DreamWorks Trolls Exclusive: Get to Know Trolls’ Co-Director Walt Dohrn


Here at mBLOG, we can’t get enough of DreamWorks Trolls! As we eagerly await the movie release, we got the chance to sit down with co-director Walt Dohrn to get the scoop on how these iconic dolls came to life on the big screen and how he landed the voices of Smidge and Cloud Guy. Curious? Us too, see below!

DreamWorks Trolls Interview Director Walt Dohrn


100416_lwh_trolls_director_interview-img002We’ve seen the trailers and can’t wait for the movie release! Can you tell us a little bit about how the idea for DreamWorks Trolls came about?

100416_lwh_trolls_director_interview-img003Mike Mitchell and I worked together on the Shrek films, along with our producer Gina Shay. Between the three of us, we spent years developing the backstories and culture of ogres, and couldn’t help but stumble upon their not-so-distant cousins, the trolls.

As iconic as the dolls from the ‘70s were, the trolls actually had no backstory, so we had a blank canvas from which to create their world. It was too perfect a scenario to pass up! We truly got to create our own mythology and worldview for these Trolls, stemming only from the fun, irreverence of their colors and hair.

Right away, we honed in on this theme of happiness as our driving force, and we let it inspire — and infect everything, from our character design to our music.

100416_lwh_trolls_director_interview-img002So what comes first: The animation of the film or the character voicing? Or do they happen in tandem?

100416_lwh_trolls_director_interview-img003 Well, this is all a very collaborative process among multiple teams of incredibly talented artists. From the very beginning, while visual development and previsualization artists are working with the directors on the look of the film, story artists are brought in to work with the directors and screenwriters, developing our characters and their journey.
As we start to put together boards and sequences, it’s not uncommon for the artists to step in and do a temporary, or “scratch”, voice to help everyone further understand and develop the character. Ultimately, the final cast voice is in before we get the animators started on final animation, but even then, if a better, more honest read or idea for a line comes through, we’re going to go back in and rerecord it to continue focusing on the integrity of the story and our world.

DreamWorks Trolls Interview Director Walt Dohrn


100416_lwh_trolls_director_interview-img002Aside from directing, you’re also the voice of Smidge and Cloud Guy. What goes into finding that voice? Where did you draw inspiration?

100416_lwh_trolls_director_interview-img003Finding a character’s voice is a really fun process. For this movie as with Shrek, I stepped in to do a lot of the scratch voices for the characters, and luckily I got to hang on to Smidge and Cloud Guy.

For Smidge, we always loved the juxtaposition of a really deep baritone voice for our tiniest character, and really stuck to that idea the entire time. She’s got this great, surprising strength coming from somewhere, or someone, you may not expect it from. Cloud Guy was further comic relief in our already irreverent world, so we went the opposite direction for him. He’s got this ridiculous confidence and free-flowing energy.

Our artists inspire all of our characters and voices. Anyone who works with these artists for even a moment can start to feel their influence on this movie.

100416_lwh_trolls_director_interview-img002Is there a lot of improvisation come recording time or do you prefer that the actors stick to the script?

100416_lwh_trolls_director_interview-img003Every part of making a film is collaborative, and the recording process is no exception. We’ve been really blessed with our cast; all of our actors are brilliant and funny, as well as exceptionally talented musicians and singers. They’re certainly bringing as many ideas to the table as we are, as directors.

The actors are so experienced and professional that they always come prepared not only with their lines as prepared, but also with many, many other ways to read them, and often bring along new ideas entirely. We totally welcome that process as we all ultimately care about the integrity of the film and the story.

DreamWorks Trolls Interview Director Walt Dohrn



100416_lwh_trolls_director_interview-img002What’s your favorite part about animation?

100416_lwh_trolls_director_interview-img003Aside from our insanely talented cast and crew – who I could not say enough great things about, animation is particularly unique in that you literally design every part of this world. In CG-animation, every blade of grass, every drop of water, every facial tick, is discussed and designed to exist in that world in the most fitting way. Your world really is one of a kind, while at the same time having been touched and influenced by hundreds of artists and storytellers for many years.

100416_lwh_trolls_director_interview-img002Where do you see this type of filmmaking in ten years?


100416_lwh_trolls_director_interview-img003Something that’s really great about animation is that, because we constantly collaborate and influence each other, we all constantly push each other to challenge ourselves and grow beyond any expectations. So long as there are stories to tell and worlds to create, the sky is the limit!


Can’t get enough of DreamWorks Trolls? Check out macys.com/trolls for more happenings and to shop our exclusive collection!

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