Was this new trailer for ‘Frozen’ really Disney’s best option?

Oh, no. You’re scaring me Walt Disney Marketing. This trailer for ‘Frozen’ has problems galore. Let’s hold off on why by first taking a quick movie marketing lesson about how this might have come to pass.

As you no doubt have guessed, movie trailers are not made in a vacuum.  Almost always the final product is a consensus of marketing executives and maybe the input of the film’s director or producer (a big maybe). A majority of prospective trailers are cut from early assemblies of a movie provided by the filmmaker to different ad agencies although there are a few studios that sometimes cut in house.  The content of a movie preview is almost entirely determined on testing of different cuts by multiple editors to prospective moviegoers.  Often the best testing moments from each edit are integrated into one single piece. Sometimes a single cut of a trailer will test well enough to move forward on its own or an editor will work in elements of one edit into another. And every once in awhile, a trailer editor will deliver a slam dunk right away and testing is usually an afterthought (although it’s always done for numerous reasons).  And that brings us to the new preview for “Frozen.”

Walt Disney Animation Studios’ tentpole for Thanksgiving, “Frozen” is directed by Chris Buck (the underrated “Surf’s Up”) and Jennifer Lee (one of the six writers of “Wreck-it-Ralph”) and is very loosely adapted from the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale “The Snow Queen.” It’s got princesses, magic and is set in some icy Scandinavian kingdom a long, long time ago. It also happens to feature the always adorable Kristen Bell and a very Broadway friendly vocal cast including Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad and Santino Fontana. More intriguing, the film contains original songs from the Tony Award winning husband and wife team behind “Avenue Q” and “The Book of Mormon.” Oh yeah, and Menzel sang one of the film’s new songs, “Let it Go,” at D23 just last month.  You can hear the potential moving best original song nominee embedded here:

(That Menzel is something, no?)

Now, the teaser was something out of the “Ice Age” marketing playbook (introducing a cute character in an almost short format), but with the previously discussed pedigree involved the final product could be something special, right? Right?

With only two months until opening, today’s new trailer sets the movie up as somewhat small. The question title card motif suggests the studio could not find a way to satisfactorily explain the film’s story to testing audiences.  This sort of creative direction is usually the last resort, basically a way of saying “This is the hero!,” “This is the leading man!,” “This is the nice guy!” (not the same here it appears), “This is the comic relief!,” “This is the feisty heroine!” “everyone got it?” Obviously, there is no way Disney is going to give a hint that the movie contains original songs (this ain’t the ’90s), but the scope is pretty diminished compared to an international teaser released a few months ago (and this trailer has the same shots in it, just cut less quickly).  Moreover, the big “From Disney” logo in the middle of the preview screams of a DVD release (something you never want to have a parent to think).  But, again, it’s really a string of comic beats after comic beats. And unless the bits are laugh out loud funny that’s hard to sell moviegoers as something truly special (which the movie still may be).

Hey, your kids (or little girls) may love the preview which will make obviously Disney very happy.  But would you take your boyfriend or girlfriend, husband or wife?  That sort of audience expansion what the studio needs to make “Frozen” a real holiday hit. Right now?  They have a lot more selling to do.

As for whether “Frozen” is really an animated best picture contender, you can’t judge anything from this preview. And until the folks at DreamWorks Animation or Pixar hear Menzel sing in context they likely aren’t worried about “The Croods” or “Monsters University” remaining the frontrunners.

What did you think of the trailer? Share your thoughts below.