wonders if he is the only sane Troll left. Over the course of the film, he is challenged to let go of his past, even if that includes a dreaded burst of singing, dancing and hugging.
Branch represents our fears and how they can envelop us and prevent our inner happiness from blossoming. Ever vigilant, he is consumed with exploring potential dangers and spends his life bracing for the worst instead of enjoying the present. While some of his concerns are well-founded because there are very real dangers nearby, Branch must learn he has to keep living his life and not let fear win.
'Branch isn't much of a people person," notes Justin Timberlake, who voices the role and serves as the film's executive music producer. 'He doesn't sing, dance or hug, which makes him somewhat of an outcast"by his own choice"in the Troll community. 'He's a hardcore survivalist and a huge contrast to all the other Trolls," Justin Timberlake continues. 'He doesn't connect with anybody."
Like all survivalists, Branch sees danger everywhere, and thus the need for special housing impervious to unwanted visitors, be they Bergens or Trolls. So he's constructed an underground Survival Bunker, which he touts as being highly camouflaged, heavily fortified and 100 percent Bergen-proof.
'Yeah, Branch is obsessed," says Justin Timberlake, who embraced some of Branch's un-Troll-like attitude. 'I thought playing Branch's sarcasm and pessimism would be a lot of fun," he points out, 'even though I'm generally not like that -- at least not after I've had my morning coffee."
Citing the character's relatability, despite"or maybe, thanks to"his persistent negativity, Timberlake jokes that, 'Branch is going to be the voice of every dad who sees Trolls. They are going to love Branch, and wonder, -Why are the Trolls so happy all the time?'"
Just as Anna Kendrick was wary of overdoing Poppy's perpetual peppiness, Justin Timberlake did not want to make Branch too much of a grump. 'I was concerned that he was going to be overly cantankerous and that some in the audience weren't going to like him," he explains. 'Fortunately, Mike, Walt and I struck a really nice balance with the character's demeanor. But we never lost sight of the fun that came with Branch and Poppy being polar opposites of one another."
When Poppy and Branch team up to free her friends, the two Trolls' extreme natures eventually meet in the middle, with surprising results. Concurrently, Poppy is on a secondary rescue mission, this one of a more personal nature: to change Branch's attitude.
Like many other great onscreen couples, Branch and Poppy prove opposites do not attract, at least not at first. That makes the progression of their relationship even more fun to experience. 'Poppy loves Branch because she loves everything and everyone. And that annoys Branch even more, which is a bonus for Poppy," says Anna Kendrick. Justin Timberlake notes that Poppy's constant needling of Branch, 'is a kind of flirtation," while Walt Dohrn likens it to one of the screen's most celebrated pairings: 'That dynamic gave us the kind of warm feeling we experienced when telling a story about Shrek and Donkey."
While the contentious chemistry between Poppy and Branch brings out their opposing natures, over the course of their adventure they slowly begin to influence and learn from one another. After all, they must figure out how to work together to save Poppy's friends.
The mission affects Poppy in ways she could never have anticipated. 'One of the keys to Poppy's journey was figuring out how to take someone who's happy-go-lucky all the time, and have her experience numerous challenges, so that when she comes out the other side, happy again, it's an earned happiness, rather than something that was just handed to her," says screenwriter Glenn Berger.
The Bergens: Looking For Happy In All The Wrong Places
The Bergens are the flip side of the Trolls. These depressed giants believe that menacing Trolls is the only viable path to their happiness. 'The Bergens are just mean, petulant and cranky," Mike Mitchell notes. 'It's a good thing they don't have smartphones because the Bergens would just stare at them all time. They don't connect with anyone."
The leader of the Bergens, voiced by Christopher Mintz-Plasse, is King Gristle, Jr., a surly, twenty-something who has vowed to bring happiness back to Bergen Town by capturing the nearby but well-hidden Trolls. Gristle Jr. is the son of King Gristle, voiced by comedy legend John Cleese.
Berger says the young monarch is his favorite character, and refers to a specific moment in the film to explain why: 'Gristle is shopping in a bib store and he's being just a bratty little king who's insisting that all the bibs are wrong for him. -I want a man's bib!' he exclaims. To me, that one line explains everything about the character."
