Judge Paul Corupe ponders if Don King has ever sued the troll-doll makers for trademark infringement.
Hey, remember Troll dolls? Those wild-haired, so-ugly-they're-cure gnomes that sold in the millions throughout the 1960s and became a genuine cultural phenomenon? Yeah, well, everything old is new again—the Trolls are back, reinvented for the modern era by kids entertainment powerhouse DiC as cell phone-toting, spell casting mallrats hoping to enchant a new generation of pre-teen girls with their wildly flowing manes and incredible merchandising clout. The Trollz, as they're now called in these "xtreme" times, are Amethyst, Ruby, Topaz, Onyx, and Sapphire—a group of generously coiffed friends who live in some sort of magical fantasyland that also happens to feature lots of shopping malls and hair salons. The Trollz also possess magical abilities, which become even more powerful when they cast by the entire a team, but these fashonistas are usually too preoccupied by the pressures of shopping, meeting cute boy trolls (sorry, trollz), and maintaining their hairdos.
Launched at the same time as a corresponding cartoon show, Trollz: Magic of the Five The Movie is the franchise's second DVD, another 67-minute adventure of pre-teen preciousness. This program starts out with a story about the Trollz losing their magic powers as the gems in their bellies fade. But don't be fooled, it's all a plot by the villainous Simon and his beastly sidekick Snarf, who are after their secret powers. Then, Topaz is having trouble at school, and Snarf takes advantage of her vulnerability to bring Simon back from another dimension. Finally, Sapphire gets mad at the girls for casting a spell and embarrassing her in science class, and the others must apologize to get her help in casting a powerful spell that will get rid of Simon once and for all.
As before, this "movie" appears to be just three separate half-hour Trollz shows stitched together, as each plot more or less resolves around the 22-minute mark. After the girls were introduced in the first set, Trollz: Best Friends For Life The Movie, this release focuses more on the Trollz' nemesis, the tricky gremlin Simon. These plots gently expand the storyline established in the first go-around, and you can see the writers planting the seeds for future conflicts and adventures for the five magical gnomes, making this the better of the two available DVDs. Even if the show does frequently resort to shopping mall trips and brainless teen slang, the plots here held my attention, revealing Trollz as a well-written show that's fairly admirable for what it is.
This new DVD series is just one part of a Trollz saturation campaign, an onslaught that includes a website, books, and toys, which DiC hopes will turn the franchise into the next pop culture fad. Unfortunately, to these jaded eyes, their plan is almost so slick and calculated to succeed that the show lacks the heart and originality of some of its peers. Not only does Trollz seem to pick and choose aspects from already popular kiddie properties like Harry Potter, the Bratz, Pokémon, and even Barbie, but it also gives each of the characters a distinct style geared to appeal to different types of personalities no doubt determined by extensive market research, like a Goth, an A+ student, and a ditzy blonde. To borrow a phrase, it's cartoon making by committee rather than by imagination, and it seems sometimes like the show is trying too hard.
The DVD, packaged in a slipcase cover that sports real troll hair, looks and sounds great—as it should, being a brand new computer animated series. In fact, the animation is quite well done, obviously influenced by anime and the blocky Hanna-Barbera style. Extras include a "which Troll are you?" personality quiz, a couple of music videos, and a "Spell Moment" promo bumper for the show. The best extra is a "Trollz journal," a digital diary that can be used just as Amethyst does in the show when inserted into your computer's DVD-ROM drive. You can also print off some Trollz door hangers and note cards and link to the franchise's website. Not a bad set of extras at all.
Though they are a bit vapid, materialistic, and boy-obsessed with their elaborate hair and midriff-baring outfits, the Trollz are at least more wholesome than the skanky Bratz line, and at least they try to include socially responsible messages about friendship and working together. My guess is that young girls are going to eat this series up—just make sure you don't tell them that these Trollz are based on the same doll their square parents used play with then they were kids.
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