Trolls World Tour: Summer Activities
With the release of Universal & Dreamworks Animation’s musical, animated adventure “Trolls World Tour,” the studio was challenged with how to engage family audiences during a pandemic. Theaters were closed, gatherings prohibited and kids stuck at home doing remote learning while parents climbed the walls. This was in May of 2020 when SAG and IATSE had closed down production all over the county in an abundance of caution. And the studio wanted a lot: 5 x 1:00 live-action spots, tied to different Trolls characters, and incorporating diverse kids and families enjoying activities at home that viewers could emulate. And how about some instructional stop-frame animation showing them how to do it? Alrightee then. To be honest, we weren’t sure if we could help – but we tried. And, we got incredibly lucky…
After reaching out to our favorite production teams, we were introduced to a DP, Joe Provenzano, who was uniquely qualified to knock this out of the park. He had recently moved into a new home that he’d fitted out in different styles in case he ever need to use it as a location. He owned all his own equipment, had a killer reel of commercial and network spots, and happened to be an expert at stop-frame animation which he creates on an insert stage he’d built in his garage. Oh, and he was of Italian descent, happened to be married to a woman from Latin America and had two mixed-race children, ages 6 and 12, and a [dog breed – named ___?] all of whom were thrilled to be part of the fun. Did I mention we were lucky?
We sent location stills and a creative concept to the studio and were off to the races!
After polishing the five scripts, each concentrating on a different character and a themed item viewers could create/play with at home (“Branch’s” Friendship Bracelets, “Cooper’s” Funky Soap Bubbles, “Mr. Dinkle’s” Water Balloon Toss, etc.), we started pre-production. We drew up a shot list and schedule; Joe did all the purchasing at a local party store; we “scouted” five unique locations inside and outside their lovely home over the phone, rehearsed the stop-frame animation and got ready for 2 long, extremely productive days.
We shot from 8a to 6p, with the usual breaks as if we had an AD cracking the whip, and knocked out one spot after another. Kenny Rhodes, VP of Content at Ammo, directed via Zoom while our DP did quadruple duty as gaffer, grip, camera op and sometimes talent. His kids were delightful (especially getting soaked during the water balloon toss) and, like on most great shoots, the “crew” and cast bonded such that we didn’t want the days to end.
The footage was transferred electronically, posted at Ammo with our crack editorial and graphics staff, and we beat our deadlines and, even with the proper Coogan Accounts, permits and a social worker on Zoom both days for the minors, came in well under-budget. Even under the unique circumstances, we treated this like any other professional shoot, and the results bore out our efforts. All five spots sailed through review with minor revisions (3 of the 5 had literally no notes!) and the spots were featured on The Today Show’s website, aka TODAY BRAND STUDIO. We were all extremely proud of the final products, as well as the new friends we had made with a great DP and his glorious family.
Main Lesson learned:
Whoever said, “never work with kids and dogs” was an idiot!