‘Trollhunters: Rise of the Titans’ Delivers a Fantastic Finale to del Toro’s ‘Tales of Arcadia’

Though brimming with stakes, Netflix’s final movie installment of Guillermo del Toro’s Tales of Arcadia rationalizes rather than justifies its conclusion.

The end is in sight for our favorite trolls, aliens and wizards. That’s right, almost five years (and 53 episodes) after Guillermo del Toro and his talented team introduced us to the Tales of Arcadia saga, the characters from the Emmy-winning trilogy (Trollhunters, 3Below and Wizards) join forces for a deeply satisfying feature-size finale on Netflix this month.

Originating from the book series created by del Toro and Daniel Kaus, 2016 series Trollhunters kicked off Tales of Arcadia as part of Netflix’s quest to produce original animation for children. You don’t go into Trollhunters and its two series successors, 3Below and Wizards, expecting form-breaking storytelling for Western children’s cartoons, but each series had plenty to offer: Del Toro’s colorful realms with their own mythology, slapstick one-liners in the midst of swordplay, and colorful creatures from lovable AAARRRGGHH (Fred Tatasciore) to the paternal Blinky (Kelsey Grammar) with his teacher bravado.

All set in the sleepy town of Arcadia, Trollhunters explored the mounting responsibilities of a Chosen-One mantle held by a human boy Jim (Emile Hirsch), 3Below introduced a force of extraterrestrial characters in a breezy sci-fi fish-out-of-water comedy and allegory about loving our immigrant neighbors, and the stuffy one-season Wizards explored navigating—and grieving—a flawed guardian figure while hurling through Arthurian time travel shenanigans.

Trollhunters: Rise Of The Titans – (L-R) Toby (voiced by Charlie Saxton), Jim (voiced by Emile Hirsch) and Aja (voiced by Tatiana Maslany). Cr: DreamWorks Animation © 2021

From the mind that wove the imagination of adult-oriented Pan’s Labyrinth and Kronos, the child-friendly Tales of Arcadia contains del Toro’s signature affection for cog-twirling contraptions, mechas, magic, and creatures lurking in the underground or alleyways. In Trollhunters: Rise of the Titans, the 104-minute filmic finale, our familiar gang of trolls and humans from Trollhunters, extraterrestrial pals from 3Below, and the magicians of Wizards have assembled to defeat evil.

Trollhunters: Rise of the Titans, which features the voices of top stars such as Kelsey Grammer, Nick Offerman, Emile Hirsch, Diego Luna, Colin O’Donoghue, Tatiana Maslany, Lexi Medrano, Alfred Molina and Steven Yeun, Trollhunters: Rise of the Titans is directed by Johane Matte, Andrew L. Schmidt and Francisco Ruiz Velasco. It was written by del Toro, Marc Guggenheim, Dan Hageman and Kevin Hageman, who serve as exec producers alongside Chad Hammes.

“We always hoped these three series could culminate with a massive ‘all-stars’ reunion,” says del Toro. “We wanted the feature to improve and expand but to also deliver more scope, more spectacle … more emotion, too. We are very proud of Tales of Arcadia and extremely eager to deliver this spectacular finale.”

“While we were making Trollhunters, those in the know knew we were going to make two more television series from our world of Arcadia,” says Hammes. “As 3Below and Wizards incubated, the Tales of Arcadia was born. Almost from the beginning, I remember Guillermo saying that the studio should allow us to make a movie as the final chapter to the three TV series.”

Schmidt adds, “I had heard discussions about this early on during Trollhunters. Long before I joined the project, the series had originally started as a film, so it only seems fitting that after such a long, epic journey, a feature film would be a fitting capstone.”

Hammes mentions that it only took a couple of weeks from the first draft to nail the current resolution of the movie. “It was our second attempt,” he says. “Initially, we had something really comical leading to something sad and it didn’t feel like ‘our’ movie. It felt like someone else’s movie.

Hammes says the way the work was divided between the three helmers was pretty straight-forward: “Three directors had the task of handling three acts,” he notes. “Give a whole act to each individual director, but also give each of them enough time in production to talk among themselves so they stay in sync with the common creative vision, captained by Guillermo.”

According to Hammes, before reading the movie script, most everyone thought the quality of the animation was going to be the project’s biggest challenge. He adds, “But the creative leadership thought differently. We knew our vendors were committed to the extreme and that the quality of animation would be there. Once we read the first draft of the script, it was obvious to the creative leadership that the biggest challenge was digesting the massive amounts of visual effects. So, I think my biggest challenge was not to ‘look at the forest,’ but rather stay focused looking at one tree at a time — pacing myself. Don’t think ‘how,’ think ‘when.’”

A Big Dramatic Denouement

The artistic team’s goal was to keep the visuals and colors coherent with the previous series. As Ruiz Velasco explains, “This movie is an extension of those shows, but at the same time we wanted to push the bar in lighting and use new tools we had for the movie. Alfonso Blaas, our production designer, created a color script for the movie.” Adds Matte, “Giant kudos to the whole art team! The main characters also got an upgrade to their animation rigs.”

“We were always working remotely to some degree, since a large part of our team is located in different parts of the world,” says Schmidt, referring to 88 Pictures in Mumbai, India,

Original Force in Nanjing, China and CGCG in Taipei, Taiwan, which helped produce the animation. Including the in-house production team, the freelance artists and the overseas vendors, the movie used the talents of over 300 people. He adds, “But the remote work process deprived me of being able to drop into Francisco or Johane’s office for a quick question or work with editorial in person — a personal connection and collaboration that I truly cherished.”

Of course, the filmmakers also had to keep track of the projects’ many colorful and distinct characters. “We tried to fit all the characters from all three Tales of Arcadia shows into the production, but some were lost along the way for logistics and cleaner storytelling,” says Schmidt.

“If you only consider the main characters from Trollhunters, 3Below and Wizards, there are at least 16 characters to track,” says Hammes. “Once you consider secondary characters like Barbara, Strickler, Archie, Coach, etc. the list gets pretty large. It was truly artful how Guillermo Marc, Dan and Kevin were able to keep all these strong characters in-play within the limited time of a movie script.”

“If they haven’t seen the Trollhunters series, I’d like them to take away the desire to tune in and watch it,” says Schmidt. “If they’re already established fans and know the world and characters, then I hope that they find a satisfying closure to the epic adventure.” Ruiz Velasco says he hopes those who haven’t seen all the previous shows will go back to the very beginning after watching the movie. Matte adds, “I hope everyone enjoys the ride!”

It doesn’t appear as of now that Rise of the Titans will lead to follow-ups in the franchise. The conclusion of the Arcadia saga has its visual glories and kickbutt imagination and humor.

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