Gristle's behaviour can also be explained by the young royal having 'never experienced happiness or love," says Christopher Mintz-Plasse, whose signature comedy role was as McLovin in the hit Superbad. The actor notes that when he first discussed the role with the filmmakers, he saw a picture of Gristle and thought, '-Oh, okay, he's kind of a gremlin-like guy.' I was prepared for Mike Mitchell and Walt Dohrn to ask me to throw on some sort of weird voice. -Nope,' they said, -we want exactly what you do, straight Christopher Mintz-Plasse.'"
Given his truculent ways, it's no surprise that Gristle is unlucky in love. But that status may change, if the Bergen scullery maid Bridget has anything to say about it. Voiced by Zooey Deschanel (New Girl, Elf), Bridget is the sweetest, most kindhearted Bergen in all of Bergen Town; in fact, she may be the only kindhearted Bergen. Bridget is sensitive and soft-spoken, and harbors a crush on the king. 'She's our Cinderella," says Mike Mitchell. Screenwriter Jonathan Aibel has a special affection for Bridget, a character he describes as being 'a challenge to write, because when we meet her, she's uncommunicative. So to see her grow and learn how to express herself is probably my favorite part of the movie, especially when she goes on her dream date with King Gristle."
As her big evening with Gristle unfolds, Bridget gets help from Poppy and her friends, who not only provide the maid with rainbow-colored tresses made from their own collective hair, but try and help put words in Bridget's mouth as the tongue-tied maid attempts to converse with Gristle. 'That -Cyrano' scene was the most fun we had writing on the film," says Aibel.
A Bergen of true evil intent is Chef (Christine Baranski, making her animated feature debut), who once held a coveted spot in the Royal Bergen Kitchen, until her dastardly plans were dashed twenty years earlier. Now, Chef has discovered the Trolls' hiding spot, and she can't wait to get her hands on them again.
Christine Baranski, who has portrayed a string of unforgettable characters, including a high-powered attorney on the acclaimed series The Good Wife, imbues Chef with a skillful balance of menace and fun. And she has no bigger fan than Anna Kendrick, who had worked with the versatile actress in the musical film Into the Woods. 'Chef is grumpy, power-hungry and kind of cruel"all those things Christine is so wonderful at playing, and so unlike who she really is," says Anna Kendrick. 'It's a lot of fun to see what she's done with Chef."
Finally, there's Bibbly Bibbington (Rhys Darby), the proprietor of the #1 bib store in all of Bergen Town. It's not an easy gig, especially when he's providing dinner attire to a very demanding king.
Poppy cherishes her friends in Troll Village, and will do anything to rescue them from the clutches of the Bergens. Her most expansive friend is Biggie (James Corden), who also has the biggest heart in all of Troll-dom. Underneath his Biggie-than-life exterior, he's actually a huge softie, and though he's a Troll of few words, Biggie is kind of the group's captain.
Biggie's closest pal is Mr. Dinkles, a caterpillar who acts like a cat, and whom Biggie enjoys dressing up in hats. The multi-talented James Corden, whose in-car karaoke sessions from his The Late Late Show have become an internet sensation, was so much fun in the role, recalls Berger, that 'We said, we've got to write more jokes for Biggie, because James Corden is killing it!'"
Troll Village's resident deejay is DJ Suki (voiced by music superstar Gwen Stefani) can always be counted on to lay down some bouncy beats for an impromptu musical moment, of which there are many in this always singing and dancing world. Suki's DJ equipment is all natural, consisting of crickets, beetles and other bugs that together create a unique sound.
Taking on the roles of Satin and Chenille, aka The Fashion Twins, is Icona Pop, the Swedish pop music duo of Caroline Hjelt and Aino Jawo, best known for the hit song 'I Don't Care." Satin and Chenille are really, really close; in fact they're conjoined by their brightly colored hair. The Twins are instrumental in putting together Poppy's outfits. Like their on-screen alter-egos, the Icona Pop pair are tight. 'When we recorded them, they acted like sisters, and often would finish each other's sentences," says Walt Dohrn.
Poppy's pal Creek (voiced by Russell Brand) is the most positive, supportive, reassuring Troll in all of Troll Village. But it turns out Creek has a dark side, which manifests itself in a dangerous way for his friends. When we meet the character, he appears, says Russell Brand, to be 'a particularly enlightened Troll and perhaps even the next generation of the Troll species. He's moved beyond the material world, even if the material is fuzzy and felt." But at a critical moment, Creek undergoes a less than enlightened change of heart. 'He becomes a Benedict Arnold"a turncoat and a betrayer," says Russell Brand.
