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‘Ruby Gillman: Teenage Kraken’: A Timely, Personal Tale of Wanting to Belong

Watch the first trailer for Kirk DeMicco and DreamWorks Animation’s new 3DCG film that tells the story of a shy 16-year-old, trying to fit in, who doesn’t realize she’s descended from a legendary line of royal sea Krakens… and is next in line as the Warrior Queen; catch the film in theaters on June 30.

For the first time since 2019’s Abominable, DreamWorks Animation is releasing a non-franchise film, based on an original story… that stars a blue-haired, giant teenage Kraken… which is also a first for, well, any animation studio. 

“She could lay to waste anything in front of her, and the hardest thing for this girl to do is to reveal who she truly is to her friends and her family,” says Kirk DeMicco, director of Ruby Gillman: Teenage Kraken, the studio’s 3DCG animated feature coming to theaters on June 30. The Oscar-nominated filmmaker, known for directing Vivo, The Croods, and Space Chimps, adds, “What we focused on is the difference between ‘fitting in’ and ‘belonging.’ In the beginning of the movie, Ruby is fitting in. She is passing as a human, she has some friends, her mom's a realtor. But is she really belonging if she's keeping everything a secret?”

This coming-of-age tale, distributed by Universal Pictures, follows a shy 16-year-old named Ruby Gillman (Lana Condor) who learns that she is the next in a legendary line of royal sea Krakens. Despite her lofty destiny, all Ruby wants to do is fit in. At school, she falls for a skater-boy that she’s tutoring who shows no indication of feeling the same way about her. Ruby struggles even more to fit in because her mother (Toni Collette) forbids her from going to the beach with any would-be friends. But when Ruby decides to disobey her mom’s instructions, she learns that she’s descended from the warrior Kraken queens and will one day ascend to the throne of her grandmother (Jane Fonda), as the Warrior Queen of the Seven Seas.

But there’s a bit of a ‘catch’ (pun-intended). The Krakens are a race sworn to protect the world’s oceans from the vain, power-hungry Mermaids, and the two sides have been battling for eons. The generational confrontation comes to a head when a popular Mermaid enrolls at Ruby’s school.

Produced by Kelly Cooney Cilella (Bilby, Trolls World Tour) and co-directed by Faryn Pearl (storyboard artist on The Croods: A New Age, Trolls World Tour) Teenage Kraken debuted its first trailer today, March 16.

Check out the Official Trailer:

“What I love about the movie is that there are several different female characters that represent different facets of being a woman; from grandma being kind of an old school grand dam to mom being protective, and then Ruby has a best friend, Margo, who's not featured in the trailer, but is in the movie, who is this larger-than-life character,” explains Cooney Cilella. “And each of them presents different identities and different ways of navigating the world to Ruby. And what Ruby has to do is to decide for herself who she is at her core. It's a story of her becoming her real, authentic self. And I think that is a message that's so important right now, for both boys and girls, because there are so many different voices coming at kids now in the age of the internet.”

Teenage Kraken, made under the working title Meet the Gillmans, started out as a pitch from Lucy in the Sky’s Brian C. Brown and Elliott DiGuiseppi, with a bit of a personal backstory.

“Chris Kuser, who's our development executive, was working on it with them and they had this idea about a family of sea monsters who had moved to land and were in hiding,” Cooney Cilella shares. “It was a very personal story for them because one of the writers’ family was originally from Cuba, and they had moved to Florida. So, some of the story of Ruby learning to assimilate and how to blend in and be one with the community was very personal to him and how he was taught to navigate the world.”

Though the story of the Gillmans has changed a bit since the original pitch, assimilation is still a theme prominently present in the film. 

“Ultimately, we wanted it to be a metaphor where, no matter what your individual circumstances were, you could relate to Ruby and her story of self-actualization,” says Cooney Cilella. “I think a lot of people have something about themselves that they feel they need to hide, or that they might be embarrassed about or that they just don't feel that they can truly let the world know. It's especially common for teens to feel that way. We were fortunate enough to be able to share the movie recently with both Brown and DiGuiseppi, and they were really happy with how it turned out.”

While Cooney Cilella describes the film as “Mean Girls, set against an epic backdrop of Mermaids versus Krakens,” DeMicco says it’s a “big-hearted action spectacle,” with an animated world that’s been heightened to Kraken-sized scale. 

“We have an ordinary world and an ocean world, but we wanted to show a version of the ocean that you'd never seen before,” says DeMicco. “In the Kraken kingdom, even a Kraken the size of Ruby, who can’t hide behind a human-size lighthouse, is dwarfed inside this Kraken castle. And her grandmother becomes just a few pixels if you zoom out all the way to see the full scope of it. The scale of their world is huge, but that makes it really fun.”

The film’s production designer, Pierre-Olivier Vincent, who is known for his work on the How to Train Your Dragon films, also adopted a design principle for both the story’s surface and sea worlds that revolved around the curviness of an octopus. 

“Everything, from a plant to a refrigerator and the characters themselves, has this curvature to them,” explains DeMicco. “We've made a lot of movies with anthropomorphic animals, and we've made a lot of movies with humans who sort of act like animals. But this was an opportunity for Carlos Fernandez Puertolas and his team of animators to really lean into the curves and the squash and stretch, both for the style, and also for the movie’s comedy.”

The voice cast, in addition to Condor, Collette, and Fonda, also features Annie Murphy, Sam Richardson, Liza Koshy, Will Forte, Colman Domingo, Jaboukie Young-White, Blue Chapman, Eduardo Franco, Ramona Young, Echo Kellum, and Nicole Byer.

Universal Pictures is handling this summer’s theatrical release, and both DeMicco and Cooney Cilella say it’s a set-apart DreamWorks Animation audiences won’t want to miss. 

“We joke about what's more dangerous, the halls of high school or the underwater battle between Mermaids and Krakens,” says DeMicco. “We’ve pretty much concluded that both are equally dangerous.”

Cooney Cilella adds, “Both of us have young daughters ourselves, so we were drawn to this story, about a young girl who finds her own power and learns to harness that and finds that what makes her different is actually what makes her really special. The message about this family, who unites around each other and unites around this main character and, ultimately, embrace who she is…that’s a really powerful message right now.”

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Victoria Davis is a full-time, freelance journalist and part-time Otaku with an affinity for all things anime. She's reported on numerous stories from activist news to entertainment. Find more about her work at