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Did the ‘Trolls World Tour’ experiment work?

The movie is hilarious, bright and shining. But is it our new normal?

(From left) Barb (Rachel Bloom) and King Thrash (Ozzy Osbourne) in DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls World Tour, directed by Walt Dohrn.
Barb (Rachel Bloom), left, and King Thrash (Ozzy Osbourne) in DreamWorks Animation’s “Trolls World Tour,” directed by Walt Dohrn.
Universal Studios

“Trolls World Tour” will certainly bring you on a mystical ride of pop songs, slapstick humor and plenty of colors. But it may also bring you to the realization about our new normal.

“Trolls World Tour” is a sequel to the 2016 film “Trolls,” which gave us the classic wedding dance song “Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake. Anyway, in the sequel, Poppy (Anna Kendrick) and Branch (Justin Timberlake) discover that there are six different tribes of trolls throughout the lands of their fictional universe. Each tribe celebrates a different kind of music — from funk and country to classic and techno. As they embark on the journey, Queen Barb (Rachel Bloom) and King Thrash (Ozzy Osbourne) look to destroy all the other music and collect the six strings (yes, there’s some similarities to “Avengers: Infinity War” here). So, as we’ve seen before in other animated films, Poppy and Branch unite to bring together the tribes to stop the extinction of all troll tribes.

“Trolls World Tour” is clearly full of bright colors. The animation dazzles on screen and the energy from the trolls give us something jumpy and gleeful to embrace during a time of woeful darkness. The colors can be enticing if you watch this movie in the dark and at night, which you can do from your own home because this was released on video on demand instead of theaters due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

King Trollex (Anthony Ramos), center bottom, in DreamWorks Animation’s “Trolls World Tour,” directed by Walt Dohrn. Universal Studios

The film is filled with slapstick humor moments, which is definitely something for kids. Anna Kendrick is just as funny as normal. Timberlake is a little hokey and cringe-worthy at times, but that’s all well and good in a film like this, which isn’t exactly grounded in reality. Adults who need something to laugh at in 2020 (and seriously, we could all use a little laughter right now) will enjoy a lot of the delirious moments, too.

And, as you should expect, the soundtrack is a highlight. We got fresh hits from Justin Timberlake, Anderson .Paak and HAIM, among others. And there’s even a cool moment in the film where we zoom through a number of pop songs as the trolls try to light things up, bringing us through “Wannabe,” “Gangnam Style” and “Who Let the Dogs Out” — a moment that has been talked about a lot on social media. Millennials will love the moment. Don’t be surprised if you’re wondering who let the dogs out for the next few days either as the songs will bounce in your head again and again. All of the music from “Trolls World Tour” has the chance to make you feel like you’re watching one long, fun music video, one that we can certainly use at the time of a global pandemic.

But the main question that we need to be asking is did the “Trolls” experiment work? Did releasing a film directly to streaming and video on demand without hitting theaters first actually work?

From a numbers perspective, yes. “Trolls World Tour” had the biggest ever digital debut. Universal Studios said the animated film had the biggest opening of a digitally-released film. Fandango said the film had “the best preorders, first day and opening weekend sales we’ve ever seen,” according to Variety.

(from left) Legsly (Ester Dean), Guy Diamond (Kunal Nayyar), Tiny Diamond (Kenan Thompson), Smidge (Walt Dohrn), Biggie (James Corden), Mr. Dinkles (Kevin Michael Richardson), Satin (Aino Jawo) and Chenille (Caroline Hjelt) in DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls World Tour, directed by Walt Dohrn.
Legsly (Ester Dean), from left, Guy Diamond (Kunal Nayyar), Tiny Diamond (Kenan Thompson), Smidge (Walt Dohrn), Biggie (James Corden), Mr. Dinkles (Kevin Michael Richardson), Satin (Aino Jawo) and Chenille (Caroline Hjelt) in DreamWorks Animation’s “Trolls World Tour,” directed by Walt Dohrn.
Universal Studios

But even more so, the release gave families a chance to experience something new during the pandemic. Fans of the film flocked to social media to share appreciation for a new film during the outbreak. Shutting down businesses keeps people stuck inside and unable to see major films. But “Trolls” gave all of us something new and fresh to see.

Will more studios embrace the idea? It’s still up in the air. We know Disney Plus is set to release “Artemis Fowl” on its subscription service ahead of schedule. But will more studios follow this plan? The numbers from Universal hint that it might be a worthwhile adventure for sure.

It’s an interesting idea to watch a new film for the first time inside the comfort of your own home. No need to visit a theater. No need to see it on a big screen. Watching it from homes allows you to focus more on the film without worrying about all the outside variables, like the smell of a theater, the sticky floors, the stuffed stomach of popcorn.

I’m a big movie theater fan. Those lengthy Marvel and Star Wars marathons are evidence of how much time I am willing to spend in a movie theater. But seeing a film for the first time in the comfort of my home is a new experience that comes with plenty of benefits. It may be our new normal, and it is a normal worth embracing.

“Trolls World Tour” succeeded on multiple levels. Though it may not fully recapture the magic of the original, it caught a different level of excitement than the first one. It broke ground on a new normal. Now, we have to see if the trend will go on its own world tour or not.