Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: “A group of friends who discover a fantastical new world wrapped beneath their home town [face] a battle between good and bad trolls.” That’s the plot summary for Guillermo del Toro’s new animated series for Netflix, Trollhunters, and it sounds a lot like another show on the streaming service, Stranger Things. (Except for the part about the trolls. On Stranger Things, the government is the trolls?) Both shows are about kids on bikes living in a sleepy town who battle monsters from an “Upside-Down” world, and both shows are heavily inspired by the 1980s.
Del Toro pitched Trollhunters “as an Amblin 1980s series with a scope of fantasy and mythology that was unrivaled on TV,” which is also how you might describe Stranger Things. Charlie Saxton, who voices Toby on the series, added, “It’s Goonies meets Monster Squad meets Gremlins,” which, again, sounds a bit like Stranger Things. The parallels were obvious to Netflix, which put together a mashup trailer for Trollhunters in the style of Matt and Ross Duffer’s breakout hit (which returns for season two later this year).
It’s uncommon for a network, or whatever Netflix considers itself, to admit that two of its shows have a similar premise, but Trollhunters and Stranger Things are aiming for different demographics. The former is for kids, the latter for nostalgic adults (and pretty much everyone but kids), and Netflix is hoping some Stranger Things fans might check out Trollhunters, if only for the del Toro connection. Hell, I would even watch Guillermo del Toro’s Fuller House.
It turns out Joey was the Pale Man all along!