“All the jokes and playfulness wouldn’t work as well if you didn’t have that human experience running underneath”: Walt Dohrn on Trolls Band Together
If there is any true test of the success of a kid’s movie, it’s whether a screening room full of them can hold their attention for its duration. By that barometer, Trolls Band Together, the third instalment in the franchise based around the retro, punk-haired toys, really knocked it out the park, as this writer’s three-year-old and his peers remained transfixed throughout. Another way to look at it is also how engaged the parents stay, and by delivering that clever mix of imaginatively created worlds and characters, with plenty of adult references in tandem, that DreamWorks Animation is known for, they nailed that too.
Speaking with director Walt Dohrn, who was on co-directing duties for the first movie in 2016, directed the second in 2020 and returned at the helm for round three, there was something liberating about being able to create the Troll universe from scratch, as although the toys themselves were popular the world over, there was no originating story to stay true to – so they could let their imaginations run wild.
After the response to the first two, they were keen to continue in the musical realm with the established characters but in a new direction. The brilliant Anna Kendrick returns as Poppy alongside Justin Timberlake as Branch, who are now a legit couple after two films of friendship and flirting, but a spanner is thrown in the works when Poppy discovers Branch used to be in a boy band with his brothers, BroZone. Cue plenty of 90s boy band references and covers as the pair go on a journey to find Branch’s estranged brothers, and rescue one in particular whose talent is being sucked dry by a pair of fame-hungry pop stars.
The kaleidoscopic and inventively realised aspects of the Troll world and characters are beautifully put together, particularly the contrast between the 3D animation and old-school 2D sections. For the millennial parents watching, the nostalgia trip of the pop tracks and references are a blast (NSYNC have even reformed after 20 years to release a new song for the movie!), while the messaging also worked for kids in conveying the need not always to be perfect and remember the importance of family, even if they aren’t always easy to be around. Amidst a stellar line-up of new and returning musically talented cast members, Camilla Cabello stands out as the gregarious Viva and Amy Schumer as the narcissistic Velvet. Overall, it’s a brilliantly colourful and nostalgic musical journey, with irreverent humour aplenty, to entertain the whole family.
The Upcoming spoke with Dohrn about the journey to making the third Trolls movie, bringing the original cast back together as well as inviting new voices on board, the joys of the musical and visual elements of the franchise and how underneath all the frolicking fun is an important message about being yourself.
Trolls Band Together is released nationwide on 20th October 2023.
Watch the trailer for Trolls Band Together here: