Justin Timberlake records his voice for Branch, his character in 'Trolls.' (Photo credit: Jason Bush/DreamWorks Animation)
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.
Timberlake is definitely a people person. He’s one of the best hosts in recent memory on Saturday Night Live. He’s the major star who’s not afraid to take a role in an ensemble cast. He even uses his celebrity to encourage people to vote as evidenced by his recent, sort of controversial selfie in a Tennessee voting booth. His Trolls character though is quite the opposite.
“Branch isn’t much of a people person. He doesn’t sing, dance or hug, which makes him somewhat of an outcast—by his own choice—in the Troll community. He’s a hardcore survivalist and a huge contrast to all the other Trolls. He doesn’t connect with anybody. I thought playing Branch’s sarcasm and pessimism would be a lot of fun,” he points out, “even though I’m generally not like that — at least not after I’ve had my morning coffee.”
Citing the character’s relatability, despite—or maybe, thanks to—his persistent negativity, Timberlake jokes that, “Branch is going to be the voice of every dad who sees Trolls. They are going to love Branch, and wonder, ‘Why are the Trolls so happy all the time?’”
Timberlake, however, did not want to make Branch too much of a grump.
“I was concerned that he was going to be overly cantankerous and that some in the audience weren’t going to like him,” he explains. “Fortunately, Mike, Walt and I struck a really nice balance with the character’s demeanor. But we never lost sight of the fun that came with Branch and Poppy being polar opposites of one another.”
Everyone remembers messing up troll heads of hair as a kid. As such, hair is a defining aspect of the Trolls and their universe, and bringing its nearly supernatural powers to life fell to a specially created “Hair Task Force,” made up of hundreds of artists and technicians working only on hair effects, ensuring that this magical thing was always looking—and acting—fabulous. For instance, the animators had to create 50,000 strands of hair for Branch and Timberlake loved the result.
“Branch uses his hair as whip; let’s see Indiana Jones try that!”
Utilizing music to further the film’s narrative, the Trolls soundtrack is produced by Justin Timberlake, who serves as the film’s executive music producer, and features four original songs, including songs by Justin Timberlake, Gwen Stefani, Anna Kendrick and Ariana Grande, in addition to a number of classic hits from the 1960s through the 1980s, rearranged and sung by members of the cast. This was a dream come true for Timberlake.
“[Serving as music producer] was an embarrassment of riches. “I’ve always wanted to oversee a motion picture soundtrack 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.”
Though he might be a little biased, Timberlake dares you to not be happy after watching Trolls.
“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.”
Trolls opens in theaters November 4th.