You know that face. The clever, asymmetrical smirk.
The similarly crooked eyebrows.
The intense stare-down to you from the promo posters. It's the expression that tells you the hero is going to be up to no good, and is too cool for any of that classic, mainstream, conformational wimps those other
studios produce... except the character him or herself never makes that face to begin with in the show!
It's usually a way to get audiences to see their films and promises a very different tone than what we're used to. It's the facial expression form of hip, sassy and snarky dialogue.
This trope pertains to faces seen outside of the body of the film or TV show and only in marketing material... in posters, billboards, ads, etc. Otherwise, it would be a No Fourth Wall
(since a character usually looks straight forward) or an Aside Glance
Named after this◊
memetic picture, that originally tried to prove how generic the Dreamworks movie concepts are, including their posters. As others pointed out in reaction, Disney-Pixar, and practically every other studio also uses this face. So, even though it's not a Dreamworks-exclusive trope, it is still commonly associated with them.
- The Looney Tunes did this◊ a lot of times in show cards and cel artwork, especially in Chuck Jones' work, making this Older Than They Think.
- The minimalist poster for Tangled had Rapunzel and Flynn side by side, looking at the audience deviously behind a sea of hair, so you had to guess exactly what they were doing behind it. Those who see the film know that Rapunzel is actually polite and cheery at heart and only rarely gets devious when necessary. The poster's actually pretty creepy.
- Used in every (or most) Dreamworks animated film posters, where it may be the Trope Codifier. The image above explains it.
- Moviebob blew a fuse over this in his already-not-too-positive review of Shrek 4: "Everyone. Wears. The same. Fucking. Smirk.", with each word illustrated by a screenshot of a DreamWorks character.
- Sometimes used in Pixar's posters. Lightning McQueen and even Buzz Lightyear, in particular. The poster for Cars had Lightning covered in a vehicle hood with only the corner lifted to reveal the smile.
- Disney's been doing this more often lately. Ads for Bolt, Meet the Robinsons, and Home on the Range all included this. The dot-eyed Chicken Little even managed to do this sometimes.
- Horton does this on the poster for Blue Sky's Horton Hears a Who!. It's more jarring if you're only familiar with the humbler Horton from the 1970's Chuck Jones special!
- Planet 51
- In webcomics, the artist of Lackadaisy uses this look as an example of something to unlearn while improving your drawing skills! Namely, illustrating a character smacking another so that his eyebrows fall off.