Guillermo del Toro on ‘Trollhunters’ and the Unique Storytelling Medium of Animation

     January 31, 2017


Mild spoilers follow for those of you who haven’t finished the first season of Trollhunters.

DreamWorks Animation’s and Netflix’s Trollhunters wouldn’t be possible without the creative vision and deeply mythological imagination of Guillermo del Toro. During our recent interview, in typical del Toro fashion, the show’s creator was quick to praise the many-headed team of writers, producers, animators, and actors behind the scenes of the ambitious animated adventure series, as well as the legions of fans who have embraced the citizens of Arcadia and the denizens of Troll Market with fervor.

While chatting with del Toro about Trollhunters, the conversation also turned to his passion for animation and his plans to get more involved in the medium in the future. We previously brought you his exciting update on the planned stop-motion adaptation of Pinocchio, but today we have more from the creator of Trollhunters on its success and the future of the show that’s on pace to be Netflix’s most-watched original kids series ever. For fans of GDT and animation, this is a must-read.


Image via DreamWorks TV

Though he’s well known for his fantasy films that are chock full of magical realism, the medium of animation provides so many more creative opportunities for del Toro & company. Far from using animation as a storytelling crutch, the team actively and ambitiously pushed the limits in order to tell the story their way:

When a story connects so strong, it makes a huge difference in the way … you feel validated, and you feel appreciated and received that people are connecting with the message that you had or an idea you had. We were going for things that were not safe bets at all. We created a series that was lit incredibly dark, visually, very dark, very live-action lightning, but made it unique. We were not lighting it like a sitcom, we were very bold and adventurous. We wanted to be very ambitious. We have an incredible amount of freedom creatively, and we kept saying, “If you give us freedom, we’ll deliver.” The audience is going to recognize how genuine and how heartfelt and real and important this series is to us. But, of course, you never know if that is completely real, but now I’m very happy that we have an occasion which we were doing also non-ironic, not post-modern, but really rousing, heartfelt, almost romantic, clean adventures for the whole family, and it connected. It was a risky enterprise, but it paid off.


Image via DreamWorks TV

Part of the ambitious approach to Trollhunters had to do with making the animated characters appear as real and as alive as possible:

We tried to, within the fantastic, we tried to emphasize the real. We did it also in the sense that one of the main antagonists in the series becomes a good guy at the end. He doesn’t become a complete good guy, but he’s a guy who changes his heart. We do it visually by lighting the series like a live-action movie, we do it in animation by making the characters … we animate the characters making mistakes. They try to close a microwave oven, they fail, they do it again and they get it. Jim tries to get a pea in his mouth and he fails. The series is full of those moments. All of that adds up to it feeling alive and not being a series dictated by comedy.


When you watch [Hayao] Miyazaki or a beautiful animated movie like A Letter to Momo, this is something that the Japanese do a lot in the higher quality animation, which I think Miyazaki calls “Ma.” When you do Ma, the characters seem a little more alive. These are decisions that affect the quality of a series without affecting it to go over budget; you can stay on-budget but be creatively a little crazier, and the result is actually a little better.