Tag Archives: teaser

How to Sell me a Third Helping when I’m Already Full

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.

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How to Sell Something we already Want

Yes, it is indeed that time.  It’s finally time to delve into the incredible marketing being done for the upcoming cultural phenomenon – Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  I’m sorry I missed the first trailer, but I think what needs to be said about that can really be explored in how it set up this second trailer.  Check out the most recent teaser below (links to the first one in text) and join me after the jump for analysis.

First, if you want to understand the emotions people have when watching these trailers – the nostalgia it taps into – just check out Matthew McConaughey in Interstellar watching it.  It’s a good illustration.

The First Teaser

Before we delve into the second trailer, let me briefly look at how the first trailer set this one up.  The joint marketing team of LucasFilms and Disney is serving up a deliciously paced scheme of buzz-building.  The first trailer, released last November, blasted onto the scene and took the world by storm.  One could hardly find a news organization on the internet that wasn’t talking about it.  But what did it do to earn such a great response?  Of course, Star Wars is a cultural phenomenon; the precedent was set by the releases of the Prequels that people would flock to anything published by the LucasFilm team.  However, the question is whether the first trailer did anything in and of itself to draw attention to the new movie or if it was purely the milieu of hype.

To that end, the first Force Awakens trailer acted as a testing ground for what I call Newness.  Like I spoke about in my Batman v Superman trailer review, smart marketing teams are realizing the potential of a feedback system where they show off changes to a pre-existing property with their trailers, and then let audience criticisms give filmmakers feedback, while also developing hype (think Bane’s voice from the Dark Knight Rises teaser).  Thus, while they can rely on a level of assumed cultural appreciation simply because of the brand, this trailer provides a test for the new directions JJ Abrams is taking the franchise, and therefore elevates itself beyond a passable first glimpse.

For the first 45 seconds, the teaser opens with New elements.  By this I mean it takes things that are familiar visually but tweaks them in way’s we’ve not seen before (a black stormtrooper, new speeder, etc).  Even after the first 45 when we get our first shot of something intimately familiar (the X-Wing), it’s in a setting in which we’ve never really seen it before. Except for the sounds and general environments, everything is fresh and very JJ Abrams-y – SPECIFICALLY so that you will know this won’t be the same kind of thing as you’ve gotten before.

Say what you will about the weird Ball Droid, the Black Stormtrooper, or the Lightsaber cross-guard – they are there precisely because you will be talking about them the next day.  This is the juicy stuff the trailer-makers know will get the buzz-mill going, with controversies and quandaries abounding.  By leading off their marketing campaign with these elements, they set the tone both that: 1) this is not going to be your father’s Star Wars (and that’s okay) and 2) that this is going to be new and exciting for all of us.  By intentionally separating their work from the previous entries in the franchise, they prime audiences for the new experience they are about to enjoy.

And to cap off their masterful work, at the minute mark they give us a glorious nostalgia trip to assure us that things are going to be good again.  The flight of the Millennium Falcon coupled with John Williams’ score and some masterful (VFX) camerawork makes for that lasting memorable moment we walk away dreaming about.  It is a wonderful “cherry on top” to a great work that grounds our expectations in the joys we’ve all experience with the original franchise, and promises a return to those glorious days.

One final note before I get to the second trailer:  notice that, during the title card, there is a three second buffer from the time “Star Wars” appears to when it opens up to reveal the new subtitle “The Force Awakens”.  Compare this to the almost instantaneous reveal of the subtitle in the second trailer.  Just an interesting bit of cutting to debut the new moniker.

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The Second Teaser

A long five months passed with only small tidbits of news before finally (note the demand) we received the second teaser for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  First, I’m so glad they’ve stuck with teasers – it makes the experience all the more tantalizing.  Second, and in a fun coincidence, the second trailer dropped on my birthday!  Thanks for the gift, JJ.  I love it!

What the second trailer did is pick up where the first trailer left off.  The first teaser hit us with a baseball bat of Newness, but left us with a nice taste of nostalgia to keep the franchise connection alive.  Now with this second trailer, the marketers envelop us in a tightly wound blanket of nostalgia that subtly reminds us of the Newness.

We open on the nostalgic LucasFilm logo (not in first trailer), and fade up on a shot both alien and remarkably familiar. Many others have commented on the similarities of this shot to the one in A New Hope when Luke races his speeder across the desert to discover the remains of his home.  Couple that with the hero’s theme swelling in the background and you’ve got an opener guaranteed to grab us by the heartstrings and raise goose-flesh.  However, this great nostalgia trip comes with new elements (the downed Star Destroyer and X-wing), quietly hinting that, again, this will be New.

