ANNECY — Kelsey Grammer (“Boss,” “Frasier”) and Ron Perlman (“Sons of Anarchy,” “Hand of God”) are attached to star in Guillermo del Toro’s “Trollhunters,” his upcoming and much-awaited animated TV series produced by DreamWorks Animation Television for Netflix.
The announcement was made June 15 at France’s Annecy Festival, the Cannes of animation, as Del Toro delivers a masterclass on his career which is expected to feature a two minute sizzle-reel from “Trollhunters,” plus some 10 minutes of clips and scenes from the series.
Billed as an epic family event series, and indeed marking Del Toro’s first work for kids and families, “Trollhunters” will bow on Netflix in December 2016. Created and executive-produced by Del Toro, Trollhunters is “set in the fictional suburb of Arcadia,” where Jim, and his two best friends “make a startling discovery that beneath their hometown lies a hidden battle between good trolls and bad, the outcome of which will impact their lives forever,” DreamWorks Animation and Netflix said in a statement on Wednesday.
Anton Yeltsin, Chekov in “Star Trek,” voices Jim, who discovers a mysterious amulet; Grammar limns a kindly troll who helps Jim; and Perlman will provide the voice of Bular, which the series makers describe as “a sinister troll who targets Jim and his friends for battle.”
The cast renews the collaboration between Del Toro and Perlman, maybe the most iconic of the director’s regular actors, having played the lead in 2002’s “Hellboy” and 2008’s “Hellboy II: the Golden Army,” two early mid-career Del Toro movies which consolidated the Mexican helmer’s reputation for spectacle, an empathy with outcasts, and a desire to mix genre, physical effects and ancient mythology with complex ethical fables.
Expectation is high to see the scope and scale which Del Toro brings to a near obsession – he is the author of a novel, “Trollhunters” – in a limited series format, having tackled vampires in the FX Network-aired “The Strain.”
DreamWorks and Netflix, for their part, promise “stunning visuals and ambitious, complex storytelling” which “raises the bar for family series as a global must-see viewing event for the entire family.”
Showcased at Del Toro’s Annecy Festival keynote masterclass on June 15, a clutch of sequences from “Trollhunters,” all world premieres, served to clarify some of the creative directions the TV series is taking.
In one sequence, Jim, who has discovered the amulet, visits his school teacher to tell him he was visited by two ogres during the night before, but pulls back from a total explanation. In another, he discovers the powers of the amulet, which gives him body amor, conveniently contracting to his size and a sword that can penetrate rock.
In a final sequence seen at Annecy, Jim, backed up by his troll friend and a food-obsessed buddy from high-school, faces off with an gigantic green ogre in a spectacular gladiatorial fight where the ring is a circular stone plinth perched high in a stadium. It seems Jim faces near certain death: or that’s what even his friends think.
Del Toro originally pitched “Trollhunters” as an animated movie, he said in Annecy. But “the more we talked about, the more it looked like a [movie] trilogy and I said, ‘I’m too old to do a trilogy,’” recalled Katzenberg, who joined Del Toro for the final stretches of his Annecy appearance. So Del Toro and Katzenberg agreed on the idea of an animated TV series, to create “a much more epic and sweeping story,” in Katzenberg’s words.
In many ways, “Trollhunters” still looks as if it’s shot like a movie. “We tried to go for lightning that is not common in TV animation, dramatic, very dark, very moody, with a lot of cinematic lightning ” said Del Toro.
“In the series, we couldn’t texture and grain like a feature but I can tried to tell the story in a way that is beautiful,”
Del Toro added: “I love teaching my kids the beauty of mistakes in animation. When Mizayaki has a father try to put his shoe on and fail twice, that’s something that takes a day to make [in animation].”
Similarly, when Jim goes to see his teacher, he tries to sit down at his desk, but takes three goes to spin the revolving seat round to a higher height.
The series alternates between “tribulations on school” and the big adventures with the ogres. “One episode can turn on maths examen,” Del Toro commented. Jim’s relationship with his mother will be crucial to the story, which will be rich in mythology, he added.
“Trollhunters” is produced by DreamWorks Animation for Netflix. Guillermo del Toro, Marc Guggenheim (“Arrow,” “Legends of Tomorrow”) and Christina Steinberg (“Rise of the Guardians,” “National Treasure”) serve as executive producers. Dan Hageman (“The Lego Movie”) and Kevin Hageman (“The Lego Movie”) are co-executive producers; Chad Hammes (“Dragons: Race to the Edge”) is another producer.
More details about “Trollhunters” are likely to be revealed on June 16. Such has been the demand from journalists at Annecy for interviews with Del Toro that the Festival has scheduled a Del Toro press conference. Annecy cannot get enough of him.