Trollhunters: the animated Stranger Things

A poster advertising Trollhunters, which released its 26-episode first season onto Netflix on Dec. 23. Picture from

Who didn’t love Stranger Things over the summer? The nostalgic feel, the complex characters, and the discovery of a world that was just out of reach earned the show a vast amount of praise. Now, a new animated series that dropped on Netflix over winter break is also using those techniques in a new way to bring enjoyment and intrigue to viewers everywhere.

Trollhunters, following the journey of Jim Lake, Jr. (Anton Yelchin) as he becomes the defender of both trolls and his hometown of Arcadia, is based on a 2015 novel of the same name co-written by Guillermo del Toro and Daniel Kraus. While Kraus is not involved in the series, del Toro, the director of Pacific Rim and the executive producer of Kung Fu Panda 3, serves as one of the show’s producers, directors and writers. Also working on the series is Marc Guggenheim, a writer and executive producer of Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow.

The evidence of their involvement is clearly shown throughout the series to great effect. Some of the best elements of Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow’s character dynamics and plot structures fit in extremely well with del Toro’s experience with stunning computer-generated backdrops and fight scenes. This creates an excellent combination of both writing and cinema-worthy visuals.

One point of confusion with this series, however, is the use of the term ‘troll.’ While it is used to refer to most of the creatures that live below the Earth’s surface, not just under Arcadia, it, by no means, describes their appearance. Each troll has their own unique look far from the traditional concept. Blinky (Kelsey Grammer), who has an orange nose and sideburns that would make Elvis jealous, is rock-colored with six arms, which comes in handy since he owns a massive library and serves as Jim’s mentor. Unique character designs, such as this, create visually engaging and complex characters that the audience can eventually grow attached to.

As for the characters themselves, everyone gets their moments to shine, particularly in the season’s second half. Special recognition goes to Mr. Stickler (Jonathan Hyde), a perfect secondary antagonist for Jim, who manages to go through a complete journey during the season, Toby (Charlie Saxton), Jim’s best friend, who attempts to break away from the ‘hero’s comedic best friend’ trope and, finally, Blinky’s associate, Aaarrrgghh (Fred Tatasciore), who has several moments that will tug on your heartstrings. One of the beauties of this series is that every character is complex, whether you see them every episode, or in just a handful.

Similar to shows like Avatar: The Last Airbender, Trollhunters has a very serialized plot structure, something it benefits from greatly. Expect some elements of the show to be left on the backburner for several episodes before returning to prominence later. While some episodes are almost entirely plot-based and reveal more of the show’s mythos that leaves cunning viewers to theorize and predict, others are used for character development and do not involve the plot at all. It’s episodes like these that give the series its charm, as one of the greatest strengths of Trollhunters is the dynamic evolution of a multitude of characters.

The voice acting in this show is also top notch, the only dud being Jim’s love interest, Claire, voiced by Lexi Medrano, as her voice acting sounded phoned-in. However, this is made up for with the masterful voice of Anton Yelchin as Jim. Any time Jim had to emote a certain way, Yelchin’s voice expressed it in a realistic way, particularly in moments where he interacts with Mr. Stickler and his mother, Barbara (Amy Landecker). The series’ eleventh episode, “Recipe for Disaster,” showcases the best of both Yelchin’s and Hyde’s voice acting ability. In this episode, the dialogue between Stickler and Jim is filled with so much hate, resentment and tension that the audience will actually feel anxious.

However, Yelchin unexpectedly died in June 2016 after a car crash pinned him between his vehicle and a brick pillar. The Trollhunters crew dedicated the second episode of the series, “Becoming: Part 2″, to his memory. Although Yelchin didn’t finish all of his voice work for the show before his death, del Toro was adamant about keeping him in the show and working from the recordings they already had.

“We are still going to preserve as much of what we have with Anton because, to me, he was Jim. Period,” del Toro said in an interview with IndieWire.

It’s a shame that Jim will have to be recast if the show is renewed for a second season, but for what Yelchin was able to do, he did it perfectly.

Trollhunters is a magical, binge-worthy Netflix series that anyone can appreciate, whether you want to enjoy one of the last and finest works from Yelchin, or you just want to put off your homework.

Update: On Feb. 9, in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, del Toro officially announced that Trollhunters was renewed for a second season, consisting of 13 episodes to premiere sometime in 2017.

In the same interview, del Toro divulged the show’s plot was actually planned out by the show’s writers four years ago, with 52 total episodes planned that were separated into individual story arcs of 13 episodes each. This allowed voice actors to record their dialogue for prospective seasons far in advance.

“We have been recording Kelsey Grammer, Anton [Yelchin], Ron Perlman, Clancy Brown, everybody involved in the series for years and years,” del Toro said.

Additionally, del Toro revealed that, due to these “years and years” of recording, Yelchin produced enough dialogue to allow the series to use his voice, as Jim, for a good portion of the second season.

“…we’re not only going to [have a] second season, but we’re going to be able to preserve a really large part of it with Anton’s voice,” del Toro said.

It is still unknown who will succeed Yelchin as Jim in the later part of the season and beyond.

A trailer for the series’ first season can be viewed below.