Emily Solomon ’17 / Emertainment Monthly President
The Dreamworks Animation panel can be summed up in a few words: hugs, happiness, and a lot of good tunes. Trolls, their first offering of the morning, brought positive energy and served as the kickoff to Comic-Con’s famed Hall H programming.
Starring Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake as Princess Poppy and Branch, respectively, Trolls follows the two as they seek to resuce a group of Poppy’s friends from the grasp of the Bergen before they’re eaten.
Both Kendrick and Timberlake were at today’s panel alongside producer Gina Shay and directors Mike Mitchell and Walt Dohrn (two of the brains behind Shrek, arguably the property that put Dreamworks’ CGI animation ventures on the map).
There’s plenty to love here, but let’s talk details and hit the three things about this film to look forward to most.
Kendrick and Timberlake are at the front of this train and from what we saw today it’s in good hands. Kendrick called Poppy “layered,” saying that they “wanted to Poppy happy, but not the kind you couldn’t stand after 90 minutes.” Branch (Timberlake) acts as her counterpoint, balancing Poppy’s cheer with his bristly attitude and impatience with the rest of the trolls’ effusive happiness. Their back-and-forths were the highlights of the footage shown in Hall H today, and much of it lies in Kendrick and Timberlake’s portrayals.
The two are joined by a star-studded cast featuring the likes of Christine Baranski, Jeffrey Tambor, Zooey Deschanel, Russell Brand, James Corden, Icona Pop, and even Youtuber GloZell, just to name a handful. While a solid cast doesn’t promise a solid showing, it certainly sets Trolls up for success.
Justin Timberlake serves as the music producer for the film. It will be first film soundtrack, something that, to him, is “a dream come true.” Trolls features new original songs (including number one single “Can’t Stop the Feeling”) alongside a number of covers and reworked classics.
Featured Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sound of Silence” and Cyndi Laupers’s “True Colors” (a touching duet between Kendrick and Timberlake in the film), and Timberlake went on to mention that work from Earth Wind and Fire and Gorillaz was also reworked for the film.
The soundtrack also features Gwen Stefani and Icona Pop, who all play characters in the film, and Ariana Grande. And, of course, there’s Anna Kendrick, who mentioned that Timberlake was always there for her recording sessions: “I felt like he was the guy in the movie who’s back there going, ‘DO IT BETTER.'”
If nothing else, then, it looks like Trolls is poised to give us a slew of new hit singles.
Perhaps this would be better off phrased as “messages,” plural, because it seems like there are more than a few at work here—some more explicit than others.
Producer Gina Shay pointed out that Princess Poppy’s design “breaks every princess convention in the book.”
“We kept the trolls round, shoeless,” Shay says. It doesn’t appear as though body image is something dealt with within the scope of the film, but the meta of presenting a princess who is, literally, a troll means that there’s likely going to be little focus on Poppy’s physical appearance; for a princess, that’s practically unheard of.
Then there’s the overt message: that of spreading happiness, of showing one’s true colors.
Moderator Chris Hardwick explicitly stated at one point that the world is a “cynical toilet,” and even made a glib reference to that other convention happening in Cleveland that arguably has stirred up yet more ire in the United States. Trolls, by contrast, is focused on the message that it is okay to be happy, that life doesn’t have to be a cynical toilet—from the looks of it, much of Branch’s development is built on this idea.
In a world where, indeed, things are looking grimmer by the day, Trolls looks like it will offer a respite and remind us that there’s color to be found in every corner of life.
Trolls hits theaters November 4th.