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Please Tell Me It’s A Joke.

First, if you haven’t seen it already, go watch the new trailer for Rapunzel.

For years I’ve worried that executives and marketing slobs were ruining Disney animation. Now I’m starting to worry that they already have.

Has the vast studio bureaucracy – ranks upon ranks of Vice Presidents and marketing mavens – really salted the fields of creativity so that nothing will ever grow there again? I talk a big game but typically am willing to cut Disney a ton of slack, yet in this trailer there are things that really make me want to retch. That some of the cornball nonsense in this trailer can be presented with a straight face in the year 2010 nearly makes me give up hope altogether. I have no connection to Disney besides my fandom, but I would be embarrassed for my friends to see this trailer in the theater.

In my practice of finding at least one or two good things to say, I’ll say this: I really like Rapunzel’s design. It’s Glen Keane-y but has converted well to CGI. Her animation in this trailer, and some of the model sheets I’ve seen, at least indicate that she’ll be appealing to watch. The hair looks good too; in fact, the look of the film doesn’t seem hampered at all by its computer-generated origins.

However, the tone of the piece, the insanely derivative male lead, the “wacky” animal sidekick, that horrendous horse design, and the awful comedy beats just… discourage me. There are about a dozen cliches in pose, animation, and design in this that I’d like to see banished from Disney forever. And “the smoulder”? Really? Marketing can make a lousy trailer, but the animators at Disney really need to purge themselves of some of these affectations they’ve developed over the years. Some of these stock expressions have become very obvious institutional tics.

I’ll just close my eyes and cross my fingers and hope that this is mostly to blame on Disney’s amazingly inept film marketing department. After all, this is a trailer for a film once called Rapunzel that gives no indication that it’s about… Rapunzel. That’s right, go back and check – her name is not mentioned once in the entire trailer. Then again, she has… what, two lines?

I’m sure it will be worth it, though. Not mentioning that she’s Rapunzel means that now it’s certain that teen-aged boys will go see this at least a dozen times apiece. Because that’s how the world works, in the minds of Disney executives.

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15 comments to Please Tell Me It’s A Joke.

  • Drew

    “I’ll just close my eyes and cross my fingers and hope that this is mostly to blame on Disney’s amazingly inept film marketing department”

    The buzz seems to be that this is exactly the case. This is part of the efforts to appeal to boys that also included the name change. I am not too sure how pleased these boys will be if they go in expecting one movie, and get something totally different.

  • That trailer is… interesting.

    While the trailer is definitely geared toward boys, there’s really no indication what the film is about, so if a) you didn’t know the film was originally titled Rapunzel, or b) you’ve never heard the story of Rapunzel, there’s a good chance you’ll expect one thing and get something entirely different.

    Then again, I don’t know the plot of the film, so perhaps it really does focus on the guy and really is aimed at boys. I guess we’ll all have to wait until it’s released to find out what it’s really all about.

  • Tim

    Interestingly, the international version of the trailer does include the male lead saying the name “Rapunzel” (part of the famous call of “Rapunzel, let down your hair”) that is oddly omitted in the recently released American trailer. For whatever reason they REALLY are afraid of the princess factor “infecting” this movie to the point that hearing a princess-y name is considered a potential liability.

  • Tim

    A version of the international trailer:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GTut733YmRo&fmt=18

    The “R-word” is uttered around 1:10 or so.

  • BookishBelle

    I think a relationship can be established between the rebranding of the WDW carrousel and the focus on the male character in Tangled. Possibly the attempt to break down some of the gendering of the Princess world? Provide a role for boys in that environment or at least not totally exclude them?

    Of course, if we throw in the “Meet Ken” promo from Toy Story 3, it becomes apparent that a girl’s toy is a girls toy, no matter how it is described. Even by the toy itself!

    BB

  • FigmentJedi

    Some of the test screenings have been pretty positive, so I’m remaining optimistic about the movie. Doesn’t stop me from utterly despising how terrible Disney’s marketing has been for about a decade.

  • Julian

    Well, the reason why it’s not called Rapunzel is because with the lack of boys going to see “Princess and the Frog”, they changed the name so that it could appeal to boys. plus, this is the first trailer released of the movie. give em some slack. let more trailers come out, and then make a judgement. kind of unfair to make one off of the first trailer….

  • While I respect your opinion and tend to agree with you on most issues I will refrain from judgment until I see the movie. A trailer can be so misleading and poorly put together that it can totally misrepresent a movie .

    I have seen small snippets and I think It visually looks well done.
    The stories writing I have not yet heard so I hope you are wrong!

    With all due respect!

  • Thanks to everyone for the comments. From what I’m hearing, the trailer is in fact not indicative of the movie at large. In fact, some of these gags were supposedly created just for the trailer. There have been some workprint screenings going on and apparently the film is a traditional musical, with an actual emphasis on Rapunzel herself. So we’ll see.

    That doesn’t detract from the harm that Disney is doing themselves with such terrible marketing; I think again of people like my friends, who aren’t averse to animation but don’t follow it as I do. Without reading internet message boards to get the word that the film is actually decent, I can see filmgoers seeing this trailer and dismissing the film out of hand. I know I would.

