Below you will find an example of how a single teaser, done well, can revitalize a very dead franchise. Check out the teaser for Cars 3 and join me after the jump for a breakdown of how this trailer works.
Right off the bat, the trailer takes a HUGE gamble. The first 15 seconds of the teaser consist of quick shots intercut with ominous silence of cars going around the track. Simply put, the images are not that engaging – invoking a scenario we have already seen in Cars 1. During their first viewing, unless one is eagle-eyed, the viewer might miss the radically different visual tone of this trailer as compared to the cartoony aesthetic of the previous two films (cf- Cars, Cars 2). Before anything has a chance to happen, the teaser gives people an opportunity to eject.
Where the teaser shines is in its aural rhythm. The pace accelerates and draws you in, commanding your attention despite potential preconceived notions about the franchise. As the trailer hits that 0:18-second mark, an audible cue hints that things are about to kick off as the engine noise modulates into another key. Our first real visual character is introduced: the new black racecar. Its design is nothing like the staple Nascar vehicle the franchise has employed, so instinctually we begin asking questions and developing curiosity – exactly what the teaser wants.
Immediately following this destabilizing of our initial disinterest, the trailer connects us to the franchise, announcing “McQueen is fading! Fading fast!” while we see glances of the racecar’s frame. By avoiding the car’s face – the most identifying image of the Cars franchise – the teaser maintains its darker tone (avoiding the cartoony expressions of the characters) and audience attention by constantly withholding the one thing we are now anxious to see.
With the swerve out of frame and the foreboding first note of the crash, we are left with 5 full seconds of blackness and 7 seconds of silence before we come to the climactic final shot of carnage. And what Carnage! We never even see Lightning hit the ground – just the viscera of metallic parts and sparks suspended in mid-air. Such a departure from the goofy visuals and humor of the first two entries, this teaser demands the viewer take note of a radical stylistic departure that perhaps foretells a story worth waiting for.
Ultimately that is what makes this teaser great: that it takes on a hostile audience and shifts their “hell no” to a “who knows, maybe”. Simply by creating enough intrigue for the audience to at least wait and see, the trailer succeeds in its most primary function. Regardless of whether the film turns out to be good or not, its viewership potential has certainly skyrocketed from the outset with this great start to its marketing campaign.
Tell me what you think of this teaser! I, for one, love the first movie but was seriously turned off by the sequel. For good or ill, I’m totally on board for Cars 3. Thanks for reading and come back for more examination of the Art of the Trailer.
Brief postscript – note the current trend with teasers not bothering to show the actual title of the film they are teasing. Notable recent examples: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales and Guardians of the Galaxy vol.2.