Trolls Band Together director and producer talk new characters, music, and Bergen weddings

The upcoming third movie in the Trolls movie franchise officially has a name, Trolls Band Together, and a trailer featuring some of the catchy tunes that will be included in the musical. Ahead of the reveal of both, Total Film had the opportunity to speak with director Walt Dohrn and producer Gina Shay all about it.

Set to release on October 20 in the UK and November 17 in the US, the movie sees Branch (Justin Timberlake) dealing with his secret past as a member of BroZone, a musical act composed of him and his four brothers: Floyd (Troye Sivan), John Dory (Eric André), Spruce (Daveed Diggs; Hamilton), and Clay (Kid Cudi). As the newly released trailer indicates, however, there is a reason that Branch kept it a secret.

But that all comes crashing down after Floyd is kidnapped by Velvet (Amy Schumer) and Veneer (Andrew Rannells) as John Dory comes to get Branch and Poppy to get the band back together in order to save Floyd. There is a lot going on, and Dohrn and Shay had plenty to say about it.

Trolls Band Together still featuring Branch, Poppy, and new character John Dory

(Image credit: DreamWorks Animation)

Total Film: What can you tell us about Trolls Band Together?

Walt Dohrn: Oh, there's so much to say. Because really, with this trailer, you're just getting a taste. You know, I think like somebody said before, it's like, you know, this 84-, 85-minute journey that you have to kind of put down into two minutes, you know. It really gives you an idea of some new things that we haven't seen before, and how the characters are evolving, how the relationships are evolving. Plus some surprises – that's what great sequels do is like, surprises that you didn't know about the characters

Gina Shay: And new characters! Many new characters. Our original cast is being joined by some incredible new cast members, all of which can sing and act, and have comedic chops.

WD: So funny. It's always comedy forward on these movies, but it also has a lot of heart, I think.

You know, following up on that, at this point, three movies in, there is a fairly expansive ensemble cast to draw from. How do you go about determining which trolls to feature? Is it mostly just like actor availability or…?

WD: It’s really about the story. The story just dictates every aspect of this thing. Like, here's the story we want to tell, here are the themes, here's some of the plot we want to play with. And that really dictates which characters come back. And there's a huge returning cast, even characters from Trolls 1 that weren't in Trolls 2 are coming back. So that's something.

We're always interested in expanding, you know, more new worlds, more new characters. So, we're really drawn to having new characters, but I think there's still some of the fan favorites that come back and even Tiny Diamond’s got a bigger role in this one. So Kenan Thompson is back in a big way because we really enjoyed that character. We enjoyed working with him, so sometimes that dictates it as well.

GS: Yeah, that's the art of telling a story of a sequel too is to really give the audience what they love, but also like just introduce them to something completely fresh. And so that's what we're doing with this one, as we did with the last one too. So we got Eric Andre, Troye Sivan, Daveed Diggs, Kid Cudi are joining us as well as Camila Cabello, and Amy Schumer, and Andrew Rannells. We have an incredible new cast.

It's funny you mention some of the trolls that didn't appear in the second movie, because literally one of my questions here was like, "Find a way to ask about DJ Suki, like, let's, let's figure it out." So, I appreciate that.

[both laugh heartily]

WD: Yeah, that's a good deep cut.

GS: Yeah, she's been on for for a really long time

A really long time!

A really long time.

WD: You know, we always just want new things as well. And I think the audience likes that too.

Poppy and Branch singing in a still from Trolls Band Together

(Image credit: DreamWorks Animation)

Speaking of new things and relationships, huge congrats to Bridget and Gristle, I guess.

[both laugh heartily again]

What does a Bergen wedding even look like? Surely, once upon a time, that would have involved, like, eating trolls?

WD: I know. That's a good point, too.

GS: It is a royal wedding, too, so think "Royal New Jersey."

WD: There is definitely a design aesthetic that comes along with the Bergens. But plus, we haven't really got to see them in their full form and their community since they don't eat trolls anymore. You know, we really got underneath, like, what is a Bergen wedding? Like we had one artist who really went down this rabbit hole of, like, traditions that we don't even get to show in the movie. Like instead of rice, what do they throw? Remember, we were going to try this.

GS: Um, hot dogs?

[both laugh]

WD: We have a whole kind of Bergen menu, like, what would they eat? And it's a lot of kind of 1970s Weight Watchers food. A lot of Jello.

GS: Corn dogs.

Mayonnaise salad, that sort of thing…

WD: A lot of mayonnaise salad. You definitely get a taste of what that wedding looks like. Plus, Poppy planned it. So it's got some troll aesthetic as well.

