DreamWorks Animation has not only unveiled the existence of “Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken,” they’ve also released the film’s first trailer.
The latest original feature from DreamWorks Animation, which is coming off the one-two punch of 2022’s “The Bad Guys” and the Oscar-nominated “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish,” “Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken” concerns the title character (voiced by Lana Condor), who is masquerading as a human and attending Oceanside High on land. Once she discovers her ancestral heritage, thanks to her grandmother (voiced by Jane Fonda), she is able to get in touch with all of her powers – both literal (laser eyes!) and emotional.
TheWrap spoke with director Kirk DeMicco, who co-directed “The Croods” with Chris Sanders for DreamWorks Animation, and producer Kelly Cooney Cilella, about where “Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken” came from and what we can expect when the movie debuts this summer.
“This was an original project from DreamWorks, one of our first in a while not based on any existing IP,” Cooney Cilella said about the originas of the movie. “It started as a pitch of this idea of a family of sea monsters that have moved to land and are hiding in plain sight. Through our proces, developing the movie, we really started to hone in on on Ruby as the main character and telling the story through her eyes, and about her journey of self-discovery – the secret that she’s hiding is actually the thing that makes her special and that once she learns to embrace that side of herself, she can become the hero of her own story. And we just thought it was such a beautiful message, but told in this really fun, epic, exciting adventure.”
For the look of the film, DeMicco turned to production designer Pierre-Olivier Vincent, a DreamWorks Animation vet who started at the company in its nascent days and worked on all three “How to Train Your Dragon” movies. Vincent had experience with what DeMicco describes as “worldbuilding,” which was perfect because “Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken” has two distinct worlds – the human world of Oceanside and the underwater Kraken kingdom. “He was very much inspired by the design language of the octopus, like the curves of the octopus. That curvy language is throughout all of the design – if it’s in their refrigerator, in the cars, or the character designs in the school itself. And then even more so underwater in the Kraken kingdom, which you get a glimpse of in the trailer.”
But what did the filmmakers look at for inspiration?
“I definitely think we were inspired by all of those teen comedies that we grew up with, but also even more recent ones, you know, like ‘Booksmart’ or ‘Lady Bird’ or ‘Easy A.’ There’s so many great movies that we’ve seen and we just thought it was such a great backdrop for telling this sort of story where the halls of Oceanside are almost as dangerous as the mermaid/Kraken battle waging underneath the sea,” Cooney Cilella explained. “And opposing those two ideas we thought was just a really fun opportunity to play with these different characters and tropes.”
When it comes to technical challenges (since what would a modern animated feature be without an insane technical challenge?), DeMicco was quick to answer: the water. He points to a shot in the trailer, of the mermaid Chelsea (voiced by Emmy-winner Annie Murphy), who becomes kaiju-sized and rises out of the ocean. “They do these calculations and it would be like the Pacific Ocean every minute was in pulled through hair. The volume of water that this thing has to render to make it work is really cool,” DeMicco said.
Toni Collette, Colman Domingo, Sam Richardson, Jaboukie Young-White and Will Forte also star in “Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken” alongside Nicole Byer, Liza Koshy, Ramona Young, Eduardo Franco and Echo Kellum. The movie was co-directed by Faryn Pearl.
“Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken” arrives as part of a very mermaid-filled summer movie season on June 30, 2023.