The 2016 animated hit “Trolls World Tour” required Justin Timberlake to work it globally, promoting the glitter-and-song filled musical comedy with an international press tour, gala red carpets and yukking it up on “The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon.”
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It’s been away a different story for the 2020 sequel “Trolls World Tour,” which had the world tour nixed because of the global shutdown brought by the coronavirus pandemic. Last month, Universal and DreamWorks studios made the unprecedented decision to release the sequel on home-streaming video-on-demand platforms Friday as theaters shuttered nationwide last month.
“It’s a surreal time for sure,” Timberlake says, speaking by phone from his Montana home where he’s quarantining with wife Jessica Biel and their 5-year-old son, Silas.
In a telling piece of promotional improv, the ruggedly bearded, flannel-wearing Timberlake goofed via video Wednesday with Jimmy Fallon for “Quarantine Remix” from his isolated Montana home – banging pots, brushing his teeth and giving frequent looks into the refrigerator.
“Jimmy and I jumped on the phone and started brainstorming like, ‘What do you have in your house that I have in my house?’ Cause it’d be funny,” says Timberlake, who admits he really can’t fight the feeling of constant refrigerator checks in his own kitchen. “Yeah, I’m sure I’m not alone in that. It’s interesting that we’re all isolated, but we’re all probably doing the same things.”
Even talking “Trolls” now requires strategy and maneuvering many families can relate to. “Give me a second, hold on,” he says shuffling as doors close behind him. “Let me put some AirPods in to block out everyone in my house. It’s just in case my child gets loud.”
But such adjustments are small potatoes, as the film’s voice star portraying troll Branch and music executive producer is cognizant to the greater situation.
“For me and my family, our biggest concern right now is we just want to do our part, staying in, staying put, trying to stay positive,” says Timberlake. “We’re finding the silver lining. This is one of those times where you get to spend a lot of time with your family.”
Even if it does get loud.
Silver linings aside, it’s clear that Timberlake’s survivalist troll Branch, living in a fortified bunker in the original film, was truly prescient in his fretful world outlook.
“It’s like, Branch was right, man. He had his bunker, he had his supplies. He was resistant to hugging,” says director Walt Dohrn, who personally mirrors the hopelessly positive troll Poppy (voiced by Anna Kendrick) with his outlook on the film’s release. He calls optimism “just my natural state. This is an unprecedented situation and the optimistic side of me is grateful that I can share the film with people in a unique and historical way.”
Timberlake says he’s been on board with the at-home release decision, which was “above my rank.” But speaking as a concerned parent in disturbing times with an active 5-year-old of his own, he thinks it’s “cool” to send “World Tour” via direct glitter-pipeline to family-filled homes.
“This will certainly be an Easter to remember for a lot of families. This might bring people laughs, joy and some decent music,” says Timberlake. “And as a parent, mostly you’re constantly looking for things to entertain your child right now. So this checks a lot of boxes.”
With Branch and Poppy re-teaming in “World Tour” to stop a nefarious plot conceived by rocker troll Barb (Rachel Bloom) to make all music metal rock, Timberlake oversaw a rainbow coalition of infectious pop music, with collaborators like Anderson .Paak, Mary J. Blige, George Clinton and Kelly Clarkson. An Oscar nominee for the original’s song “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” Timberlake co-wrote and performed upbeat sequel songs such as “The Other Side” with SZA and “Don’t Slack” with .Paak.
The happy home effects are already proven. Timberlake screened the movie for his son and some fellow quarantined kids at Silas’ “fun” fifth birthday party Tuesday where kid loudness was truly appreciated. “And on your third viewing you catch a lot more jokes,” he says.
Beyond the family time and unusual film promotion, Timberlake admits he’s not doing much professionally right now, especially in a home that doesn’t have a functioning music studio.
“I do have my guitar, so there’s always that. But I’m gonna have to work the songwriting muscle pretty soon, because I do that pretty regularly,” he says.
He is staying optimistic about life beyond the current pandemic.
“I can only speak from my experience really, but myself and my family are just trying to be conscious of taking a step back, and I think we’re all going to learn a lot from this,” he says. “I hope that we’re the better for it.”