Wednesday, July 17, 2013
If there's one thing I've been noticing about Disney's marketing for Pixar's films lately, it's that they reveal a lot of things... Too many things. Spoilers that help someone piece the whole plot together, or spoilers that give away something that you would not have expected... Let's dive in, shall we?
Just to get one thing out of the way, I won't discuss the Japanese trailers for Pixar films because we all know they spoil a lot. Remember on Twitter when Pixar animators immediately warned people not to watch the Japanese Monsters University trailer? Well they were right, because it does in fact spoil the entire film. I'll be focusing on the domestic and European trailers for these films.
First off, one could say that Toy Story 3's marketing made it obvious that Lotso was essentially a deceptive Stinky Pete-esque villain, though most of the marketing didn't really show too much of him when he truly showed how evil he was (i.e. having Buzz reprogrammed). It just didn't help that he was a big and elderly teddy bear with a cane. But from the final domestic trailer, you got the sense that leaving the daycare wasn't going to be easy for the toys... Remember the shot of Lotso saying "You've got a playdate with destiny!"
But the great thing about Toy Story 3's American and European trailers was that they didn't show how truly evil Lotso was, you just knew he was going to be the big villain... But in what way was the question! This is what made the shocking revelation that precedes the incinerator sequence such a shock, because you might've thought for a moment that he possibly had a change of heart.
The problems slowly began with the marketing for Cars 2. An international trailer revealed that Francesco Bernoulli beats Lightning McQueen in the first race and the second race. Gee, talk about good trailer editing... Why in the world would you spoil the outcome of two of the three races in the film? Then again, one could argue that the racing was irrelevant since the main story was the spy plot, but still! McQueen losing the Tokyo race is what drives Mater to leave and get wrapped up in the spy hi-jinks. The American trailers, luckily, didn't spoil too much. Regardless of the quality of the film itself, it's still kind of dumb to spoil key moments.
Beyond the trailers, a promo for the film that coincided with Prince William's wedding (since the Cars world equivalents of the Queen herself and the Prince are in the film) pretty much gave away the ending, along with the character images for the two. Mater gets knighted, though one could assume that it wasn't Mater who was getting knighted... But still, someone gets knighted! Yes we know the day was going to be saved in the end, but did you really have to show the hero getting their particular reward?
But that's not a problem if you don't dive into the non-trailer marketing, which I currently don't do. However, I want to avoid all trailers (except the teasers) for Pixar films. Here's where the problems get bigger...
Things really kicked into high gear with Brave's marketing...
It's a shame, because the first teaser was excellent. One of the only Pixar teasers that I'd call good, because Pixar teasers are probably meant to be mediocre. They have a joke, but they only function to get audiences that don't normally care about animation as an art form to go see their film. Remember, most audiences want comedy and "warm fuzzies" (as Disney blogger Jim Miles put it) in their animated film trailers. Drama and heavier parts? Not so much... And then people wonder why Frozen's teaser turned out to be a little comedic sequence. But this isn't a rant about American trailers focusing on comedy... What was wrong with the subsequent trailers and promos for this film?
Brave's first official trailer showed the sequence where Merida's triplet brothers are bear cubs scaring Maudie. There's also a dark split-second shot of Elinor as a bear, running. Luckily that shot goes by quick... Unless you're the type that analyzes trailers frame-by-frame. So one could deduce that the twins become bears, and there's also the shot of a brewing cauldron... It totally implies that at least someone is magically turned into a bear. Or bears.
However, the final trailer spoils the film's major twist with a mere couple of shots. We see Elinor as a bear in two shots at the end of the trailer, the first of which being the scene where her and Merida follow the wisps to the eerie kingdom ruins. This is after we've seen a more terrifying-looked bear attack her in the teaser whilst popping up elsewhere. Then the final shot of the teaser is Merida jumping in an attempt to escape from Mor'du, while her mother is trying to save her. You can totally see her!