GS: And some hot tuna.

Branch and his four long-lost brothers in a still from Trolls Band Together

(Image credit: DreamWorks Animation)

The big reveal, of course, in the trailer… Branch has brothers. Whaaaat? Can you speak a bit on the decision to introduce that here in the third film?

WD: Yeah, I mean, it's been a part of our plan for a while now – since Trolls 1.

GS: Yeah, we wanted to do a family tree story, because introducing the family members that other main characters had, I mean, especially Branch in this film, growing up really creates like makes him the sum of who he is. And like, digging down underneath those relationships to understand more of his evolution, and his kind of independence in this world and…

WD: What made him who he was. And we made this fact that it was a surprise that you didn't know about it, that's part of the story we're telling. We all have these experiences, I think, as humans, these kinds of conflicts from our past. And we don't talk about it.

Like the movie really addresses, kind of, toxic positivity in a way, which is fun for a Trolls movie? There's a lot of people, you don't want to talk about the difficult things, you don't want to talk about the hard things from your past. And this movie really talks about addressing those issues. 

So that's why we haven't heard about the brothers, because Branch held it as a secret, it was too hard for him. It's what made him who he was, kind of what turned him so sarcastic and negative.

GS: And now talking about all of these things… I mean, luckily our kids can understand, they can talk about all the anguish they had when they were growing up or things that affected them. And mental health is obviously something that everybody respects at this point in time and people don't have to hold in all this stuff from their past. They can talk about it, and get through it, and like really grow in their relationships with their siblings.

WD: But at the same time, there's boundaries. Don't trauma dump me. That's all I'm saying.

Tiny Diamond and Mr. Dinkles in a still from Trolls Band Together

(Image credit: DreamWorks Animation)

Trolls World Tour released at a time where it was severely limited by the COVID pandemic. And now, how does it feel to be returning to like a full-on cinema experience for this release?

WD: So great. It's so great. I mean, we were happy that Trolls World Tour was able to kind of give people this injection of happiness and music and dance. Just everybody really celebrated the movie in a unique way. But these movies are giant event-based experiences to have with the community, to dance in the theater, to hear everybody laughing together. The scope and scale of these movies is so wild. The production design is so unique and immersive, that the theater is the proper venue to have this experience.

GS: Yeah, we were kind of like, oh, man, that final mix we worked on that makes it feel like a concert experience is gonna be experienced in – and you know, we can't go around and test everyone's living room sound system.

WD: Even mine didn't capture the sound. But it's a movie that works on all levels. You know, I too watch movies on my phone. It just happens. But I think this, returning to the theater, like you said, it's just so exciting.

GS: Yeah, this is going to be a collective glitter-filled dance party, I think.

WD: It's scientifically engineered to make you feel better.

GS: That's right.

With music being such an integral part of the Trolls movies as we know them, what would you say is the vibe this time around? The trailer sort of makes it feel as if there's going to be a lot of sort of, NSYNC, Backstreet Boys flavor to this one.

WD: Yeah. Definitely. I mean, it's always been kind of part of the DNA of the movies. But here, we get to explore it a little bit more. You know, just, it feels like the right time to kind of celebrate the ‘90s sound as well as kind of poke fun of it. A little bit. But as always, there is a diversity. I mean, there is music from every decade and this movie as well.

What do you hope people take away when they're finally able to see this in theaters as intended?

WD: Well, definitely a good time. You know, it's always kind of comedy entertainment first and forward. But all the stuff wouldn't be as fun or as funny without the emotional architecture underneath. You know, so I think this idea of… this quest for perfection, let go of that, you know, celebrating a connection we have with each other and just doing things together. You know, that's definitely a big lesson when we're all kind of isolated alone, in our homes and in our working environments. This idea of just being together.

GS: Yeah. And communicating your needs. Your thoughts. To your family members, specifically.

WD: Being open to your partners and expressing some of those difficult parts of your life – and that's how you kind of heal from it and be able to move forward.

Trolls Band Together is set to release in cinemas on October 20 in the UK and November 17 in the US. You can also check out the most exciting upcoming movies in 2023.

Rollin Bishop
US Managing Editor

Rollin is the US Managing Editor at GamesRadar+. With over 16 years of online journalism experience, Rollin has helped provide coverage of gaming and entertainment for brands like IGN, Inverse,, and more. While he has approximate knowledge of many things, his work often has a focus on RPGs and animation in addition to franchises like Pokemon and Dragon Age. In his spare time, Rollin likes to import Valkyria Chronicles merch and watch anime.