Sorry DreamWorks, But Your 3D Super Bowl Trailer Sucked!
by Alex Billington
February 2, 2009
I've got a bone to pick with DreamWorks Animation. Ever since I first saw Kung Fu Panda, I've been starting to warm up to them, and now with Monsters vs Aliens on the horizon, I've begun to occasionally support them as often as I do Pixar. But today during the Super Bowl they tried to wow audiences with a very gimmicky 3D TV spot for Monsters vs Aliens and it fell apart. Well, maybe not for everyone, but in my eyes (pun intended), it was a fumble that cost them the game. It may have taken a while for me to actually get a pair of 3D glasses, but even with a pair of them on, their TV spot looked terrible!
Back at the 3D Entertainment Summit in December, James Cameron commented on the old and outdated anaglyphic 3D technology, meaning the red and blue kind of glasses that were used today, saying that it is "stunting 3D growth" and hurting the progression of 3D in the industry. When the news about this TV spot first hit, I was contacted by a marketing rep at DreamWorks and told that they were using new technology from Intel called InTru 3D "which delivers a more immersive story and an incredible visual experience" while still using the red and blue lenses. Suffice it to say, I wasn't impressed at what I saw.
Everyone knows I'm not easily sold on just the novelty of 3D. It takes a lot to really impress me, and this didn't even get mildly close to doing so. What I saw, in a heated frenzy of "where's my glasses?!" and "how do these stay on?!", was the same red and blue crap that I used to see as a kid. Anaglyphic images were first invented in 1853 and comic books were printed in red and white back in the 1950s. So why are we still using this incredibly old technology today? Oh right, because people like Jeffrey Katzenberg demand that 3D is the future, then force this kind of contrived marketing down our throats and claim it's the next big thing when they "successfully" broadcast this crap to millions of viewers during the Super Bowl.
Will we ever see something that truly pushes the limits of 3D technology? Not until Avatar. I get that the whole idea of this was to give audiences at home a small taste of what it will be like to watch Monsters vs Aliens in theaters in 3D. Or at least give them a glimpse of the cheesy effects, like how the explosions fly right off the screen and so on. First off, this isn't at all what it's going to look like in theaters. Secondly, the trailers that people are talking about the most from the Super Bowl are those for G.I. Joe, Land of the Lost, and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, not Monsters vs Aliens! Better luck next time, Katzenberg.
Here is some honest criticism - the Super Bowl is really the worst time to try and coordinate this kind of massive 3D effort. Most people are gathered in huge groups, crowded around TVs (like myself), and usually in a heated frenzy over the game. Sure we all love watching the commercials, but I can clearly say that during this commercial, all I was caring about was whether I could see the 3D properly and if the red and blue would ever disappear. I didn't once think about the story, or for that matter, even what I was watching. Without going back and watching it again, can anyone remember any of the major scenes they saw?
This whole Monsters vs Aliens gimmick, or publicity stunt, or whatever you want to call it, only achieved the act of being a gimmick and nothing more. All of those millions of people who did have glasses were caught up in a frenzy of enthusiam over the novelty rather than genuinely interested. This is coming from my own experience, and the experiences of the 10 people who were watching the game with me. By comparison, I just saw Coraline a few days ago and Henry Selick got it right. Hardly anything "popped out" of the screen, instead, he used 3D to completely immerse the audience in the world of Coraline. And in turn, I could get further engaged in the actual story and enjoy the filmmaking rather than the novelty of the 3D effect.
I challenge Jeffrey Katzenberg and DreamWorks Animation to actually show me that they're using 3D as a filmmaking technique to further progress the industry and the technology, not just make a few extra dollars from gullible audiences. The day I finally see Katzenberg, or any true innovators in this industry, put 3D to good use and market it in a way that doesn't involve stashing anaglyphic glasses in grocery stores, I'll admit that we've finally developed an impressive and groundbreaking technology. But until then, I'll continue to despise these kinds of marketing gimmicks. Bring it on Katzenberg, it's you and me now, mano-a-mano!