Emmys: Trolls Light Up Animation Race With Holiday Special

Director Joel Crawford talks reuniting Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick and "bringing the joy."
Courtesy of NBCUniversal
'Trolls Holiday'

Some familiar animated faces among this year’s Emmy contenders are Dreamworks Animation’s Trolls.

Following up on the 2016 Oscar-nominated Trolls, DWA brought the gang back together for Trolls Holiday, a computer-animated half-hour special that reunited Anna Kendrick as Poppy, Justin Timberlake as Branch and Zooey Deschanel as Bridget.

This time around Joel Crawford, who was head of story on the feature, made his directorial debut. He is now in preproduction on Croods 2, which will be his first feature directing assignment for DWA.

In the Holiday special, Poppy, who is Queen of the Trolls, finds out that the Bergens don't have holidays and she aims to address the situation. "Poppy has the idea of a holiday, but she's not listening to the Bergens and asking what they want," Crawford explains. "As these two groups find common ground and value what they have, it's about friendship and a happy feel."

"I was with Trolls from the beginning, and it was really cool to see the evolution," he adds, emphasizing that it was vital to keep the tone of the film. "The tone was unique and brought a lot of joy. We pushed it even farther."

During the film’s production, as head of story Crawford had the advantage of having sat in on some of the recording sessions. “I was familiar with how Justin and Anna like to work, they are such pros," he says. "And they were excited to continue Branch and Poppy’s relationship. It was fun picking up where the film leaves off."

Crawford also continued his collaboration with many from the DWA team. "From storyboards to animation and lighting, we had the great luxury that almost the entire team worked on the first Trolls. They knew the characters so well," he says.

Music was integral to the film — its hit "Can't Stop the Feeling" was Oscar-nominated — so it's no surprise that the Holiday special did get some new music, including an original, "Holiday Presentation Song," written by David P. Smith, Eric Goldman, Michael Corcoran and Killian Gray.

"I was always singing it in the car," Crawford admits. "Lucky my kids loved the song."

DWA on Tuesday announced that the Trolls sequel will be titled Trolls World Tour. It is slated for a spring 2020 release.