Spoilers ahead for folks who haven’t watched Trollhunters Season 3.
Hopefully, for those of you here in the States, you enjoyed your Memorial Day holiday weekend. Better still, we hope you had a chance to enjoy the latest (and final) season of DreamWorks Animation’s Trollhunters on Netflix because these final 13 episodes not only brought the story (so far) to a close, they also set the stage for future “Tales of Arcadia” stories to come. If you haven’t finished Season 3 yet, we’ll advise you not to read any further since we’ll be discussing spoilers with the show’s executive producer Marc Guggenheim, but feel free to read Part One of our interview and to see what I thought of the third and final season in my spoiler-free review.
Now that you’ve been properly warned and those of you who remain are folks who’ve experienced Season 3, I’m sure you have some thoughts, opinions, and questions about that big transformation Jim Lake Jr. underwent in the final episodes of the season. Yes, we’re talking Troll Jim; Guggenheim talked at length about that decision and its justification. Additionally, we also chatted about this season’s horror elements and its fantastic cast, who might just be making an appearance in future spin-off series. That’s right! Guggenheim teased some tidbits for future “Tales of Arcadia” series 3 Below and Wizards, so read on to find out more!
The early half of this season has a strong horror vibe to it. Can you talk about the discussions related to that and the influences for it, like The Exorcist?
Guggenheim: In many ways, it was kind of dictated by the story we were telling. We always knew that we were going to end Season 2 with Gunmar entering Trollmarket and taking it over, and that is itself a kind of dark moment. That’s basically the end of the second act of the story where your heroes are at their lowest point. And we also knew that we were going to be bringing in more magical elements because we’re actually laying some foundation for the third Tales of Arcadia series, Wizards.
With the exception of [“The Exorcism of Claire Nuñez”], I don’t personally think of Season 3 as having more horror elements, but there’s one episode where Claire is possessed and everyone has to perform an exorcism. One of the fun things about this show is we’ve always shown our influences on our sleeve. We always try to pay homage to those influences. Because the nature of that episode is an exorcism it just made sense to have some nods to The Exorcist. It’s all done in very good fun and it’s not dark at all. In fact, I think the exorcism episode with Claire is kind of sweet because, ultimately, it’s Claire’s childhood toy that allows her to come home. It’s not scary, it’s not dark, and obviously if you’ve never seen The Exorcist you can [still] appreciate the episode on its merits. There’s just one particular shot that’s an iconic shot from The Exorcist that we very shamelessly and blatantly ripped off because we just thought it would be funny.
The decision to bring about Jim’s transformation … I’m still on the fence about it, honestly. What was the discussion process like for this one?
Guggenheim: We went back and forth and back and forth on it a great deal. There was a lot of internal discussion and debate about it, and then there was even more internal discussion and debate about what it would look like, because it’s one thing to say, “Okay, Jim’s going to become part troll,” but then at the end of the day you have to visualize that, you have to realize that. It’s not as simple as, “Well now he’s part troll.” What does that look like? What design are we ultimately going to go with? And the design went through a lot of iterations as we tried to really thread the needle in terms of the story and the episode “Jimhunters”, after Jim as turned into a troll and we have to deal with the ramifications, and we basically spend the whole episode doing that. That episode went through a lot of changes as we really dialed in the emotional reactions of everyone, including and especially Jim.
As for its origins, I would say, in many ways it struck us as, immediately, a very risky proposition, but it made a lot of sense to us because we wanted Jim to have to make some kind of sacrifice in order to vanquish Gunmar. Ultimately, he knows the Eternal Night’s coming, he knows that Gunmar is a threat, and we wanted our hero to have to sacrifice something of himself. We knew we didn’t want to kill off Jim, so in thinking about that, it kind of just made sense that the Trollhunter would have an element of troll in him. But we knew it was a very challenging and risky and arguably questionable creative decision.
For me, and I’m hardly objective, what I found in watching the episodes, and I hope it’s the same for the audience, is that after you get past your initial shock and you’ve had an episode to process it, he just goes back to being Jim. You’re not cognizant of watching Troll Jim, he’s just Jim. Again, I could be wrong and, especially the last five episodes of Season 3 I’m immensely proud of and they came out very, very well, but we took some risky, big swings that you just simply don’t do in a children’s animated show.