The Art of Trolls, by Jerry Schmitz – Book Review by Fred Patten
by Pup Matthias
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer
The Art of Trolls, by Jerry Schmitz. Foreword by Anna Kendrick.
Petaluma, CA, Cameron + Company, October 2016, hardcover $45.00 (160 pages).
Trolls is a 92-minute 3D computer-animated musical comedy fantasy feature film from DreamWorks Animation, released on November 4th, 2016. The Art of Trolls is a coffee-table, full-color art book describing that film, and its making, in detail. Jerry Schmitz, the book’s author, is a Hollywood PR, marketing, brand management, and awards consultant veteran who has written several other The Art of animation books before. The foreword is by Anna Kendrick, the voice actress of Princess Poppy, one of the film’s two stars.
From a furry viewpoint, Trolls and this book are dubious subjects. No anthropomorphic animals appear in either. Yet the trolls aren’t human, either. If you consider humans to be a species of animals, then trolls qualify as anthros. Anyway, here it is. You decide if it is of interest to you.
The Art of Trolls is a de luxe art book about the film and its making, with detailed visual samples and background information. For those interested in the film, this book is worth getting for the names of all the characters alone. The rejected preliminary designs of the main characters will be fascinating, also.
The popular troll dolls as a merchandising phenomenon were created by Danish woodcutter and fisherman Thomas Dam in 1959, when he could not afford to buy a Christmas gift for his young daughter Lila. She showed the wooden dolls to her friends in Gjøl, Denmark; they all wanted troll dolls; Dam realized their potential; and he and his family created the Dam Things company to mass-produce them in plastic. Troll dolls became one of the biggest toy fads in the U.S. from 1963 to 1965, and have never stopped selling well. DreamWorks Animation licensed the rights to feature them in a movie in 2013. Here it is.
From DreamWorks’ standpoint, the lack of a Trolls backstory allowed its creative team free rein to create their own story. Trolls co-director Mike Mitchell, who had previously worked on DreamWorks’ Shrek Forever After, was already familiar with the Scandinavian legends of trolls, including how they had become gentled over the centuries from fearsome monsters to children’s friendly sprites. He built the film around the latter.
Trolls features two main characters; Poppy of Troll Village, and Branch, the village’s pessimist. The trolls have escaped from Bergentown, where they were a culinary delight, twenty years ago, and have lived happily in their own hidden village ever since under popular King Peppy. His hyperenthusiastic teen daughter, Princess Poppy, does all that she can to keep all the trolls constantly joyous. Only Branch, the village’s pessimist, worries about the giant Bergens finding them. When Chef, the Bergentown king’s cook, does and captures Poppy’s friends, she and Branch are thrown together into an odd-couple rescue mission. What they find in Bergentown, described in this book, leads to the expected happy ending but not the one that the audience was anticipating.
The Art of Trolls is full of the detailed profiles of both the trolls and the Bergens. Poppy. Branch. Biggie and Mr. Dinkles. DJ Suki. Satin and Chenille who are joined by their hair. Guy Diamond, who is nude but it’s okay because he’s flocked. And others. The Bergens (who hark back to the legends of trolls as flesh-eating monsters) include Chef, King Gristle, Jr., the scullerymaid Bridget, and others – all with snaggly fangs.
Production Designer Kendal Cronkhite-Shaindlin made the trolls and their village all bright and multicolored, with lots of primary colors. The Bergens and Bergentown featured a dark palette. The Bergens were a visual challenge. The trolls were based upon the toyline, so their models were clear. The Bergens were all original. They had to look completely different, but not too different. They had to look ugly, but sort-of cute at the same time. The Art of Trolls shows how Cronkhite-Shaindlin and her design team, led by Art Director/Character Designer Timothy Lamb, achieved this.
Most of the DreamWorks’ design team grew up in the 1970s. While the trolls had a fairytale village, the designers had fun packing Bergentown with ‘70s imagery. The architecture and interior design of King Gristle Jr.’s castle was based on overlush Hollywood kitsch, while the Bergens wear ‘70s-style bell-bottom trousers.
As usual with these coffee-table animation art books, all of the artwork is identified: Philippe Brochu, Avner Geller, Tim Heitz, Sayuki Sasaki Hemann, Kirsten Hensen Kawamura, Craig Kellman, Timothy Lamb, Carlos Felipe León, Mike Mitchell, Sebastien Piquet, Simon Rodgers, Ritchie Saciliac, Philip Vose, Priscilla Wong, and others.
In addition to the design sketches and finished character art, there are storyboards, lighting studies, modeling, rigging, and more. The Art of Trolls is a visual companion to the movie that may not show any anthro animals, but will reward any furry fan.
Based on the popular Trolls dolls created by Thomas Dam, Trolls is a 3D computer-animated musical comedy from DreamWorks Animation directed by Mike Mitchell (Shrek Forever After)
Princess Poppy (Anna Kendrick) is a relentlessly upbeat, if slightly naïve, Troll who inherits her crown on the very day her people face the first challenge that can’t be solved with a song or a hug. Accompanied by Branch (Justin Timberlake), she ventures “far beyond the only world they have ever known” in a quest that tests their strength and reveals their true colors.
Full of playful designs created in the optimistic and fun-loving spirit of the Trolls, The Art of Trolls showcases hundreds of pieces of concept and production art to illustrate how DreamWorks’s team of talented artists created an enchanting reinterpretation of the Trolls phenomenon that has gripped collectors and popular culture for decades.
I was fascinated by the interview on the Cartoon Brew website with “Trolls” co-directors Mike Mitchell and Walt Dohrn. Their first question was, “Cartoon Brew: The Troll Dolls were first popular in the 1960s, so why make a movie about them now?” They spent the whole interview not answering that question.
They did say that the professional animation community is so small that when DreamWorks gave them the assignment of creating the story for “Trolls”, they discussed it with, among others, the director of Columbia’s “Hotel Transylvania” movies, the co-director of Warner Bros.’ “The LEGO Movie”, and the writers of DreamWorks’ three “Kung Fu Panda” movies. All helped brainstorm the plot.