That’s the first 30 seconds of the teaser.  After that bomb of good-feelings, we get an interesting sequence.  Watching it the first time, it takes a moment to recognize the speaker and even then one asks “is it really him?”.  The editor of the trailer does a great job choosing shots that connect either with what Luke is saying or with what we know of him (a smart choice to trust the audience’s imagination and memory to make the connections).  Vader’s broken mask, the robotic right hand (yes this does match from Empire Strikes Back), handling a lightsaber – all these build strong visual connections to powerfully emotional moments from the original series.  The monologue takes the viewer on a journey through the entire franchise in 30 seconds, and provides a teasing last line – “you have that power too”.  Here again we find an intentional design to trigger our emotional memories through carefully planned shots and music, all the while introducing us to new and unfamiliar elements.

Going beyond the first minute, notice that as the music reaches it’s highest point, we get a soaring shot and a mighty “WooHoo!” (do you see what they are doing here?).  This is to help shift the tone and get us from happy-crying back to pure excitement.

The next 30 seconds (notice how neatly subdivided this trailer is, but how it doesn’t feel like it) gives us a fast-paced, action-packed montage of intensity that is mostly familiar things in New situations.  The Stormtroopers, TIE-Fighters, and Sith all make immediate affiliation with our knowledge of the Star Wars lore, but each is presented with some element we’ve never seen before (major firefight on the desert, space-fight inside a star destroyer, Chrome-armored TIE-Fighter Pilot).  It continues to build on our nostalgia while constantly presenting something New to us.  Capping off this section is yet another Millennium Falcon fight but this one specifically mimics the Death Star sequence from Return of the Jedi, flying through cramped corridors trying to shake a tail.  It is a powerful visual and encapsulates the tone the marketers want you to feel about this upcoming flick.

Finally, the moment you’ve all heard about, the biggest nostalgia bomb they could have possibly dropped  – the return of Han and Chewie.  This is exactly the kind of reveal we’ve come to expect and love from a good trailer (thanks mostly to Marvel).  It works well because they’ve built up the connections to the older films throughout so that this arrives not out of the blue, but as a logical endpoint of what the trailer-makers are doing here.  Personally, I hope this line is only used for the trailer – I cannot really imagine it working well in the film now that the surprise has been ruined (though I admit we do not know where “home” is yet).  Either way, it works beautifully and leaves us all on a high as we go into the title card.

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Wrap-Up

The marketing teams at LucasFilm and Disney are doing a magnificent job building buzz and excitement around the upcoming seventh installment of the Star Wars saga.  Accomplishing the goal of building on nostalgia while easing us into the idea that this movie will be new and different is no easy task (cf – Jurassic World, Terminator: Genisys, Batman v Superman), but somehow this team is making all the right moves.

Who knows when the next trailer will be released?  Until it does, fans and film buffs will be pouring through these two trailers, looking for any minute detail they can use to get an idea of what the new film will be like.  Most are optimistic that this will not be another Prequel situation, but that is yet to be seen.  However, if marketing can be any indicator (and I think it can), then it would seem we are headed for something wonderfully fun and exciting this holiday season.  Thanks for reading and tune in again soon for another posting on the Art of the Trailer.


Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: Master and Commander: Far Side of the World: Colon

First trailer for BvS was released……

Three thoughts:

1.  DC’s serious tone doesn’t seem to be going anywhere but into a darker corner of the hole it has dug itself into.

2.  Bat-fleck looks like they’ve tried to Clooney-fy him…but not the cool Oceans or even OG Batman Clooney.  No, he looks like Descendants Clooney.  And the suit….it looks like he had a bad wiff of a fart right when they did the face-mask casting.  #BatWrinkledNose.

3.  New gritty Bat-voice.  Joy.


How to make me HATE your Movie in less than 5 Seconds

….I seriously wish this wasn’t a real thing.  #WhyReboot
Watch the thing, then read the thing.

Why? Why!?  Why can we not go two years without some production company thinking “you know, people kinda liked that superhero movie we made.  Let’s make it again!!!  But this time, let’s make it dark and gritty!”

Despite my bias against the thought of this film, all it took was the first note to sing this trailer.  The melancholy minor sustained note arrives before the 20th Century Fox logo, instantly painting a picture of what we were in for.  Go back and watch the first trailer for the Dark Knight Rises or the one for Man of Steel.  This trailer, before it had ever shown me any footage, had let me know that it was ripping off that former piece, but with the noted difference that people were not falling all over themselves to see it.  The moody narration over a minor composition works well when the demand is very high (it plays off of the rabid fervor leading up to the trailer, and the hush that falls as it starts).  It does not work for something for which mass audiences are not clammoring.