    To those of you who bring up that this is an attempt for Disney to try and appeal to young males, you’re absolutely right. The title change and this trailer are totally a reaction to their Princess and the Frog-induced panic. And BookishBelle is right that it’s exactly the same motive behind the absurd carousel name change at WDW. Of course, I think the idea that such “tricks” insult the audience at large, males, *and* females, but I don’t have a sweet marketing degree so what do I know?

    This trailer isn’t going to “fool” anyone into seeing the movie, but it sure as heck is going to discourage people who would otherwise enjoy it from seeing it.

    Julian: The whole purpose of releasing trailers is to give audiences a specific impression of a film. Studios *want* you to make judgments based on the trailers – positive ones. That’s the whole reason trailers exist. If it’s fair game for trailers to get people totally wound up and excited to see a film, isn’t it fair that they could give people an unfavorable opinion of the film as well? It would be different if this was a series of clips or a workprint that was being shown, whey they come out beforehand and say that you’re about to watch something that’s unfinished and unpolished. That’s when you cut some slack. But this is how Disney wants you to judge the final product, and why I have no problem doing so.

    Chuck: You’re so right that a trailer can completely misrepresent a movie. In fact, most of the time I find that Pixar trailers are pretty shabby, even for their best films. Disney trailers are almost uniformly awful regardless of the quality of the film. And, of course, you can see an awesome trailer only to find a miserable film. My main concern isn’t even what this trailer says about this particular film’s quality, but what it says about Disney’s mindset. This film is a BIG deal for them, so this trailer was not an afterthought. This trailer represents their very best attempt to illustrate what they think audiences want to see, and that’s the big problem. The same great minds who think that this trailer will appeal to audiences are the same ones who are calling the shots on which films get made, and how they get made. And that’s the real problem!

  • Another Voice

    Two overwhelming issues with this trailer – or more accurately the thinking behind this trailer.

    First, trailers aren’t what the suits think is “a good trailer”. A trailer is based on their opinion of what we – the audience – wants to see. ‘Tangled’ represents Disney’s view of our tastes, our expectations, our interests…and it’s hard to imagine how wrong they are. So – is this really how they see us? Is this what they think we want to shell out ten bucks to see?

    Second, to the wait-and-see crowd: movies are not broccoli – there’s no “try it you might like it”. You either decide up front to drop the hundred bucks to take your family to a movie or you don’t. That’s why Hollywood marketing has always been so flamboyant and over-the-top, because it’s not like you’re trying to convince people to change brands of toothpaste. Buying a movie ticket is an all-or-nothing event. People are making decisions right now about seeing ‘Tangled’ based on this trailer. First impressions matter and it’s extremely hard and expensive to change them.

    Disney’s problem these days is a disconnection from people. It goes all through the company from movies to theme parks to consumer products. Disney doesn’t understand us anymore.

    As a result, they are pandering. And that never works.

  • Another Voice

    Michael – once again our posts crossed in the ether…

    I too have heard that WDFA is francly telling people the trailer isn’t like the final film…then again there are others who are whispering that the final cut will be very much like the trailer. Depends on how the suits read the results of the test screenings. With the relative flatness of ‘Shrek 4′ and the surprise success of ‘Dragon’, the suits are thinking that muscials and pop cultural references are out, but physical humor and banter are in.

  • Mark W

    “…the suits are thinking that muscials and pop cultural references are out, but physical humor and banter are in.”

    And therein lies the rub. Why, oh why, can’t these people understand that bad movies are out, but good movies are in? A movie is not a conglomeration of different types of scenes/characters – if it’s merely that, it’s gonna suck. A movie is a piece of art. You can’t create art by committee.

    This isn’t a problem just within Disney. It’s systemic of the entire Hollywood industry. After The Dark Knight was so successful every studio head and industry analyst thought that people wanted to see “dark” films. No. It was just an extremely well made film that happened to be dark.

    It’s why, sadly, the vast majority of the only good films these days are either indie films, the result of directors who have proved themselves enough to be given more or less free-reign by the suits, or from a studio where the artists’ work is strongly defended from interference by someone high up (a la Pixar).

  • philphoggs

    Three cheers for the chameleon.

  • A version of the international trailer:
    See now that trailer ( even though I didn’t understand a word they said) was great! It made me want to see the movie. I guess I am one of the lemmings then if this is what you consider “poor ” quality trailers. I love the looks of it and cant wait for it to come out. Looking back at “the Princess and the Frog” trailers…Never looked at it seriously at all . Still don’t plan to see it either.The trailers were fine but the story did not interest me.
    Was it because the trailer did not represent the movie properly, did it not invoke a desire or urgency to see it….or did it just not click with me.

    My daughter went to it with her Grandma and said it was”OK” but was luke warm to it….and she loves frogs. I honestly think the movie has to appeal to the audience regardless of the marketing or how the trailer is put together . That being said…there are definitely trailers out there that totally fooled me into thinking I would like the movie and was extremely disappointed.

  • oh and …..I agree, the chameleon is totally cool!

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