Trolls, it seems, are in the midst of a major image makeover. For years, any time you saw a troll in a fantasy movie — the Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings series come to mind — they were portrayed as being gigantic, lumbering, and stupid. But a new wave of animated films shows them in a more positive light: smaller, cuter, and smarter. First, there were the singing-and-dancing trolls in Disney’s Frozen, and now we’re seeing an invasion of kid-friendly critters in the upcoming movie The Boxtrolls.
The exclusive trailer (above) gives audiences the first real look at the stop-motion animated film from Laika, the studio behind Coraline and ParaNorman. Based on the book by Alan Snow, it tells the story of a young boy taken in by the secretive and underground-dwelling Boxtrolls, who hide from humans inside the cardboard containers they wear as clothes. When he grows into a teen, Eggs (named after the label on his box) has to re-enter the world above to stop a villain from ridding the town of his extended troll family.
In a phone interview with Yahoo Movies, directors Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi explained that since the film is done with physical stop-motion puppets animated one frame at a time, every Boxtroll had to have their own unique look and abilities. Explains Annable: “We have our two hero Boxtrolls — Fish and Shoe — and about eight other secondary Boxtrolls who get individual names and individual personalities.” Such details presented some challenges to the filmmakers. “Each character was an individual puzzle, and the Boxtrolls as a whole were a puzzle.”
While the Boxtrolls themselves don’t have much to say, the humans they encounter have their voices provided by an array of top actors. Isaac Hempstead Wright, best known as the paralyzed Bran Stark on Game of Thrones, plays the lead role of Eggs. Elle Fanning, currently seen as Sleeping Beauty in Maleficent, provides the voice of Winnie, the girl who helps reintroduce Eggs to the world above. Sir Ben Kingsley, Toni Collette, Jared Harris, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Richard Ayoade round out the stellar cast.
While The Boxtrolls has some dark settings and a host of so-ugly-they’re-cute characters, the filmmakers stress that it has a different tone from the studio’s edgy and unsettling early work like Coraline. Says Stacchi: “All we really look for is great, emotional human stories and also stories that we think will look great in stop-motion animation, and this sort of steampunk, Victorian, Monty Python world seemed perfect…and then you can’t ask for better characters to animate in stop-motion than guys who live in magical boxes that they pop in and out of the top of.”
The Boxtrolls will open up in theaters on Sep. 26.