DreamWorks Animation kicked off Hall H panels on Thursday at Comic-Con with a sneak peek of two of their upcoming releases, Trolls and The Boss Baby.
Moderated by Nerdist’s Chris Hardwick, the Trolls panelists included director Mike Mitchell, Co-Director Walt Dohrn, Producer Gina Shay, and voice talent Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake. The movie hits theaters Nov. 4.
From Ogres to Trolls
Mitchell and Dorhn are both Shrek veterans and were interested in transforming another scary ugly creature, the troll, into something cute. Troll dolls, with their scrunched up faces and shock of colorful hair, were at peak toy popularity in the ’60s and ’70s, but they had very little mythology behind them. So Mitchell and Dorhn were able to create an entirely new world based on happiness: What is happiness and what happens when you lose it?
There are two tribes in the movie, influenced by different sides of the ’70s. The hippy, free spirit culture is reflected in the trolls, who are colorful and happy all the time. They dance, sing songs about singing, and hug every hour. The flip side is shown through the Bergens, giant depressed monsters with terrible dental hygiene who are disconnected and only find happiness when they eat trolls. But trolls are described as tasting like cupcakes wrapped in bacon, so they do sound delicious.
Meet the Trolls
Anna Kendrick is Princess Poppy, the happiest, singiest, huggiest, hot-pinkiest troll of them all. She is cupcakes and rainbows personified. Kendrick was a little concerned the directors had the wrong girl for the role when Poppy was pitched as relentlessly happy, but Poppy is also layered and slightly unhinged with a side of unbalance.
Justin Timberlake voices Branch, a gray troll, who has lost his color due to a tragedy in the past. He’s a bit of a loner, cautious about Bergens, very cantankerous, and does not sing or dance. (A Justin Timberlake character that doesn’t sing or dance? What kind of bizarro world is this?)
Poppy and Branch form an unlikely duo when the Bergens kidnap a bunch of Poppy’s friends, the “snack pack” (including voices of James Corden, Russell Brand, Gwen Stefani, Zooey Deschanel, and Quvenzhané Wallis) and asks Branch to help her get to Bergen town to get them back. And the adventure begins.
Other voices include Jeffrey Tambour as Poppy’s father, John Cleese as the King of the Bergens, and Dorhn himself as Cloud Guy, literally a cloud with legs and white gym socks.
The panel screened two clips — one of Poppy trying to convince Branch to leave his underground bunker and accompany her to Bergen Town, and another scene later down the line when things don’t end up as she had planned. The animation is fun, colorful, imaginative, and the trolls have successfully crossed over from ugly cute to cute cute. The music, of course, is on point, and it does make you feel happy.
Justin Timberlake (aka the “song wizard”) executive produced the soundtrack, a blend of classic ’70s songs by artists like Simon & Garfunkel, The Gorillas, and Earth, Wind & Fire. The songs all fit together as a collection but also help tell and complement the story. Both Kendrick and Timberlake also lend their impressive singing chops, with Kendrick saying Poppy’s singing voice is closer to her actual singing voice than what’s she’s done in previous movies, including Pitch Perfect.
Making People Happy
Given the current dark state of the news, Mitchell and Dorhn really wanted to make a movie about optimism and hope. They wanted to create a movie about happiness that created happiness in people, and that emotion spread through its cast. They even did research on the science of hugs and learned a hug must last seven seconds in order for the dopamine to kick in. Cue Hardwick hugging Timberlake for a full seven seconds. Dopamine levels were not measured on stage.
Shay said they felt they had a responsibility to give young girls role models that project positive messages about body image. So they broke every princess rule in the book by keeping the trolls round and shoeless.
The Boss Baby
As a bonus addition, DreamWorks brought out The Boss Baby director Tom McGrath, Producer Ramsey Naito, and Boss Baby himself, Alec Baldwin, in his first SDCC appearance.
The animated film is loosely based on a children’s book about a baby who comes home and threatens the favorite child status of his seven-year-old brother. The baby is a tiny suit wearing, fast-talking, scheming little tyrant voice by Alec Baldwin. Baldwin has lent his voice to previous DreamWorks titles as a confident lion in Madagascar 2 and Guardian of Wonder in Rise of the Guardians.
McGrath says the film is part comedy and part personal story: It’s both a love letter and apology 50 years in the making to his older brother (who McGrath baby bossed in their childhood).
Steve Buscemi voices the villainous Francis E. Francis, and Lisa Kudrow and Jimmy Kimmel voice the parents. The Boss Baby heads tp theaters March 31, 2017.