So you're in the movie theatre, the house lights are coming down, and the screen lights up with the previews of coming attractions. After the standard green MPAA Trailer Approved for All Audiences slate, the screen shows a dark city full of foreboding, while the announcer intones about heady topics like crime running rampant or a city crying out for help. On a rooftop, a shadowy figure emerges. It could only be a certain Dark Knight...and then the figure is revealed!
Wait, that's not what Batman
looks like! It's... Scooby-Doo
Congratulations. You've just been had by a Trailer Spoof.
A Trailer Spoof is when a trailer will try to hook your attention by pretending to be a trailer for a well known movie franchise, or a highly-anticipated blockbuster film. Then anywhere from half-way to three quarters through comes The Reveal
: it's actually a trailer for a perhaps not-so-anticipated comedy movie. (It's almost always some form of comedy, dramas and straight action/adventure films take themselves too seriously to try this sort of thing.)
Virtually all Trailer Spoofs are teaser trailers, whose purpose is to "build awareness" for the film, although it's still a long way off from release. Expect actual footage from the real film to be limited to 30 seconds or less, since usually teaser trailers are made when the film is still being worked on. If they had more footage to show, the studio would likely not bother with a spoof, and just release a trailer cut from the footage instead.
Compare Real Trailer, Fake Movie
, which is when the trick to the trailer is that it's for a movie that doesn't exist. Yet.
Film: Live Action
- Several trailers for The Simpsons Movie did this.
- The trailer for Chicken Little opened with the exact same sequence used in the teaser trailer for The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, another Disney production.
- The trailer for Aqua Teen Hungerforce Colon Movie Film for Theatres went so far to identify itself as Spider-Man 2 in the text crawl while the narrator reads the correct name.
- Nearly every trailer for the first Lilo & Stitch appeared to be a trailer for some other Disney movie at first, only to be interrupted by Stitch, partly to make it clear it was a lighter, wackier film than the company's usual output. Which was kind of misleading, really; this movie has some pretty heart-rending moments.
- One trailer appeared to be for the next James Bond movie, showing 007 onscreen. Then it turned upside down and pulled back, revealing Looney Tunes: Back in Action.
- This trailer for The Rugrats Movie, which appeared to be for a horror movie along the lines of Gremlins or Poltergeist.
- The 2011 Winnie the Pooh movie came out the same weekend as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and thus some Pooh ads started out with lighting text on a cloudy sky (like the Harry Potter movies) with taglines such as "Get ready for the final battle" and "How do you spell adventure?"...with cuts to Pooh running from bees and inverting a set of blocks from "POTR" to "POOH". However, in some cases, they have already shown the Walt Disney logo, which somewhat ruins the effect.
- A trailer for South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut opened with what appeared to be a man drawing on his desk.
Once upon a time, a man drew a little mouse
and his animated vision enchanted children of all ages. This summer, that man will be spinning in his grave
- Also, the teaser appeared to be advertising a film that would revolutionize animation and special effects, with a computer drawing an elaborate wireframe figure. That figure turned out to be Cartman.
- The trailer for Monsters University is the kind of Trailer Spoof that doesn't hide the movie, but parodies commercials for real colleges.
- In a teaser trailer for The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, it shows the Paramount logo (which the Nickelodeon movie was distributed by), then cuts to several live-action men in a submarine - making the movie look like a sea epic. But then we hear the trademark laugh, and see the silhouette on a radar-tracker...and it turns out that the "submarine" is a toy that SpongeBob is playing with in the bathtub.
- The trailer uses actual footage from The Hunt for Red October.
- Another trailer included a documentary-style opening with the narrator asking the audience "Where did we come from?" and "Is there life after death?" He concludes by asking "Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?", revealing SpongeBob.
- The teaser for the upcoming Peanuts movie starts like the opening of 2001: A Space Odyssey, but it turns out the "planet" is Charlie Brown's bald head.
- A trailer for the Scooby-Doo Live-Action Adaptation pretended to be for a Batman movie — until the silhouette that looked like Batman turned out to be Scooby. Supposedly, a lot of Batman fans were pissed.
- Austin Powers:
- The second movie came out the same year as The Phantom Menace and had a trailer that started by going through the Death Star with Darth Vader breathing in the background while closing in on a chair... until the Chair Reveal has Dr. Evil sitting in it. After that, the trailer goes in more typical Austin Powers style, including the narrator saying "If you see one movie this summer... see Star Wars. But if you see two, then see Austin Powers: The Spy That Shagged Me!" Youtube link
- A trailer for Austin Powers in Goldmember began in a manner similar to the opening credits of Goldfinger. Which in turn led MGM to sue New Line for copyright infringement. The suit was settled and in exchange, the trailer to Die Another Day was attached to all prints of Goldmember.
