It's T-minus one week until Netflix's Trollhunters comes to your screens, bringing an animated adventure from creator Guillermo del Toro and executive producer Marc Guggenheim to life after an unusually long gestation period.
For fans wondering how Guggenheim -- currently the showrunner on Arrow, Vixen, and DC's Legends of Tomorrow -- managed to work Trollhunters into his busy schedule, the answer is actually deceptively simple: it was there the whole time.
"What didn't hurt was the fact that I actually got lured like five years ago before I had anything on the air," Guggenheim laughed when we spoke with him about being sucked into another show at this point in his career. "It was really like just the beginning of Arrow, which really shows you sort of how long this project has been being developed and gestating. It originally started out as a feature film, so with about a year of working on it as a feature and then it's taken about four years to get it to come to people's screens through Netflix. Life was certainly calmer back when I started. It's been an interesting journey."
Life, as he notes, has gotten increasingly complicated since the first time Stephen Amell uttered his famous "you have failed this city" line. Not only does Guggenheim have more jobs, but the DC superhero shows he works on for The CW and CW Seed are interconnected, increasing the degree of difficulty whenever someone involved with one of them needs to pivot.
Along the way, Guggenheim remains active on Twitter and Tumblr, engaging directly with his audience more than most showrunners. For better or worse, he's inundated with realtime feedback (especially on the always-controversial Arrow), which will be absent when Netflix debuts the entire first season of Trollhunters in one shot next Friday.
"There's good and bad about audience input," Guggenheim admitted. "There's something freeing about being able to work on a project sort of in a vacuum. At the same time, it's scary because you're doing it sort of completely blind. You have no sense as to how people are going to react. You have no idea how things are going to play because oftentimes, things play very differently with an audience than the way you intend. Sometimes it's a good thing and sometimes it's a bad thing. I think the nature of the Netflix -- binge watching 24 episodes at a time -- is it frees you up in a different way, which is that you kind of know that your audience theoretically is going to watch several episodes in succession, so there's not a week break between each episode. That lowers the burden on you to make each episode begin with some type of recap or reset."
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"I think like when you do an episode of network television, you've got to recognize that in episode 13, there's going to be some people who haven't seen the first 12 episodes of the season," he explained. "There are going to be some people who are just sort of tuning in randomly. With streaming, that's really not the case. I can't imagine why anyone with a Netflix account would jump straight into episode 13 of Trollhunters or any show on Netflix for that matter. There's something I think very freeing about knowing that, or having a very large degree of confidence that the audience is going to start with episode one, and that the episodes that you do after episode one are not going to be viewed out of order or out of sequence. That's a nice little perk."
The series centers on high school student Jim Lake and his friends, who discover a hidden world of trolls beneath their town of Arcadia. At the beginning of the series, the Trollhunter -- a troll responsible for protecting the balance between evil trolls and humans, maintaining the peace -- is killed. The Trollhunter amulet falls to Jim, and Jim becomes the first human Trollhunter.
The result is a series that's intensely character-driven, even as the lead characters are tossed into a world steeped in crazy mythology that they and the audience both have to learn on the fly.
"I think what's so much fun about the show, and what's so advantageous about the fact that we were able to do it as a series rather than as a feature film, is there's a lot of room for a show to grow," Guggenheim said. "Not just in terms of the cast, though you'll definitely be meeting new characters as we go forward with the show, but also the characters who you meet in the pilot, they grow and evolve and change. They're not the same people in episode 24 that they are in episode one. That's, I think, a testament to how character-based the show is. It's one thing to focus on character, but unless those characters go on an emotional journey, you're lacking character development. The show's very heavy on character development while still being lots of fun and introducing you to lots of different strange creatures and fun environments. It's a high school show, mixed with a madcap adventure."
Trollhunters premieres on Netflix on December 23.
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