Looking beyond the disappointing first 5 seconds, the following twenty showcase filler.  Not pretty filler like the Tree of Life trailer; just boring, mismatched shots of the world they want me to believe in.  The problem here is juxtaposition – they show us metropolis followed by wilderness, the heavens of space followed by the earthiness of a cornfield.  It’s the visual equivalent of stuttering around your logline: “Well it’s kinda ethereal, but it’s very down-to-earth! It’s about life in the city, and about the joys of rural life!”  This leaves the audience with nothing; you’ve covered all of the bases so I have no clue what to expect.  The Tree of Life trailer at least opens with fascinating shots of space/colors that tell me that I’m in for something heady and artsy.

Without clear established direction, the trailer rambles on through the tropes of a modern, moody hero piece.  The first pertinent shot comes at 0:25 of the boy running an experiment (clearly laying out a theme throughout the movie).  We are introduced to our protagonists through slowed walking shots or approach shots.  Hard audio and editing cuts on visual cues (the hatches closing).  The visual color scheme changes as the narration turns to talk about “risk”.  We get a shot stolen from Dark Knight Rises.  The music beats swell and the cutting gets faster as we draw to the end.  Cut off of action to the title card.  The end.  Fox thinks I care already and builds their trailer on that assumption.  I don’t.

Two major gripes with this package.  First, WHO CARES!?!?!!??!?!  Last I checked, the Fantastic Four were not at the top of culture’s list of heroes we love and want to see more of.  Moreover, this marks the fourth reboot of a major comicbook cinematic property in recent years (Batman, Superman, Spiderman, Fantastic Four).  It’s like Marvel is specifically trying to oversaturate its own market FASTER!  This is an uncalled-for trailer for an uncalled-for movie.

Second, this isn’t Interstellar, despite how hard it tries to sell itself like that film.  The dark, moody tone is now a joke to society – it’s as if the producers just now saw the Dark Knight, read up on the hype it created, and then decided to try and capitalize in today’s market.  The trailer sells us on a more serious undertaking of the plot (which I can get in CW’s The Flash currently) and on hokey casting.  Unless Richard Reed whips out some drumsticks and launches into a solo in the middle of fight, or Sue Storm writes a scathing political article for a magazine, I doubt I will care about these de-aged heroes.

And I focus on those two because the trailer does.  Clearly the makers of the trailer wanted a stunning reveal that one of the four has been recast as black (according to IMDB, he’s the Human Torch), but that falls flat when the trailer itself doesn’t focus on him for the remainder of its runtime.  The two star-power white heroes hog all the screentime in which they aren’t wearing their helmets.  Just an observation.

Ultimately, “What is coming?”.  Well, we are in for another superhero flick that is just like the rest.  Marvel thinks it can expect us to throw our money at because NOSTALGIA!!!  Please don’t watch this.  Go watch the original films.  Yeah they were cartoon-y and a bit ridiculous, but so are the Fantastic Four.  In the world of dark, gritty characters in the superhero genre, the Four do not make the grade.  They preserve the campy joy of the silver age, and that’s where I’d prefer to leave them.


The Fault NEAR our Stars

Check out this trailer for the upcoming Disaster flick San Andreas and then join me after the jump for some commentary:

Really I just wanted to get that title pun out there.  🙂

More seriously, this trailer actually has a good sense of pacing – it sets out to do one thing and does it well, and that makes for a great teaser.  Already I know exactly what I’m in for without the trailer expositing a melodramatic plot, which usually mars movies in this genre.  It shows me actors I like, crazy effects, and an epic scope which is sure to please audiences beyond the California border.

The one misstep is the obnoxious SSC musical score of “California Dreamin’ “.  Though I am thankful to them for proving the trend universally applicable, it adds that hint of pretentiousness to the film that you never want for a Disaster flick (cf – The Day After Tomorrow, 2014).  Some people in California are overly obsessed with an ever-looming “The Big One”, but most people know that the world will move on despite a catastrophic event on the Americans’ west coast.  Disaster flicks take on a bad taste which ruins their marketability when they forgo Michael Bay stupid fun  in favor of Michael Moore sermonizing.  The trick is to entertain us and scare us just a little, while making some observations about how some earth science works (in this case tectonic activity), and then leave it there.  We all remember the laughably idiotic Climate Change plotline in 2014which didn’t match up with the laughably idiotic Mayan Calendar apocalypse story they were supposed to be telling.

In brief, when you make a disaster film, make it about one of two things:  the human element of trying to take care of the ones you love (even Sharknado did that right)
-or-
let loose, make a fun little flick, and don’t tell the audience that their discarded popcorn tubs and candy wrappers are slowly destroying the planet.  We came for an Implausible Adventure, not an Inconvenient Truth.


