Beware The Hair: Trolls Hit The Big Screen — And Bring Scrapbooks With Them The movie Trolls features not just big hair but surprisingly great music — and a fair bit of scrapbooking. The film, by a veteran animation director, aims to balance feel-good fun with offbeat humor.
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Beware The Hair: Trolls Hit The Big Screen — And Bring Scrapbooks With Them

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Beware The Hair: Trolls Hit The Big Screen — And Bring Scrapbooks With Them

Beware The Hair: Trolls Hit The Big Screen — And Bring Scrapbooks With Them

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Trolls, those dolls with fluorescent Don King hair, are the stars of a new movie "Trolls." NPR's Elizabeth Blair reports the balance between fun and offbeat humor may keep adults in their seats.

ELIZABETH BLAIR, BYLINE: "Trolls" director Mike Mitchell has worked with a lot of different species.

So you have worked with a sponge...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE SPONGEBOB MOVIE: SPONGE OUT OF WATER")

TOM KENNY: (As SpongeBob SquarePants) Who wants a crabby patty?

BLAIR: ...Chipmunks...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: CHIPWRECKED")

JUSTIN LONG: (As Alvin) I can see Russia from here.

BLAIR: You've worked with an ogre...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SHREK FOREVER AFTER")

EDDIE MURPHY: (As Donkey) Hey, everybody, Shrek's going to do his famous ogre roar.

MIKE MYERS: (As Shrek) Not now, Donkey.

BLAIR: ...And now "Trolls." and who's the hardest to work with?

MIKE MITCHELL: Oh, by far that ogre Shrek is very difficult, but I have to say the easiest to work with are the trolls.

BLAIR: Because these trolls are happy. They're always singing.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "TROLLS")

ANNA KENDRICK: (As Poppy, singing) I'm coming out. I'm coming.

BLAIR: We'll get to that happy place, but first, a little background. A troll doll is...

MITCHELL: It's a stubby, little-bodied creature with this shock of hair.

BLAIR: The first one was made in 1959 by a poor Danish woodcarver named Thomas Dam. Dam's daughter was afraid of the trolls in story books - you know, those baby-snatching trolls who live under bridges.

MITCHELL: So he decided to create a new kind of troll, one with outstretched arms and a smile, ready for a hug.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "TROLLS")

KENDRICK: (As Poppy) Hug time.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) It is hug time.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS #1: (As characters) Hug time, hug time.

BLAIR: Leading hug time is Princess Poppy, the fluorescent pink heroine of the movie. She's every troll's cheerleader. She's "Rebecca Of Sunnybrook Farm" meets My Little Pony. She's really into scrapbooking.

PRISCILLA WONG: And, like, scrapbooking, isn't that kind of what, like, grandmothers do?

BLAIR: Priscilla Wong is a visual development artist for DreamWorks. She was given the job of creating the scrapbooks. Even though she was skeptical, she understood how to make that relentless charm edgy.

WONG: It's irreverent. It's magical creatures, like, barfing rainbows and, like, pooping cupcakes (laughter).

BLAIR: Mike Mitchell insisted that everything in "Trolls" be handmade. So Wong says she first made a scrapbook using things like aluminum foil, old candy, crinkled paper and scraps of faux fur.

WONG: The directors joked that it looked like I found roadkill (laughter) and scrapbooked it.

BLAIR: So she went back to the drawing board and ended up using your basic store-bought materials - colored felt and paper. When Poppy isn't scrapbooking or pepping up her friends, she's singing and dancing.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "TROLLS")

KENDRICK: (As Poppy, singing) I've got this feeling inside my bones. It goes electric wavy when I turn it on.

BLAIR: Newsflash - Justin Timberlake, who stars in the movie, originally wrote this song for "Trolls."

MITCHELL: I mean, he said he was going to make it a hit song, and I laughed at him. But lo and behold, I guess that's what Justin Timberlake does.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "TROLLS")

JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE: (As Branch) I've got that sunshine in my pocket, got that good soul in my feet. I feel that hot blood in body when it drops - ooo.

BLAIR: With that sunshine in their pockets, the trolls are prey for the Bergens, gigantic monsters with bad teeth designed in colors like gray and avocado green. The Bergens eat trolls because they want their happiness. And the song the Bergens sing is another example of how Mike Mitchell winks to the adults in the audience.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "TROLLS")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS #2: (As characters, singing) I ain't happy, I'm feeling glad. I got sunshine in a bag. I'm useless but not for long. The future is coming on. I ain't happy...

BLAIR: This is a cover of a song by the edgy, animated British hip-hop group Gorillaz, first popular in the early 2000s, so a bit of nostalgia for some of today's parents. "Trolls" is not a battle between good and evil but between gloom and glitter. Mike Mitchell thinks we need a story right now about finding happiness.

MITCHELL: I find, like, all the news and most media and the internet, it's so dark and it's so depressing and it's so scary, not just for kids but for me. And I just wanted to make some film that really just made people think about happiness. Let's not undervalue a positive attitude, and let's explore happiness and maybe discover that we're in charge and that happiness is deep down inside every one of us.

BLAIR: If that means trolls and scrapbooks and pooping cupcakes, so be it. Elizabeth Blair, NPR News.

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