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‘Trolls 3’ director reacts to millennial ‘NSYNC madness, tapping into 90s nostalgia

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Millennials screamed when NSYNC sauntered onstage at the 2023 MTV VMAs, and Hollywood director Walter Dohrn can take some credit for the band reunion.

Dohrn’s new animated feature film, “Trolls 3: Band Together,” from Universal Pictures, brought the boy band back together to record “Better Place,” NSYNC’s first new song in 20 years. Justin Timberlake, one of NSYNC’s former leading frontmen, has starred in all three animated “Trolls” films, alongside actress Anna Kendrick, as the voices of the trolls Branch and Poppy. 

During the creative process, as old boy band references and music made their way into the film, Dohrn said Timberlake texted him, ‘Hey, let’s get the guys back together.'” The guys, meaning his old NSYNC buddies J.C. Chasez, Lance Bass, Joey Fatone and Chris Kirkpatrick. And the rest is history.

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women on stage speaking with men in back

Taylor Swift accepts the Best Pop award for “Anti-Hero” from Joey Fatone, Lance Bass, Justin Timberlake, J.C. Chasez, and Chris Kirkpatrick of *NSYNC onstage the 2023 MTV Video Music Awards at Prudential Center on September 12, 2023, in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for MTV)

Even Taylor Swift couldn’t contain her giddiness when ‘NSYNC presented her with a VMA award in September. 

“Like, I had your dolls… are you doing something?” Swift asked the pop legends onstage during her acceptance speech. “What’s going to happen now?”

And it was hard to avoid all those viral videos of her fellow millennials freaking out over the reunion. 

Dohrn chalked it up to a bit of 90s nostalgia, when boy bands ruled the airwaves and social media didn’t exist. It was, he said, a simpler time. 

“You know, I think that time… again it had its own challenges, but there was something warm about that time, in the 90s, and during that boy band time that people longed for – a time before social media again,” Dohrn said. “It’s great that there’s no gatekeeper for all this information, that we all have access to information. But there was, I think it’s a sign of living a different way. And that gives us a lot of warmth. So that’s where that nostalgia comes from.” 

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The members of NYSNC (L-R) Chris Kirkpatrick in a grey suit, JC Chasez in a light blue suit, Justin Timberlake in a navy suit, Lance Bass in a turquoise suit and Joey Fatone in grey hang out backstage at the VMAs.

The members of NYSNC (L-R) Chris Kirkpatrick, JC Chasez, Justin Timberlake, Lance Bass and Joey Fatone hang out backstage at the VMAs. (John Shearer/Getty Images for MTV)

“And I think, you know, I was so excited and so happy that it has been given the reception that it has,” he continued. “And I could see why. ‘NSYNC was ubiquitous, it was everywhere you go. You know, even as a person who wasn’t listening to a lot of boy bands at that time, because I’m a little bit older, I loved the music and it was everywhere I went. If I’m shopping, there’s an ‘NSYNC song… I love the fanbase, now that I’ve gotten to make this movie and talk to them. It’s just so beautiful, such a beautiful relationship I think ‘NSYNC had with the fans.”

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Dohrn said his new film is “scientifically engineered” to make audiences smile, and a lot of that has to do with each infectious soundtrack. It makes sense that the “Trolls” films pay such homage to old and new tunes, considering how much music has meant to the director.

“I think music is around us all the time, which I said many times, it doesn’t matter where you are,” Dohrn told Fox Digital. “It’s there, you know, at the dentist office it’s calming you down, in the car it helps entertain me on a long freeway trip in L.A. It feels like it’s always there for me. And if I’m feeling down just so it’s great sad music to play, that feels comforting. OK, the music feels the way I feel.

“I remember that music really helped me through all kinds of changes as I’m growing up into the 80s and then it became, I was obsessed with Prince, how we go from teenager to growing into an adult with my obsession with Prince. I just feel like it’s always been a part of who I am.”

'NSYNC in the new film 'Trolls 3'

NSYNC reunited for the new film, “Trolls 3: Band Together.” (Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures)

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Asked if he’ll take any credit should NSYNC decide to do a reunion tour, Dohrn couldn’t resist.

“I’m going to take it all,” he joked. “You’re welcome, world. You owe it all to me.”

“Trolls 3: Band Together” is out in theaters Friday.

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