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Trolls' "Cursed" Proportions & the Kindness at the Heart of Trolls Band Together

Apparently, Trolls aren't natural dancers, but the creators behind Trolls Band Together (in theaters on November 17) still found a way to make them boogie. 

By Adam Pockross

Have you ever found yourself dancing along with those loveable Trolls from the DreamWorks film franchise, wondering how the heck those little hairballs of joy pull off such amazing dance moves whilst having such short arms? Asking for a friend.

RELATED: How Trolls Band Together Turned into a Full-On *NSYNC Reunion

Seriously though, the Trolls films are amazing to experience on so many levels, immersing audiences in the wonderful world through the music, the story, and the stunning animation … much of which expresses itself in the form of joyous dancing. And while plenty of joyous dancing is what you’d generally expect from a Trolls film, Trolls Band Together (in theaters November 17) goes the extra choreographed mile by having a boyband — that most dancy of late-'90s phenomena — at the center of its story. 

What is the story behind Trolls Band Together?

Obviously, Branch (boyband royalty Justin Timberlake) and Queen Poppy (Anna Kendrick) are the leads of the film, and much of the story revolves around them embracing their official couple status (#Broppy #IYKYK). But things take an epic turn when Poppy finds out Branch used to be in BroZone, her favorite boyband growing up, alongside his four brothers: Floyd (Troye Sivan), John Dory (Eric André), Spruce (Daveed Diggs), and Clay (Kid Cudi). Alas, they haven't spoken since the band broke up.

When Floyd gets kidnapped and exploited for his musical talents, Branch and Poppy go on a musical mission to save him, while literally bringing the band back together. Factor in the fact that BroZone’s big hit, “Better Place,” happens to actually be sung by Timberlake’s old boyband, *NSYNC, getting together for the first time in 22 years … and yeah, you’ve got yourself a recipe for not just great singing, but lots and lots of dancing. Awesome, dazzling, short-armed dancing.

Alas, short arms don’t exactly lend themselves to dazzling dancing. And, as we learned recently while attending the film’s junket at DreamWorks’ campus in Glendale, California, those elbow-challenged little buggers are notoriously hard to animate. But that isn’t so much a flaw as an opportunity, as some of the creators behind the film told NBC Insider.

Trolls Band Together Filmmakers on Design Secrets Behind New DreamWorks Film

Four Trollz On a dimly lit stage performing

“Specifically in animation, their proportions are… cursed,” Ben Wills, Head of Character Animation joked when asked why Trolls are so hard to animate. “I love the designs, but in terms of dance, it really behooves you to have longer limbs that you can do more interesting poses with. You can express in a lot more ways.

“With Trolls, they have shorter limbs and they have bigger heads, so it’s definitely a challenge, but I think we found a lot of really fun creative ways to maybe extend their limbs in certain places, or come up with a different idea: Instead of doing a handstand, maybe they're doing a hair-stand sort of thing,” he continued. “Sometimes those limitations breed even more creativity. So as much as I would have loved to have had some longer limbs on these characters, it led to a lot of really funny, interesting new ways to do things that we wouldn’t have done otherwise.”

RELATED: Trolls Band Together for Musical Homage: *NSYNC, Lizzo & and a Pitch-Perfect Backstreet Boys Joke

Which, logically, led us to our next question: Do Trolls have elbows? 

“Barely,” Production Designer Ruben Perez Reynoso said.

“Technically, yes,” Wills added. 

“It’s like an elbow macaroni mix,” noted Co-Director Tim Heitz. “It’s sort of hinted — certain angles you see an elbow.” 

“Of course, Clay does do the Rusty Robot, which you need an elbow for the Rusty Robot,” VFX Supervisor Marc Scot noted, definitively. 

“They do when they need to, how about that?” Heitz concluded. 

See, even if it’s challenging, you can still find a way to dance.  

How the theme "Be Good" is all over the Trolls Universe

Small Troll seated as a group of larger Trolls surround her

While singing and dancing are a great expression of what the Trolls are all about, there is a message behind all that. 

“Kindness is always a part of this franchise,” Producer Gina Shay said. “Compassion for others.”

“People say, ‘Do you have a message to the world?’ And it is: Be nice. This kindness is the only thing we’re really selling,” Co-Director Walt Dohrn added. “It starts there. Especially some of the things we were experiencing as we first started this movie during the pandemic. That idea … we started going, ‘You’re with your family, these dynamics of being with a family, the necessity of empathy and kindness … how important that is at a time like that.’ So that really begins the conversation that becomes the film.”

That ethos isn’t just what you see on film, it’s a product of the filmmakers themselves.

“Obviously it starts with the crew. We have a very supportive and collaborative crew,” Scot said. “I think that positivity and what inspired others to be in this industry is part of the collaboration… Tim and Walt and Gina asking the crew themselves to contribute to the film itself. So what you end up with is a film filled with kindness of the crew that’s inspired to make animation and give back to the world.”

RELATED: Trolls Band Together Star Anna Kendrick Gives Us a Behind-the-Scenes Look

“We see the world that way, we want to treat each other kindly, and to value each other’s thoughts and opinions. I think that really does work really seamlessly with the mythos of the Trolls,” Heitz added.

“Be Nice” even informs the music.

“It really is on the screen and behind the scenes too. It really is an incredibly nice group of filmmakers, and everybody in the process is fun to work with,” composer Teddy Shapiro said. “It’s never stressful; it’s just like having a great time with people you really respect and trust. The fact that that’s on the screen and that’s the ethos of the films, that’s also the ethos of the filmmaking.”

So apparently joyous singing and short-armed dancing is what comes out when everyone can just be nice to one another. Perhaps that’s something we should all strive for, even you lucky ones with long arms. 

Trolls Band Together — also starring Camila Cabello, Amy Schumer, Andrew Rannells, Zosia Mamet, Zooey Deschanel, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, RuPaul Charles, Aino Jawo, Caroline Hjelt, Kenan Thompson, Anderson .Paak, Kunal Nayyar, and Ron Funches — debuts in theaters on November 17 (get tickets here!).

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