Super Bowl Commercials in 3-D

I was lucky enough to score some 3-D glasses for the Super Bowl last night, and Dreamworks new commercial for their upcoming Aliens Versus Monsters movie. I don't know what your experience was watching that, so hopefully you had more fun with the 3D gimmicks. Perhaps rear-projection tv screens won't allow for it to work. All I know is that I had my glasses on, and I didn't see a damn thing. What a letdown.

Well, that's not entirely untrue. I could see the shots that were intended to be "3-D," but it was so depressingly cliche, a shot of a space monster bouncing a ball at the screen. Oy, froinlayvin! It's the year 2009, and suddenly we're sent hurling back to the world of Count Floyd. Tonight's scary movie! Doctor Tongue's 3-D...House of Pancakes! Wooooooo! That was reaaaly scary, kids!

So there's the new Hollywood gimmick. Same as the old Hollywood gimmick.

I was disappointed that Disney didn't seize this moment to make the case for the American theatrical release of Ponyo on a Cliff by the Sea. With such endless hype hype hype for 3-D movies as the end-all and be-all of our lives, here comes the latest masterpiece from one of cinema's true giants. An animated film entirely created by hand, and entirely in glorious 2-D. If there was a better chance to promote Ponyo, I honestly can't think of it.

The cynical side of me expects Disney to bury the latest Miyazaki film, just as they have all the others. It's just the nature of the movie business. Besides, you could see the real agenda on the tv ad that followed the Aliens Versus Monsters trailer - the first of an endless stream of corporate tie-ins. This, truly, is what the movie business is about. Merchandizing! Merchandizing! Where the REAL money from the movie is made!

You can't fault Disney, or any of the handful of corporate conglomerates who control our entertainment realm, to not promote a foreign movie like Ponyo. There's nothing in it for them. No Happy Meals. No stuffed dolls. No t-shirts, no pajamas, no Halloween costumes. No tie-ins at all, in fact. Studio Ghibli demands complete control over their properties. And they guard their creations like works of art, not to be pimped out mercilessly for the sake of capitalist greed. Funny, that. It's almost like they think of themselves as artists with some higher calling.

Anyway, these are the rambling thoughts that spun in my mind during the Dreamworks commercial. It's their fault for not delivering the goods on 3-D. Probably my thought for thinking too much. I do that. It's what happens when I read books or spin records on my Sony PS-X turntables instead of watching teevee. Dagnabbit.

Oh, I should also say some happy words for Pixar's Up trailer, which was also shown at the Super Bowl. Once again, they seem to exist on a different plane than the rest of Hollywood. Up promises to be a genuinely entertaining, funny, and inventive picture. Meanwhile, Dreamworks offers yet another helping of burps, farts, and lazy pop culture riffs to reward the lazy.

It's like all the "A" students at Cal Arts graduated to Pixar, and the "C" students slacked off to Dreamworks. What's the deal with that? I would kill to see some serious competition in American animation. I could only imagine how good Pixar's movies would become if they felt some real competition sniping at their heels. As such, Hollywood is still stuck in a simplistic race to the bottom, to who can throw up the most explosions, the most fart jokes, and the most tie-ins.

Skip it. If this isn't enough on an inspiration to stand in line for Ponyo, then you really have no business going out to movies anymore.


Chris said...

I fully agree with you about Disney and American animation and merchandising and so on. It's all true. I'm a huge Ghibli fan (which is why I always read this informative blog), but I do have to add something about merchandising and Ghibli.

I live in Tokyo. Since I've moved here I've done a lot of shopping for Studio Ghibli related items. I have to tell you that Studio Ghibli is on overdrive with their own merchandising. Ponyo, especially, has been heavily merchandised. Every where you go there is some kind of merchandise: Playing cards, stuffed dolls, hand puppets, bath toys, cell phone accessories, calendars, CDs, post cards from the Post Office, trinkets, toys, and on and on and on.

Now I do not think Studio Ghibli makes a film with merchandising in mind. I honestly believe they have a definite creative and artistic agenda unlike the American tradition that created things like He-Man and G.I. Joe (toys first, cartoons later). However, I don't think they shy away from exploiting the financial possibilities of merchandising.

I would also add that - Man alive! - the Ghibli stuff is expensive! In Tokyo, at least, Disney merchandise is much cheaper than Studio Ghibli merchandise.

Chris said...

I'd like to add one non-related thing about 3D. I have no idea what this commercial was like as I didn't see it. (And you are right: I saw the preview to Aliens vs. Monsters and it just looks so unambitious and derivative.) I have to say, though, that I got to see Beowulf in 3D and I was thoroughly engrossed in the spectacle. It was like seeing a possible future of film. As long as it avoids being too gimmicky, I think movies like the 3D Beowulf can be really enjoyable like a roller coaster at an amusement park. (Perhaps that is the future of 3D, more of an attraction than actual filmmaking.)

Anonymous said...

I read your blog all the time!Keep up the posting when you can!
I'm a big Ghibli fan, and for me, when watching a ghibli film, I don't feel like I'm watching a bunch of product placements or a big franchise start that wants you to watch the movie, go to Mcdonalds and get the toys, then go to the store and buy the clothes, books, toys, etc. then wait for the sequel, prequel, and spinoff television series. (Disney shoud've just stopped with 'lilo and stitch.' Great movie, but it didnt need a sequel, prequel, or spinoff tv series IMO.) When watching a Ghibli movie, I feel like I'm, a movie made for its own sake. They dont make movies as advertisements or with merchandising in mind, with a whole line of products and spinoffs in the making. Although, if the movie is popular, like 'Ponyo', then I guess it's alll right to profit from merchandising. ^^ If I was in Japan, I'd definitely be buying all the Ghibli and 'Ponyo' merchandise I could... Even though it's all so expensive. (Bought the Ponyo art books at Amazon a few months ago...they were expensive!)

I guess that Disney can't do a commercial for 'Ponyo' now because it's set to be released in the summer.

I will be soooooo ticked off if Disney buries 'Ponyo'. It's kind of a personal reason, but I made a website in school, and the topic I chose was 'Ponyo' and I had to present it in front of a bunch of my high school peers... Needless to say, I got a lot of reeally blank stares and some guys were laughing because they thought it was stupid. Which didnt bug me, because I was kind of expecting it. But some of the people had seen Spirited Away or Kiki's Delivery Service and liked them and they said they'd go see Ponyo when it comes out, 'if it's as good as Spirited Away or as cute as Kiki's Delivery Service' and that made my day. If you ask around, lots of people have seen Ghibli movies but they didnt know it at the time. :) Sorry, I'm rambling... I digress.

I put my site on the 'net, if you want to see it. Here.

Speaking of animation and 3-D, do you have any thoughts about the movie 'Coraline'?

Doug said...

Daniel - I wonder if we often confuse the artists at Dreamworks with the suits who are making the decisions about what that creative staff will take on. I happen to believe that there is some beautiful stuff going on at that studio from an art direction and animation standpoint. It is too bad that they are also trapped inside a burping and farting vehicle. Nonetheless, I'm sure there are plenty of "A" students who are involved in the production of what we would consider less desirable films.

I'm hoping to see Ponyo in a theater, if so it would be my first Ghibli movie seen on the large screen. I hope but don't hold my breath.

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