Trolls, a smart, funny and irreverent comedy about the search for happiness

“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?”

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.

Trolls 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.

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.


Mike Mitchell (Director) is one of the industry’s most talented and sought-after directors, whose films have taken in more than $1 billion worldwide. From directing Shrek Forever After, to writing for The Ren & Stimpy Show and SpongeBob Squarepants, to executive-producing Kung Fu Panda 3, Mitchell is often recognized as having one of the most versatile backgrounds in the business. His latest, Trolls, is being released by DreamWorks Animation and 20th Century Fox on November 4, 2016. Immediately after his graduation from CalArts, Mitchell began working for Tim Burton as a story artist and assisted Spike Jonze with his features, commercials and music videos. In 1996, Mitchell began his collaboration with DreamWorks Animation. In addition to directing Shrek Forever After, the final chapter of the most successful animated franchise ever, he advised and consulted on films such as Shrek 2, Shrek the Third, Kung Fu Panda, Monsters vs. Aliens, Kung Fu Panda 2, Puss in Boots, and Home. Outside animation, Mitchell’s films include Sky High, Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo and the live-action sequences for The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water and Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked. Additionally, he directed the television pilot and several episodes for the Fox show Greg the Bunny starring Seth Green and Sarah Silverman, as well as “Action League Now!” from Nickelodeon’s Kablam! In his career, Mitchell has received numerous awards for his work, including the 1999 Spirit of Slamdance Award for his short film, Herd, and the 1993 Sundance Film Festival’s Best of Fest Award for his animated short, Frannie’s Christmas. His film Shut Up Lil Man premiered at Austin’s SXSW film festival and featured handmade puppets of his own design.

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, Mitchell and 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 Mitchell.  “In the 1970s they became a symbol for happiness.”

Adds Dohrn: “Their simplicity and imperfections were relatable and made people feel good.”


Walt Dohrn (Co-Director), one of DreamWorks Animations most trusted story experts, previously served as Head of Story on the hits Peabody and Sherman and Shrek Forever After. A multitalented artist, Dohrn has on many occasions lent his voice to various characters in previous DreamWorks Animation films, and in Shrek Forever After made his debut as a voice performer in a leading role, bringing to life the conniving and hilarious villain Rumpelstiltskin. Perfecting the character’s performance came naturally to Dohrn, as he simultaneously developed the character while acting as Head of Story for the film. In that capacity, Dohrn was responsible for supervising the development of the film’s plot, working in close collaboration with director Mike Mitchell and supervising a team of story artists. Since joining DreamWorks Animation in 2002, Dohrn contributed to the story of Rise of the Guardians, Shrek the Third, Madagascar, Shark Tale, and Shrek 2. In addition, Dohrn wrote the lyrics for the songs “Final Showdown” (Shrek the Third) and “Fairy Godmother Song” (Shrek 2). Prior to joining DreamWorks Animation, he worked as a storyboard artist and writer. Dohrn’s credits include the critically acclaimed audience favorites SpongeBob Squarepants and Dexter’s Laboratory.

As they continued their explorations of all things Troll, Mitchell and 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 Dohrn.  “We decided it was time to start spreading some joy again.  Mike 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, color and textures.”

In many ways, says producer Gina Shay, another of Mitchell and 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 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’ neighbors, 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.

Mapping out the story


Jonathan Aibel & Glenn Berger (Screenwriters, Co-Producers) are the writing and producing team behind some of today’s most beloved and popular family films. To date, their movies have grossed over 2.75 billion dollars at the worldwide box office and over one billion dollars domestically. Aibel and Berger met right out of college while working as management consultants in Boston. It was there they discovered their passion for comedy writing and lack of passion for management consulting. So they threw away their suits and briefcases and moved to Los Angeles. Since then, Aibel and Berger have written some of the most successful family films of the past decade, and have positioned themselves as two of the most talented and respected comedy writers in the industry. They pride themselves on scripting films that appeal to audiences of all ages, with a combination of character-based comedy, action, and emotion. The pair wrote and co-produced DreamWorks Animation’s Kung Fu Panda, Kung Fu Panda 2 and Kung Fu Panda 3, and wrote last year’s Paramount hit, The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie: Sponge Out of Water. Other family film credits include Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked and DreamWorks Animation’s first 3D film, Monsters vs. Aliens. In addition to their work in film, Aibel and Berger were part of the original staff of the animated Fox hit series King of the Hill. They remained at the show for six seasons, and rose to become executive producers, garnering four Emmy nominations and one win.

With that through line of happiness in place, Mitchell and 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.

Berger calls the new assignment “a real creative change of pace, and so much fun.”  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.”

Happy Endings

Okay, so it’s nice to be happy.  Happy is good.  But why make a movie about it?  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?”

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 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 Timberlake.  “I love its non-cynical humor.  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,” Kendrick says.  “And that I could visit it.”

 Technology for Animated Filmmaking

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 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 Cronkhite-Shaindlin, is an “explosion of color, 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-colorful.  ‘Dark and moody’ is just not very Troll-like,” she adds.

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.”


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 Dohrn.  “We never wanted the story to stop just because a song began.”

Mitchell and 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 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 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 Timberlake assume those responsibilities was the perfect marriage of artist and material.  “It felt organic for Justin to become our partner,” says Shay, noting his instant connection to the project.  “When we presented some images and rough scenes to him, Justin 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.”