'We liked the idea of someone close to Poppy breaking her heart by deceiving her," says Jonathan Aibel. 'Creek had to be charming and funny, while irritating Branch with his positivity. At the same time, he had to be hiding a selfish, cynical nature that reveals itself when he betrays Poppy. Russell Brand was real gift to us to bring all of that to life."
Then there's Guy Diamond (voiced by The Big Bang's Kunal Nayyar), the resident naked Glitter Troll. Given his preference to remain unclothed, save for some strategically placed glitter, Guy has heaps of body confidence and is a party on two feet.
Cooper, voiced by comedian Ron Funches, is a rarity in Troll Village: a fuzzy, harmonica-playing, giraffe-like Troll with a goofy grin plastered permanently on his face. 'Cooper's defining trait is his boundless enthusiasm," says Ron Funches. The character also has a…unique… reaction to being frightened.
Walt Dohrn stepped in front of the mic to record the character of Smidge, a tiny Troll with a shockingly deep baritone voice. Her hobbies include weightlifting, listing to Swedish metal, and crocheting. The co-director also voices the role of Cloud Guy, a puff-shaped inhabitant of the forest, with a penchant for tube socks and high-fiving everyone he meets.
The rest of the group includes Fuzzbert, a Troll comprised almost entirely of hair"that's no small matter given that tresses are a defining Troll feature; and Harper, who uses her hair as her paintbrush, creating detailed, iconic pieces of art.
The Unique World Of Trolls
The technology available for animated filmmaking is more sophisticated and photo-realistic than ever before. In many features, for example, grass has never looked grassier and water never more… watery.
But the Trolls filmmakers had a very different kind of vision in mind for these bleeding-edge visual effects tools. They decided to create a world unlike any other experienced on film. 'We wanted to transport audiences to a handmade universe," says Mike Mitchell.
Production designer Kendal Cronkhite-Shaindlin based the film's look on Fiber Art textures, including felts, velvet, macramé, and flocked materials. The filmmakers called it 'fuzzy immersion," a process they say will make audiences want to reach into the film and touch the characters and settings.
The design, like everything in Trolls, is informed by joy and merriment. Much of the film, says Kendal Cronkhite-Shaindlin, is an 'explosion of colour, which puts an exclamation mark" on that motif. 'No matter what obstacles Poppy encounters on her journey, the environment is usually fun and over-the top-colourful. -Dark and moody' is just not very Troll-like," she adds.
Kendal Cronkhite-Shaindlin also drew from the 1960s and -70s, the era when the cheerful versions of these mythological creatures became popular. 'The -70s, in particular, are referenced a lot," she explains. 'Trolls are kind of hippy-esque in the way they live communally, in nature. And they're probably vegetarians."
The Trolls' home turf, Troll Village, is a magical place deeply rooted in their culture. It is nestled in a divot in a forest, 'which is human-scale, so it's huge for them," notes Kendal Cronkhite-Shaindlin. 'We wanted the Trolls to be like forest sprites who are in touch with their environment, which is fuzzy like they are."
There are a few key moments devoid of fuzziness and explosions of color, notably in scenes when the Trolls de-saturate, signalling that they're fearful or have lost hope. Also, Branch's obsession with the Bergens leads him to become almost Bergen-like himself, and there is some darkness in his Survival Bunker.
Darkness is only one of several design templates that help define the Bergens. Their world is inspired by the shag carpet and Brutalist movement that was popular in the 1970s, and which seemed appropriate for monstrous beings. 'Their society is somewhat like the suburbanite -70s, so the Bergens are all about polyester, plastic, formica and other synthetics," Kendall Cronkhite-Shaindlin elaborates. 'They eat fast food and are out of touch with nature and anything that's good about the world. The Bergen palette is also very -70s: they're all burnt oranges and gold, and avocado green."
For the film's overall look, Mike Mitchell and Walt Dohrn also pay homage to one of the cinema's most towering figures, Hayao Miyazaki, a Japanese film director, producer, screenwriter, animator, author, and manga artist whose many acclaimed films include the animated classics Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke. 'Many of Miyazaki's films are like fairytale dreams with weird and wonderful creatures," Mike Mitchell explains. 'Those things really influenced Trolls, which, though it feels like a rave party and is very irreverent, is also like a strange fairytale-like dream."
