tv series

Guillermo del Toro’s ‘Trollhunters’ is for kids and the kids hidden inside the grown-ups

The animated series on Netflix tells the story of a 15-year-old boy who has been chosen by a magical amulet as the first ever human hunter of trolls.

While there is a lot of watch on Netflix, it is the original series such as Orange is the New Black, BoJack Horseman, Narcos, or House of Cards that make a subscription worth your time.

Recently, a series that features children on bikes battling creatures from an underground world made its debut on the streaming platform. We are not talking about Stranger Things. The animated series Trollhunters features a happier and brighter colour scheme and a story that works across all age groups.

Guillermo del Toro’s first animated feature is a 26-episode series based on a book by the same name written by the filmmaker along with Daniel Krauss. It is an epic adventure that features ghosts, trolls, swords, goblins, gnomes – and it is really very good.

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Trollhunters.

Produced by DreamWorks and Netflix, the series tells the story of a 15-year-old boy who has been chosen by a magical amulet as the first ever human hunter of trolls. Jim Lake Jr (voiced by Anton Yelchin) loves his single mother and takes care of her as she overworks herself at the hospital, where she is a doctor. He loves to cook, and his best friend Toby (voiced by Charlie Saxton) loves to eat. Unknown to them, however, there is a whole world of trolls and other magical and mystical beings right beneath their feet.

When the evil troll Bular (Ron Perlman) attacks trollhunter Kanjigar, he perishes in the sun and leaves behind an amulet that calls out to Jim. He is now bound to a shining armour and sword that appear when he needs them. Jim has to protect the good trolls and the humans of his small town from Gunmar and his army of Gum Gums.

Fortunately, Jim has Toby (Charlie Saxton), his high school crush Claire (Lexi Medrano), and two good trolls Blinky (Kelsey Grammer) and AAARRGGHH (Fred Tatasciore), who prepare him for the imminent battle. Along the way, they fight vengeful goblins, gnome infestations, nightmare-inducing pixie epidemics, high-school bullies, and changelings.

Trollhunters was intended to be a film, but the format shift seems to have worked for the best. As a TV series, Trollhunters spends a great deal of time developing storylines and characters by giving the writers the leverage to steer away from preconceived expectations and stereotypes. Jim isn’t a standard good boy turned teen hero, Toby isn’t plain comic relief, and Claire isn’t just a pretty face and voiceless love interest.

All the characters have depth, and the show increasingly builds on the gravity of an army of monsters waiting to attack the good folk. It manages to stay funny and unpredictable. Jim balances school life, drama practice, his mother’s calls and the bullies who are trying to murder him – both above and below ground – while learning to fight the master of evil and getting a passing grade in Spanish.

Trollhunters.
Trollhunters.

At first look, Trollhunters may seem like a throwback to animated fantasy adventures such as Johnny Quest or, more recently, How to Train your Dragon. But the series comes with Del Toro’s distinctive trademark of stunning artwork and incredible detailing. It is a colour fest for kids and a visual delight for grown-ups.

The strong writing, remarkable animation and masterful voice acting aside, the show is also notable as the last performance of Star Trek’s Anton Yelchin, who died in a freak accident in 2016. Del Toro decided to continue with the parts recorded with Yelchin, who, according to him, was the perfect voice for Jim. The character will be recast for season 2.

Guillermo del Toro.
Guillermo del Toro.
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London then and now – As experienced by Indians

While much has changed, the timeless quality of the city endures.

“I found the spirit of the city matching the Bombay spirit. Like Bombay, the city never sleeps and there was no particular time when you couldn’t wander about the town freely and enjoy the local atmosphere”, says CV Manian, a PhD student in Manchester in the ‘80s, who made a trip to London often. London as a city has a timeless quality. The seamless blend of period architecture and steel skyscrapers acts as the metaphor for a city where much has changed, but a lot hasn’t.

