Tips for Surviving the Obsessive Stage of Toddlerhood (But Mostly Reflections on the Trolls Movie)


One of the more confounding child development stages is the obsessive stage. There you are, minding your own business, and suddenly your toddler becomes fixated on climbing in and out of a box. She will literally climb in and out of that box for three straight hours if you let her. And, why wouldn’t you? Just think of all the free time you now have while she is boxing!

Of course, as you probably know, there is a darker side to the obsessive stage: movies. This is where you need to tread carefully. Any old box will do, but not any old movie. If she gets obsessed with the wrong movie during this particularly impressionable phase, your life is pretty much over. Just imagine if she lands on Star Wars and you have to watch that over and over and over again. Yikes.

Luckily, by the time we arrived at the obsessive stage for Kid #3, we were ready. We were careful to expose her only to movies we loved. In other words, we only let her watch one movie: Trolls.

There is just something about those little guys and their wacky and multi-dimensional hair that I can’t get enough of.

Every morning, after we drop the boys off at school, my daughter brings the television remote to me and says, “Poppy! Poppy!”


By the way, Poppy is the name of the main character voiced by Anna Kendrick. I totally thought it was Kristen Bell for a while, and still kind of do. That’s a whole other story though. Don’t get me started.

Before my daughter and I can settle into our viewing experience, we have to fast forward about ten minutes until Poppy’s first scene. My daughter is not interested in any Poppy-less portion of the film and she lets me know this through immediate and constant berating. I agree with her one hundred percent. Poppy is a force of nature. However, this does mean that I’ve never really seen the movie prologue, so it’s likely that I’ve missed key elements of the back story.

Quick movie synopsis. The Trolls, which I assume are supposed to be animated versions of those little funny looking dolls from the 90s, live or used to live in or under or near a tree near a town inhabited by miserable normal-sized creatures named Bergen who are very ugly and have unfortunate teeth. Perhaps the Troll tree (if it’s a tree) is in the town, not near it. You can probably sort all this out by watching the prologue.

The key point is that the Bergen are miserable beings—picture a bunch of non-cute Eeyores on downers—and they believe they can only be happy by eating trolls. For some reason, they don’t eat trolls any more. Again, check out the prologue to fill in the gaps. Their king, who seems to be young and inexperienced (I don’t know why I think this exactly, I’m not an expert on Bergen aging and general demeanor), has never eaten a troll, so this no troll thing has been going on for maybe twenty years or more? Also, creatures being eaten by other creatures seems to be a very common trope in children’s stories and are we comfortable with that?

Anyway, I don’t want to get deep into the weeds on Trolls plotlines because there’s no end once you’re in that rabbit hole. One other key character is a troll named Branch (voiced by Justin Timberlake) who is the resident buzzkill/survivalist. He lives apart from the other trolls in his bunker, is always crying wolf about Bergen, is depressed, and, unlike typical trolls, hates hugging, smiling, and interpersonal interactions. He is my hero. Also, he used to love music, but due to the death of one of his family members (I won’t spoil it), music has left his heart. It is only his unexpected love for Poppy, the eternal optimist, that eventually turns his life around and brings back his song and OMG BRANCH IS CAPTAIN VON TRAPP FROM THE SOUND OF MUSIC WITHOUT THE KIDS OR DISTINGUISHED NAVAL CAREER OR HATRED OF NAZIS EVEN THOUGH HE PROBABLY HATES NAZIS TOO BECAUSE WHO DOESN’T (DON’T ANSWER THAT I DON’T WANT TO KILL MY BUZZ RIGHT NOW)!

Now it makes sense why Trolls is my favorite movie ever.

I’m so into it that when the greatest movie scene of all time happens, no matter what is going on, everyone is required to drop what they are doing and assemble in front of the TV. We get to this scene about seven times a day, so it’s a bit of a time suck, but I have to stick to my principles.

When the trolls are facing what seems like certain death, trapped inside a serving dish destined for the Bergen king’s Trollstice feast, the indomitable Poppy has lost all hope and color and all the trolls have turned gray (literally), Branch re-discovers his song. Out of nowhere, Branch’s silky-smooth voice starts singing the first words of True Colors. I’m pretty sure it’s a cover of the Cyndi Lauper version, not the Phil Collins version. I’ve gone back and forth on this in my head for weeks, but I think I’m right. Branch starts out all slow at first so you don’t know exactly what is happening, but that’s the point. When he pauses and all the troll hug-time alarm bracelets (think of them as fitness trackers, but instead of telling you when to get active, they tell you when to hug) start going off and sync up to the melody, oh man. What a moment.

It’s a moment made only more special when our family dons our replica hug-time alarm bracelets and group hugs when the Poppy-Branch duet hits its stride and the trolls get their color back. Seven times a day. Sometimes I wish it were more. Who’s obsessive now?

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