Trolls World Tour and a Sign of Things to Come

This weekend, all eyes were on a surprising subject, watching with baited breath. Trolls World Tour, the sequel to the 2016 Dreamworks film based on the popular toy franchise, rocked its way to the silver screen—sort of—and toed into new territory. While we face a pandemic the likes of which most of us haven’t seen in our lifetimes, movie theater going is generally out of the question for most (to the point AMC may not reopen when all of this is over). So Trolls World Tour pulled a rare move—releasing to both drive-in theaters (the approximately 21 that are still open) and on demand streaming on the same day. This is the first in perhaps a long string of movies that will debut in a similar fashion, such as Onward’s fastest move from theater to home for a currently released movie yet. There’s one burning question on everyone’s mind; How did this work out for the studio?

More on that later. First, let’s talk the movie itself. This movie is really nothing special or amazing just like the first one. While it goes into more lore and does more with its plot, you’re not going to get an epic adventure like How to Train Your Dragon or an emotional throwback like Kung Fu Panda. Instead, this is something colorful and absolutely weird that both children and young adults (especially with “adult brownies”) will adore. It’s funny, it’s creepy at times (in the best way), some of the laughs come unexpectedly, and in a world of being locked inside, it’s a nice distraction from everything going on.

Poppy (Anna Kendrick), now queen of the trolls, discovers that there’s more to the world than their pop music ways. Queen of the hard rock trolls, Barb (Rachel Bloom), who loves to party with Ozzy Osborne (no seriously), is taking the music from all of troll kind until only hard rock remains. Poppy decides the best solution is to hug it out and sets out with beau Branch (Justin Timberlake) and Biggie (James Corden) to save troll kind everywhere. 

There’s a lot of fun and bizarre musical performances, my personal favorites are the funk and hip hop trolls, but there’s also plenty of cringey ones, although it’s never to the point where things are uncomfortable more than fun. The whole movie is so weird that you can’t help but just give in and enjoy as a photorealistic tiger prances about to smooth jazz. The film has the usual third act fight of every kid’s film (and it’s as unnecessary as they all are, but it gets the climax going) and the day is saved by the usual sparkles and song (which somehow manages to be bizarrely creepy), but you’re not watching this movie as an adult because you’re expecting a mind blowing story. You’re here for the weird shit and this film has that in spades. Despite that, the story is surprisingly woke and touches on a good racial diversity lesson like Zootopia before it (though obviously not as good).

I recommend it because it was a fun distraction, kids will love it and enjoy something new for a few viewings and I support dreamworks. I do genuinely enjoy the trolls movies because they’re just dumb fun. Even the Netflix exclusive holiday special was the same fun even with reduced quality. And in this day and age, dumb fun is very welcome. If you’re curious, check it out, if not then you’re not missing much. 7/10 from me, but a must rent for those with kids. You deserve that hour and a half break parents of quarantine. 

The interesting thing about trolls isnt the fifteenth pop song in a row, but how it was released. It’s no secret, the world is a different and confusing place right now where all we can do is sit back and watch as our lives fall apart. With the closures and domino effects those have (which I detailed in regards to the con scene in my previous article), movie theaters are closed, theater workers are unemployed, and major media corporations are having to either delay or find other solutions for their poorly timed releases. If this movie does well it could spell a trend for the short term and a solution to covid closures. 

This is something we’ll see more and more with covid changing the world’s landscape. School’s changing how they do online, E3 possibly becoming extinct as companies realize Nintendo had it right with the direct format, and work from home jobs potentially staying that way to save on other costs. It’s a whole new world of technology and togetherness through distance. 

While I highly doubt this will override or replace the current model of things once life does resume to its new normal, for during quarantine, this is a great way to judge interest even with the steep $19.98 cost for a 48 hour rental. Disney has been trying this as well. Onward being an unfortunate victim to quarantine (and an undeserving one) was put on life support before being transported to Disney+. Artemis Fowl was also pushed straight to Disney+ (which has no rental cost and is just 6.99 a month for their entire available library and a better over all value). Eyes are now on Mulan, no stranger to controversy especially with the Hong Kong protests, and if it will come to the streaming platform or be postponed to an indeterminate period in the future. Investors generally don’t like it when a company sits on a project ripe for the profits (see the WiiU and its abysmal launch). 

Our definition of normal is changing and the success of Trolls World Tour shows that this is a great way to earn some money and good favor during a crisis. Universal says that this is its highest earning digital release yet, surpassing the previous champion (Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom) ten times over. Amazon and Fandango similarly tout that Trolls 2 saw their biggest weekends yet. Despite these claims, no specific numbers were given at time nor do we have box office numbers for domestic (possibly due to it being quite paltry with its 21 showings; international shows approx 2 million in earnings). 

Considering this movie was substantially cheaper to produce (90 million vs the 125 million of Trolls 1) profits will be easier to obtain. Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom has made approximately 60 million in Blu-ray, DVD, and digital sales so I’d say it’s safe to assume that Trolls made its money back this weekend, in no small part due to parents excited to show their kids something new and catch a few Zs on the couch. 

But when you compare that to Black Widow, a former upcoming title that cost over 200 million to produce, is it worth the risk over a theater run? And will theaters make the same money they had in the past when they reopen? Will people flock to enjoy some semblance or normal or will they be too broke and/or scared to enjoy a night at the cinemas? For the first time in a long time, these secure businesses are asking the hard questions and facing difficult decisions. Cost versus risk analyzers must be making bank. 

One thing is certain, Trolls was a record breaker and a milestone. This movie will go down in history depending on how on demand streaming plays out. There’s definitely a need for it, but whether it can compete with theater numbers or not will be something I’ll continue to watch during quarantine. Because I lost my job and have nothing better to do. 

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