The famed Brit ‘stiff upper lip, for example, finds ample validation from those who visited London decades ago. “The people were minding their business, but never showed indifference to a foreigner. They were private in their own way and kept to themselves.” Manian recollects. Aditya Dash remembers an enduring anecdote from his grandmother’s visit to London. “There is the famous family story where she was held up at Heathrow airport. She was carrying zarda (or something like that) for my grandfather and customs wanted to figure out if it was contraband or not.”

However, the city always housed contrasting cultures. During the ‘Swinging ‘60s’ - seen as a precursor to the hippie movement - Shyla Puri’s family had just migrated to London. Her grandfather still remembers the simmering anti-war, pro-peace sentiment. He himself got involved with the hippie movement in small ways. “He would often talk with the youth about what it means to be happy and how you could achieve peace. He wouldn’t go all out, but he would join in on peace parades and attend public talks. Everything was ‘groovy’ he says,” Shyla shares.

‘Groovy’ quite accurately describes the decade that boosted music, art and fashion in a city which was till then known for its post-World-War austerities. S Mohan, a young trainee in London in the ‘60s, reminisces, “The rage was The Beatles of course, and those were also the days of Harry Belafonte and Ella Fitzgerald.” The likes of The Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd were inspiring a cultural revolution in the city. Shyla’s grandfather even remembers London turning punk in the ‘80s, “People walking around with leather jackets, bright-colored hair, mohawks…It was something he would marvel at but did not join in,” Shyla says.

But Shyla, a second-generation Londoner, did join in in the revival of the punk culture in the 21st century. Her Instagram picture of a poster at the AfroPunk Fest 2016 best represents her London, she emphatically insists. The AfroPunk movement is trying to make the Punk culture more racially inclusive and diverse. “My London is multicultural, with an abundance of accents. It’s open, it’s alive,” Shyla says. The tolerance and openness of London is best showcased in the famous Christmas lights at Carnaby Street, a street that has always been popular among members of London’s alternate cultures.

Christmas lights at Carnaby Street (Source: Roger Green on Wikimedia Commons)
Christmas lights at Carnaby Street (Source: Roger Green on Wikimedia Commons)

“London is always buzzing with activity. There are always free talks, poetry slams and festivals. A lot of museums are free. London culture, London art, London creativity are kept alive this way. And of course, with the smartphones navigating is easy,” Shyla adds. And she’s onto something. Manian similarly describes his ‘80s rendezvous with London’s culture, “The art museums and places of interest were very illustrative and helpful. I could tour around the place with a road map and the Tube was very convenient.” Mohan, with his wife, too made the most of London’s cultural offerings. “We went to see ‘Swan Lake’ at the Royal Opera House and ‘The Mousetrap’ by Agatha Christie. As an overseas graduate apprentice, I also had the pleasure to visit the House of Lords and take tea on the terrace.”

For the casual stroller along London’s streets today, the city would indeed look quite different from what it would’ve to their grandparents. Soho - once a poor suburb known for its crime and sex industry - is today a fashionable district of upmarket eateries and fashion stores. Most of the big British high street brands have been replaced by large international stores and the London skyline too has changed, with The Shard being the latest and the most impressive addition. In fact, Shyla is quite positive that her grandfather would not recognise most of the city anymore.

Shyla, though, isn’t complaining. She assures that alternate cultures are very much alive in the city. “I’ve seen some underground LGBT clubs, drag clubs, comedy clubs, after midnight dance-offs and empty-warehouse-converted parties. There’s a space for everybody.” London’s cosmopolitan nature remains a huge point of attraction for Indian visitors even today. Aditya is especially impressed by the culinary diversity of London and swears that, “some of the best chicken tikka rolls I have had in my life were in London.” “An array of accents flood the streets. These are the people who make London...LONDON,” says Shyla.

It’s clear that London has changed a lot, but not really all that much. Another aspect of Indians’ London experience that has remained consistent over the past decades is the connectivity of British Airways. With a presence in India for over 90 years, British Airways has been helping generations of Indians discover ‘their London’, just like in this video.

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For more information on special offers on flights to London and other destinations in the UK, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of British Airways and not by the Scroll editorial team.