Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Tale of Two Trailers

So, the other day, my sister and I took my nephew to CARS 2, the flick they all said was the [Asian racial slur] in the armor of Pixar Animation Studio. And yeah, it wasn't the greatest, but was still a hell of a lot better than most of the animated features people tell me are "really, really good." I liked the "Toy Story" short and the spy stuff, especially in the first half hour. My nephew had to be taken to the bathroom no less than three times during the showing, and ran around the seats for another third of it, so I imagine it'll be six months or so before I take him to another flick.

But what I opened up this blog to talk about was the trailers immediately preceding the film. Specifically, two trailers, one for THE MUPPETS and one for WINNIE THE POOH.*

While both do the exact same thing that infuriates me when music groups do it (calling a release that is not their debut album by the band name), I was really surprised by my reactions to the trailers.While THE MUPPETS presentation is mostly about muppety shenanigans, unnecessary CGI, and kicks to the face, stomach, and nuts, it does act as a sort of introduction to the main characters (namely Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie, and Animal) to the new generation of kids that may not know them. While it beggars belief that a ten year old wouldn't know who these characters are, there are a mountain of choices for every child's entertainment--most of those far stupider and less wholesome than Jim Henson's quaint crew--and unless a parent makes an active effort to present the Muppets to their child, they're liable to be overlooked in favor of Spongebob Squarepants, iCarly, Dora Explora, The Innuendo Twins Who Cannot Act, Hannah Montana, and Belinda Bunt.

While the trailer's narration is set up to introduce the Muppets to youngsters, Jason Segal and Amy Adams' characters serve as the draw for adult viewers, making at least a token attempt at pointing out that the felt and plastic (and CGI) creatures that surround them are beloved fixtures to audience members in their thirties and forties.

So, it didn't bother me all that much that there was little in the way of recognition factor or call-backs in THE MUPPETS trailer. But the message was clear: this is not your father's Muppet movie. Even though I think the Muppets are pretty cool (though preferring those that live on Sesame Street and pre-Prequels Yoda), I recognized that this film is not meant for me, and doesn't merit my eight dollars and fifty cents (before 3-D).

Hence, it was absolutely jaw-dropping to discover that the trailer for WINNIE THE POOH was entirely designed to get parents and even grandparents to take their kids and go see it, because once upon a time we were children, carefree, guileless, and playful . . . that believed in the 100-Acre Wood, and more importantly, in magic.The 21st Century alt-rock tune by Keane, "Somewhere Only We Know," plays to amazing success** under images of HAND-FUGGIN-DRAWN animation, depicting Pooh Bear, Owl, Piglet, and Eeyore, looking and sounding exactly as they did thirty-odd years ago. Nostalgia overwhelmed me as I beheld these timeless characters (oh, and Tigger as well, I'd sort of blocked him out because I hate him and all he represents) acting as they did at the dawn of time, and indeed, the way they always will, with no need for a Hufflelump or Piglet's overbearing obese wife Sow, or Sloutchy the Mischievous Wallaby or Lumpy or Tigrita or Vaginamonster, or whatever else came in all the years since.

Come back with us, friend, the trailer seemed to be saying, "They're all still the same . . . , and deep down . . . beneath the mortgage worries, stress headaches, and erectile dysfunction . . . so are you!

Oh, and who is their owner, and our guide into the Milne realm? None other than Christopher Mo-Fo Robin, still looking and sounding as he used to, not to be ignominiously replaced by a younger, female version, because real boys don't play with innocent stuffed animals and their imagination, but with guns, video game controllers, and battling robots.

When it was over, I wiped away a tear and shook my head in wonder. You see, I never was a Winnie the Pooh kid. I liked Spider-man and "Gilligan's Island" and stuff with monsters in it, and didn't really relate to Pooh's unapologetic avarice and fatness (nowadays is another story). Maybe it was all too British for me, since I didn't get BEDNOBS & BROOMSTICKS or ARISTOCATS or BATTLE OF THE PLANETS either.*** Neither did I have siblings that adored those characters, or children of my own begging to be read about the honey tree and the blustery day and the all-too-effective suppository.

So the trailer's tugging at my heartstrings was a trick, since I don't have warm nostalgic memories of Milne's creations to fall back on. Even so, that's the movie I would see of the two. And in a world where movie trailers remind me more and more often that I am no longer in their target demographic, it's doubly-surprising to be spoken to in such a way. And nice to be tossed a bone once in a while.

Rish "Little Roo" Outfield

*I also saw the execrable trailer for HAPPY FEET 2, but cannot comment upon it without the foulest of blasphemous profanities.

**And why that song, with absolutely no resonance to a little kid, when they could easily have chosen Justin Bieber or Taylor Swift, or one of the now-dozen Disney Channel sexpots that absolutely cannot sing, but all have album contracts and mini-music videos played during the commercials on that station?

***That was an (admittedly-poor) joke.

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