Hair's The Thing
Hair is a defining aspect of the Trolls and their universe, and bringing its nearly supernatural powers to life fell to a specially created 'Hair Task Force," made up of hundreds of artists and technicians working only on hair effects, ensuring that this magical thing was always looking"and acting"fabulous.
Trolls is the first DreamWorks Animation film to use Willow, the company's proprietary long hair simulation tool. Willow is unique in that it is both efficient and stable in how it solves lots of 'bad hair day" problems, such as bending, friction, elasticity, and collisions of hundreds of thousands of hairs on a character's head.
It enabled the production's talented artists to style, simulate, and preview Troll hair all in one application, giving them interactive artistic control that brought the hair to life as a character. Previous to Willow, artists from multiple departments needed to use a variety of tools to achieve the style, performance and look of hair.
That technology was utilized to its maximum capacity because the Trolls build everything out of hair; they get around on zip lines built from it and exercise on macramé-d trampolines made of…you guessed it…hair. Even their fire and water look like hair. 'It's such a fully realised world that you don't even question the fact that fire is made of hair," notes Justin Timberlake. 'Hair is the Trolls' superpower!"
'Troll hair takes on a life of its own," adds Anna Kendrick. 'Trolls can hide stuff in it, fight with it and even use it as a staircase. There's limitless potential resting right there on their heads. It makes me wonder why I even bother taking care of my own hair when it's not doing anything like that for me. It's not helping me fight giant spiders."
Says Justin Timberlake: 'Branch uses his hair as whip; let's see Indiana Jones try that!" All that hair-raising derring-do didn't come easily: the Hair Task Force created a total of 1.8 million strands, with Poppy taking 84,000, Branch almost 50,000"and Lady Glittersparkles (aka Bridget) taking the furry crown, using 237,375 strands, with help from Poppy and her pals, of course.
All That Glitters…
What's a party without glitter? Early on, the filmmakers knew they wanted to use glitter as an effect to increase the joyful nature of the Trolls. They foresaw utilizing glitter clouds and sprays throughout the film"and even as textures on characters. 'Glitter is important to a Troll," notes Walt Dohrn. 'It's a big part of their world and"sometimes"how they express their jubilance."
Trolls is the first film to use glitter to this extent. But until the film was well underway, quality glitter didn't come easily. Even the most advanced computers had a difficult time dealing with glitter, which needs to move, blow around and reflect light in different directions. The filmmakers discovered that glitter flakes looked great when the Trolls were stationary, but when they moved or danced"and Trolls do love to dance"the effect fell apart.
'Who knew that something like glitter could be so complex?" says Mike Mitchell.
Once again, high tech innovation saved the day"and the Trolls' glittery world. The DreamWorks tech team developed a GlitterFlakes shader, enabling the artists to easily control the motion, shape and reflectiveness of glitter flakes. A 3D noise cloud of spheres gives the glitter flakes a look of natural random distribution"just as it looks in the real world. The artists could dial up or down the 3D noise cloud to keep the glitter movement looking random, while also making it possible to 'direct" it.
Because the Trolls sometimes need to glitter their hair, the crack DreamWorks 'Hair Team" adjusted its Hair Systems to also have a reference pose space, to enable glittery flakes to sparkle with dancing hair.
The filmmakers like to call the area that housed the GlitterFlakes Shader the 'Glitter Labs," manned by scientists who, Mike Mitchell jokes, 'study glitter and throw it around a lot."
As if creating new tools for hair and glitter weren't enough, the tech wizards at DreamWorks developed a proprietary Digital Gardening Tool Kit for Tiber, which facilitated real-time, interactive art direction, which in turn allowed the designers to 'plant" the incredibly detailed Troll Village.
Specifically, the Digital Gardening Tool enabled interactive art direction for the various plants, mushrooms and houses that populate Troll Village. It is gardening made easy"and gorgeous.
Trolls also gives a lot of digital love to the art of scrapbooking because that's how Trolls record their history. Whenever the film takes us into Poppy's mind, it looks like a scrapbook, and you see much of her world through that kind of album. Another special team focused on that critical task.
All Singing, All Dancing – All Trolls
Adding another important dimension and personality to Trolls is the music. A top priority for the filmmakers and Studio was ensuring that all the songs propelled the story forward. 'The lyrics are part of the narrative," adds Walt Dohrn. 'We never wanted the story to stop just because a song began."
