INTERVIEW: “Trolls: The Beat Goes On” Executive Producer Matt Beans – Animation Scoop

INTERVIEW: “Trolls: The Beat Goes On” Executive Producer Matt Beans

The animated feature Trolls is one of six new series that DreamWorks Television Animation has prepared for Netflix, and while it’s a slam dunk for tots, you might also like it more than you think. The TV version has the same elements of fantasy, music, goodness and niceness, but there’s a layer of character-driven comedy that gently turns its own cuteness inside out at the same time. Was that the intent? I put the question to Producer Matt Beans (Robot Chicken).

MATT BEANS: That’s funny. I hadn’t put my finger on it quite the way you just expressed it, but I think it’s well put. You can do both. You can both embrace the love and positivity that’s in it while making a little bit of a joke out of it.

GREG EHRBAR: You can be funny without being cruel. This isn’t mean spirited at all. The edgiest it gets is that the Trolls have sparkly flatulence and cupcake “accidents!”

BEANS: I fully agree. The show kind of found itself as we went through the process and kept insisting that it stay positive, with the characters wanting the best for everybody else. Initially, you think, where’s the conflict going to come from? The more we got into the headspace of these characters, seeing things from an upbeat angle, you see that life would throw you some curveballs now and then. By insisting on that, the show found a real voice.

EHRBAR: This is kind of like classic, character-driven situation comedy, which is close enough to real life to be relatable. You take things that have happened to you and work them into the stories. You’ve got Poppy, who’s as perky as can be, but she’s also tightly wound and wants everything so perfect that she pushes things to the extreme to prove her points. We all know people like that, and we can also see ourselves in that.

The show also offers kids great ways to illustrate why certain things hurt people who are different than us. You can say or do things and the only way to understand it is to get together and explain.

BEANS: I feel that way. That pilot is all about getting rid of the assumption that everyone sees everything the same way that you do. Unless you interact with people instead of keeping them at arm’s length, you never realize there are other way to see things.

EHRBAR: The color in the movie was almost blinding. What kind of visual things did your team employ for the series?

BEANS: Frank Molieri is the supervising producer. He comes from a long line of animation projects. Honoré Gauthier is our art director. They both knew we were going to go for bold colors just as the movie did. Where we did most of our homework was figuring out how to convert the CG look to 2D. If you look really closely at the backgrounds, they’re just so textured. Honoré even created some new techniques in order to give it our version of the crafted, felt-like quality that the movie had. We can’t go into that kind of detail, but we can bring out the foliage with a roughness so it looks like you could touch it.

Also, we went for a more cinematic quality, There aren’t a lot of flat scenes with two characters talking in profile. There are more dynamic shots, lots of use of focal length, and more camera movements. This makes for a really complicated 2D show, but we think it connects better to the movie.

EHRBAR: Netfix is streaming all six shows for the first season. Then what happens?

BEANS: We are making more shows to release in the Spring.

EHRBAR: In the past, ou’ve worked on shows with very adult humor. Were there any people with reservations?

BEANS: With that background, I’m not necessarily the first person you might think of to do this show. The nice thing for me was that I had written on The Croods before this. DreamWorks already knew I could work to a kids’ voice. But surprisingly, the Robot Chicken experience does come in handy from time to time. You talked about it at the beginning. There’s just a little bit of irreverence to Trolls: The Beat Goes On that makes it feels fresh and not quite so saccharine.

EHRBAR: Even the songs. Like in Enchanted, if a song gets too carried away, there’s a cut to a gag to keep from going over the top.

BEANS: We do that a lot. We have this insanely talented music producer Alana Da Fonseca. The nice thing is that, even though we may not play the songs all the way through on the show, everybody can get the them complete on iTunes, which is great.

All six episodes of the first season of DreamWorks Animation Television’s Trolls: The Beat Goes On! will become available to Netflix users on Friday, January 19th, 2018.

Greg Ehrbar

Greg Ehrbar

Greg Ehrbar is a freelance writer/producer for television, advertising, books, theme parks and stage. Greg has worked on content for such studios as Disney, Warner and Universal, with some of Hollywood’s biggest stars. His numerous books include Mouse Tracks: The Story of Walt Disney (with Tim Hollis). Visit gregehrbar.com for more.
Greg Ehrbar
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