Jurassic Smashup

Alright! lets do this one already.  First teaser for the upcoming fourth film in Spielberg’s resurrection machine, and it fits into the modern style with ease.  Check out the trailer below and then catch the commentary after the break:

First, I think we can all acknowledge that this trailer succeeds in getting us excited.  It shows a very respectful modernizing of the classic dino-flick that I, for one, cannot wait to see.

Breaking it down, let’s look at “Trailer One”.  Yes, this is yet another trailer getting the mashup treatment – a run-on three minute extravaganza that dilutes its direction.  Which is tragic because the first minute is spectacular!  The music swells wonderfully, the reveal of the park is great; everything is teased beautifully without going overboard.  I couldn’t have more love for that first minute. 🙂

At 1:03, things take a turn.  The music abruptly cuts as we get our taste of the feeding sequence.  This is interesting, as it breaks up the tone rather unfortunately but it also acts as a sharp reminder of the dangers in store for Park patrons. It could have been worked in more smoothly with a softer transition, but at least it fits in with the overall tone the trailer is building.

Thus ends “Trailer One” and begins “Trailer Two”.  Whereas the first trailer is beautifully subtle, pairing good reveals with an honest bit of teasing, this second trailer was created as the modern “explain everything” portion.  Bluntly laying out the plot and focusing on the popular action hero casting, it cuts to black between all but two shots.  Its structure is straight out of the Avengers 2 fashion, artificially instilling tension rather than letting the film speak for itself.

AND speaking of the Avengers trailer, I’m copyrighting the term “Slowed Down / Set in minor key / Creepified” [or SSC] to describe trailer music.   I do like how minimal they go with it, but its still an obnoxious way of trying to jam suspense into a film’s trailer.  Make it stop.  Please.

Finally, at 1:51 we arrive at the Third and final “Trailer”.  As much as I like the source material, the current trend to try and recreate the original Alien trailer is growing very old.  The bwammbwamm noise, the dramatic pacing of cuts, the ratcheting up of action – these work perfectly for the Jurassic Park material but, having seen this scheme so often, it works against it.  Again, they used a structure that is getting old fast but it does provide effective teasing.  I particularly love the shot of Bryce Dallas Howard holding the flair a la Ripley, proving my judgement of its inspiration correct.

This last “Trailer” does end on a high note with a great final shot and a good musical cue over the title screen, but that does only so much to salvage the pileup of multiple parts.  Had they done either the first or last minutes on their own as a teaser trailer, I would call it nearly a masterpiece of marketing.  Instead, they slap-dashed three different trailer ideas together into a rough consortium that distracts from its content.  Luckily, the excellent film work behind it shines through its poorly cut trailer and manages to shine despite its ill-conceived medium.

Welp there you go!  This film looks like such a thrill ride and I cannot wait to see it!  I hope the marketing distills down as we get closer to release.  But until then, just remember: “if something chases you, run.” 🙂  Happy Thanksgiving!

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http://www.jurassicworldmovie.com


From the Inside IN!

It’s finally here!!!  Our first real look at the next Pixar project – the literal emotionally driven Inside Out.  Today we got the first teaser for the 2015 project and it is wonderfully crafted.  Check out the teaser below and then after the jump we’ll talk about what works so well about this.

Disney have tapped a vein in the American subconscious, both pulling from our collective experiences and pumping heartwarming narratives based on these universal life moments back in.  This trailer harkens back to my favorite trailer – the first Teaser for WallE – taking the viewer on a journey through the long history of touching pictures put out by the 3D animation giant.  However, the true brilliance here is how well this nostalgia trip is integrated into a marketing narrative, introducing us to this next project and creating cognitive connections to the joys experienced in their previous work with the promise of similar emotional payoffs here.  By doing so, Disney•Pixar show off what they do best – reminding us of the childhood wonders they have provided and promising to bring it all back even as we grow older.

Aside from the marvelous plotting of the teaser, I love the use of Color!  From the outset, they begin planting the aesthetic seeds of the film’s design.  I love the nothing-like-subtle coloring of the texts, and the payoff they have in the characters at the end.

Mainly, though, what I love about this trailer is that it spends its time building on what we know and love, and then lovingly teases what we can expect in Inside Out.  Only half of the trailer is devoted to the characters, though we do get a lovely brief introduction to their personalities which perfectly piques our interest.  The plot is not mentioned, nor is the setting beyond the zoom in on the girl’s head.  It gives us just a taste and lets our imaginations run wild.

I, for one, know exactly where I will be June 19th of 2015 – happily seated in a theater nearby preparing to enjoy this latest product from Pixar.  Their work remains strong, and this trailer does nothing but get me excited for the film.  Disney is a master of its craft and I cannot wait to see them do what they do best, even if it costs a year without a Pixar flick.