Mike Mitchell and Walt Dohrn outlined the story and then searched for songs that fit the tone of a given moment, or provided insight into a character's personality. It was a back-and-forth 'audition" process that stretched on for years, encompassing hundreds, if not thousands, of tunes.
Initially, the filmmakers envisioned using only classic songs, to facilitate a shared experience for audiences. But when Justin Timberlake came aboard as executive music producer, it was an easy decision to have him write or co-write some new ones, as well.
Doing double duty on Trolls, says Justin Timberlake, 'was an embarrassment of riches. 'I've always wanted to oversee a motion picture soundtrack," he continues, 'and I thought what better way to jump into that than when I'm already acting in the movie. I feel closer to the story having played a character in it. Voicing Branch was definitely helpful in writing music for Trolls."
Having Justin Timberlake assume those responsibilities was the perfect marriage of artist and material. 'It felt organic for Justin Timberlake to become our partner," says Gina Shay, noting his instant connection to the project. 'When we presented some images and rough scenes to him, Justin Timberlake just clicked"he was out of his chair and you could feel his enthusiasm. He took the music to unexpected levels of sophistication and also brought the tone; he really embellished the sounds from a production standpoint and made them sound so much better."
In his role as executive music producer, Justin Timberlake worked closely with the actors to hone their musical performances. 'Justin Timberlake was tireless in his efforts to get the best from our formidable and multi-talented cast," says Mike Mitchell. 'His passion for the music was inspiring to all." Christopher Mintz-Plasse adds that having Justin Timberlake oversee his singing performance 'was the most fun I had working on Trolls. I've been a massive fan of his acting and musical talents for years. To enter the recording booth and have Justin Timberlake tell me how to sing are moments I won't soon forget."
Anna Kendrick jokes that when she was working with Justin Timberlake in his music producing capacity, she felt like she 'was in one of those movies about musicians and Justin Timberlake was the guy pressing the buttons in the control booth, saying, -Do it better!''
Trolls opens with the song, 'Hair Up," performed by Justin Timberlake, Gwen Stefani and Ron Funches. The piece, with music and lyrics by Justin Timberlake, Max Martin, Shellback, Savan Kotecha and Oscar Holter, helps sets up the story of the bummed-out Bergens and, specifically, young King Gristle, Jr.
Then, we're treated to a brief history of the Trolls civilization, to the tune of 'September," with music and lyrics by Al McKay, Allee Willis and Maurice White, performed by The Outfit; followed by a jaunty piece in which Poppy and some junior Trolls sing in harmony.
A compilation incorporating 'Move Your Feet" (written by Jesper Mortensen), 'D.A.N.C.E." (written by Gaspard Auge, Jessie Chaton and Xavier De Rosnay) and 'It's a Sunshine Day" (written by Stephen McCarthy), and performed by Funches, Anna Kendrick, James Corden, Icona Pop, Stefani, Kunal Nayyar and Walt Dohrn"provides a rollicking dance number as the Trolls head toward a birthday celebration for King Peppy.
'Get Back Up Again" is an original song by the team of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the writers of the upcoming Broadway musical Dear Evan Hansen. It is sung by Anna Kendrick, as Poppy sets off on her journey and encounters some daunting challenges along the way. Poppy may have some doubts about the rescue mission, but she can't entertain them. She must be the eternal optimist, and the song expresses that in a fun, upbeat way.
Branch agrees, very reluctantly, to join forces with Poppy, and as the two settle down for the night, by a campfire, Poppy annoys Branch with her renditions of 'Dream a Little Dream of Me" (music by Fabian Andre and Wilbur Schwandt, lyrics by Gus Kahn) and 'The Sound of Silence" (music and lyrics by Paul Simon), which Kendrick makes her own. 'That might be my favorite," says the actress, referring to the beloved Simon and Garfunkel classic, 'because not only do I get to sing this wonderful song, but Poppy is taking a lot of pleasure in how much Branch hates that she's singing."
Things turn a little darker with Gorillaz's 'Clint Eastwood," performed by The Outfit. The song's somber and ironic tone and lyrics accompany another look at the Bergens going about their sad lives.
'Get Lucky" performed by the Vitamin C Quartet, sees King Gristle gobbling up Creek"or so it seems.
Lionel Richie's ballad 'Hello," sung by Zooey Deschanel as Bridget, underscores the scullery maid's touching crush on King Gristle.