I mean, who else would that be? Add to the fact that you saw the triplets as little bear cubs in the last teaser and several other promos, it becomes clear that Merida inadvertently has someone (presumably a witch) turn her mother and her brothers into bears. Non-animation fans who normally don't pay attention to details may not notice, since all they see is pretty animation and appealing characters... But us fans do! And people who do notice spoilerific shots in trailers!
Then some promos spoiled it as well. Apparently Disney's marketing department felt that Toy Story 3's incredibly unique viral marketing campaign could be applied to something like Brave, which is why you saw the humorous fake ads for Kilt fashion, Witch's Brew and an album called Freedom Broch. Anyways, the Witch's Brew ad reveals the witch's appearance, whereas we only heard her voice quickly in the American trailers. We even saw shots from the fishing sequence in some other promos!
But if the trailers didn't spoil things for the fans, then the film's working title did. Look, I don't like the title Brave and I think The Bear and the Bow is a much better title because it perfectly defines the story, but it also gives away the twist. Of course, Pixar went against their grain and revealed quite a few details on their upcoming slate way back in the spring of 2008... In a time when Brave was called The Bear and the Bow and the plot was detailed. Rebellious princess? A curse that affects the kingdom? People already pieced that together on forums back in the day, or at least before the teaser showed up.
Maybe it was unwise of Pixar to unveil the title so early on, maybe things wouldn't have been easy to piece together from the start had Brave been announced after May 2009, when the title change was officially confirmed. Maybe... But the trailers were too spoilerific...
Oddly enough, there were many who seemed shocked by the twist upon seeing the film. Apparently they didn't get the "mother turns into a bear" plot twist from the trailers and marketing! I can't give Disney's marketing machine a pass for that though, because a lot of other people guessed that twist...
Now we get to Monsters University, and boy did the first official trailer spoil the third act with a couple shots and some dialogue! The shots of a determined Mike in the university's door lab, monsters trying to get into said door lab, Sulley grabbing a closet doorknob and Dean Hardscrabble's voice frantically calling "Don't go in there! It's dangerous!" gave it all away for me. Right off the bat, I could tell that the two (or at least one of them, which ended up happening!) were going take a crazy risk and enter the human world... And it was going to happen towards the end of the film. The following trailer built on those shots, showing Sulley going through the closet door he was about to open and worriedly climbing a mountain in the human world!
I get it. Most audiences probably wouldn't notice or if they did, they most likely wouldn't piece it all together like I did... And I avoided everything but the trailers for this film, but after giving the second trailer one viewing, I stayed away from the final trailer. I'm glad I did!
After Brave, my new code was to never go beyond the trailers. Just watch the trailers a couple times and avoid everything else as much as possible. Now, I will avoid the trailers for their films and only watch the teasers, look at some stills and a few thing others... But that's it! I know it may sound insane, but I feel that Pixar's recent trailers are giving away way too much. I am also a bit concerned for Disney Animation, as I feel that the marketing department may go this route for that studio's film as well.
Wreck-It Ralph's official trailer came close. In the rather epic "Some Nights" montage, there was a shot of Ralph breaking his way into the cell where Fix-It Felix, Jr. is locked up. From there, I knew that Felix was going to get in some sort of trouble in Sugar Rush with King Candy and that Ralph would come to his rescue... But I didn't know why, the trailer at least kind of implied that King Candy was going to be no good. There was so much they kept hidden so nothing was really, really spoiled for me before the film opened. The international trailer on the other hand explicitly shows how Ralph accidentally brings a Cy-Bug out of Hero's Duty and into Sugar Rush. But those two sequences weren't enough... I couldn't guess what big twists were going to occur in the second and third acts of film, so I was surprised the whole way through.
So this may mean that Frozen's official trailer won't have any shots that will spoil a lot, but you never know with Disney's marketing these days. I initially didn't even want to watch the Japanese teaser until hearing that nothing in it was spoiler-heavy. I'm now wary of the upcoming official domestic trailer...
In the mean time, I'm going to be extra-cautious about Disney's marketing of their animated output...