The Trolls are all-too-briefly reunited with Poppy, which of course calls for a 'Celebration" (with some new lyrics for the Kool and the Gang classic), followed by 'Fakeover," sung by Funches, Kendrick, Corden, Icona Pop, Stefani and Nayyar"where the Trolls convince Bridget to get a makeover.
In the midst of the celebrating, Branch has an emotional flashback and tells the Trolls the tragic story of his grandmother's death, as 'Total Eclipse of the Heart" (immortalized by Bonnie Tyler, and here performed by Liam Henry, Deschanel, Funches, Corden, Icona Pop, and Nayyar) accompanies the tale.
We return to Bridget's makeover, as she and her new friends sing a re-record of 'I'm Coming Out" (written by Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, originally sung by Diana Ross, and here performed by Funches, Kendrick, Corden, Icona Pop, Stefani and Nayyar, with a solo by Deschanel) to prepare Bridget for a big date with the king. The makeover also includes a pseudonym Bridget has latched onto for her fateful evening out: Lady Glittersparkles.
It's time for the big date! Bridget and the King share a pizza and then roller skate through the universe, as Ariana Grande sings 'They Don't Know," with music and lyrics by Max Martin, Justin Timberlake and Shellback.
Later, Gristle tries to get in dating shape by working out furiously on a treadmill to a re-record of the disco hit 'I Feel Love," once popularized by Donna Summer, and here sung by Christopher Mintz-Plasse as the young king. Then, the besotted monarch waits at a window, hoping Lady Glittersparkles arrives, as 'Hair Up" reprises, performed by Justin Timberlake.
A re-record of 'True Colors" (music and lyrics by Thomas Kelly and William Steinberg), performed by Kendrick and Timberlake, accompanies a climactic emotional scene with Poppy, Branch and Poppy's friends, as the princess loses hope"and colour. 'It's an amazing moment in the film," says Justin Timberlake. 'The song had a specific meaning when it was sung by Cyndi Lauper in the -80s, and it takes on a new meaning in our movie. There's no other piece that would work as well for this scene."
'They Don't Know" is reprised by Ariana Grande, as Gristle and Bridget find love again.
'Can't Stop the Feeling," written by Justin Timberlake, Max Martin and Shellback, is a celebratory anthem that brings the Trolls and Bergens together. The song is performed by Timberlake, Deschanel, Funches, Mintz-Plasse, Kendrick, Corden, Icona Pop, Stefani, Nayyar, and a chorus. 'It's full of optimism, which carried over to its creation," notes Justin Timberlake, adding, 'Writing it actually made me feel happy." Director Mike Mitchell adds that the song 'sums up everything we wanted to do with the film. It creates happiness when you hear it.
'We told Justin Timberlake, -You need to write a song that transforms an entire community's world view, so go!' That's not an easy task, by the way. Well, for Justin Timberlake, maybe it is." As the end credits roll, we're treated to 'September," performed by Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake.
Versatile film composer Christophe Beck, whose numerous credits include Pitch Perfect, Frozen and Ant-Man, worked closely with Justin Timberlake to compose the score. 'Christophe has taken the songs, which had a feeling of continuity but are from several eras, and interpolated some of them into his score," says Gina Shay. 'For example, Christophe took -Hello,' and used that as Bridget's theme throughout the movie."
Okay, so it's nice to be happy. Happy is good. But why make a movie about it? Mike Mitchell returns to the idea that 'there are a lot of unfortunate things occurring in today's world, so why not go to the movies and see something that looks and feels like a party, and have a good time?"
Walt Dohrn adds a similarly upbeat perspective: 'It's nice to make a film that spreads optimism and at the same time asks some important questions about it, and how it originates."
For Gina Shay, the film is all about fun and surprises. 'Trolls has an abundance of irreverent humor, which is completely unexpected, as well as a lot of heart," she says. 'It also immerses you in a world you've never experienced before."
For its two lead actors, the theme of joyfulness is a key reason they joined the project"and it provided an unforgettable memory once they wrapped. 'Trolls makes me smile and laugh," says Justin Timberlake. 'I love its non-cynical humour. Happiness connects us, and funny enough, the character I play, Branch, is trying so hard to avoid it. In the end, of course, he really can't."
'When I watch the movie I wish its universe was real," Anna Kendrick says. 'And that I could visit it."
Release Date: December 1st, 2016