- One television commercial for Notting Hill tried the same device against Austin Powers by focusing on a wacky supporting character. It didn't quite work.
- The trailer for Dumb and Dumberer disguised itself as a trailer for The Hobbit, leaving every member of the audience sorely pissed.
- A TV spot for Saving Silverman used the same typeface as Hannibal's ads to spell out "Get rid of the fava beans. Hide the Chianti. He's coming" before cutting to Jack Black's "Beer bong for the lady?".
- One Star Wars: Episode II commercial—not a trailer, because trailers are Serious Business to Star Wars fans, but a simple TV commercial—seemed to start out referring to Spider-Man, complete with metallic webbing and the Spider-Man font: "Swing into action with the summer's newest action hero!" It then cut to... Yoda, who cut a pose and did one of his little Cool Old Guy growls. Then he starts jumping and fighting Count Dooku...
- Trailers for Garfield: The Movie and Stuart Little 2 imitated moments from the first Spider-Man movie.
- A teaser trailer had a dark Tarzan-like feel...until near the end.
- A trailer for the live-action Thunderbirds movie baited audiences with the idea of a Hulk 2 teaser by having citizens scream and shout and the sight of something big and green before cutting to a number "2" on a green background. The camera pulled back, revealing that it was the hull of Thunderbird 2.
- Citizens kept yelling "It's a bird!", "It's a plane!", but Bullwinkle said it looked like a flying squirrel in the Superman-themed teaser trailer for the Rocky and Bullwinkle movie. Similarly, one of the trailers had the tag line "You will believe a squirrel can fly!"
- A teaser trailer for Ali G Indahouse pretended to be for the biopic Ali.
- The trailer for the German stoner comedy Erkan & Stefan gegen die Mächte der Finsternis first pretended to be for The Mummy 2 (having a similar looking bad guy helped).
- One Teaser Trailer for the remake of Fame makes it look like a Harry Potter trailer (or another movie about a wizarding school) using stock footage of a steam train and a castle at the beginning, and even using lines like "Practice your craft" and "Cast a Spell." in between clips.
- "Green With Envy" is seemingly a cliché romantic comedy starring Jason Segel and Amy Adams. Then halfway through, both the narrator and Segel are baffled that the actual film featured in the trailer is The Muppets (2011).
- The teaser trailer for MouseHunt starts off with a happy, Disney-like mood, but then gets weird.
- Every spoof movie EVER.
- Older Than They Think: From 1976, the trailer for The Pink Panther Strikes Again was able to take advantage of this trope thanks to the story upping the stakes from previous installments. At first, the trailer appears to be for a straight action movie — until the reveal (via trailer-specific footage) that the diabolical villain is Inspector Dreyfus, and his evil plot threatening the world is motivated solely by his desire to get rid of Inspector Clouseau once and for all.
- Due to it coming out around the same time as Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the teaser for UHF made it look like it was for the next Indiana Jones movie before switching around to reveal the face of "Weird Al" Yankovic.
- Some TV spots for Eight Legged Freaks initially made it look like it was for Spider-Man.
- Commercials for Battlefield: Bad Company spoofed Rainbow Six, Gears of War, and Metal Gear franchises. Usually they led the viewer on for a few moments before switching to the more "goofy" Bad Company style.
- Several trailers for Super Smash Bros. Wii U/3DS pulled this off in different ways:
- The first trailer starts by showing the Super Smash Bros. logo in view before flashing to a scene from Animal Crossing. The Villager is seen picking up his mail, and upon reading the letter, rushes across town, leaving the letter behind. It then reveals that the letter has a Super Smash Bros. icon on it before the trailer really kicks off.
- The reveal trailer for the Wii Fit Trainer first starts as what appears to be a trailer for a new Wii Fit game, before pulling out to reveal Mario, Link, and Kirby holding the pose shown on screen, where upon the Trainer gets their attention before attacking them.
- Rosalina's trailer starts out with Kirby flying in space along with Kirby Air Ride music before coming upon Rainbow Road from Mario Kart, causing the viewer to expect an Air Ride game then an Air Ride/Mario Kart cross over. Then something shoots off a Launch Star, causing Kirby to crash. Luma splits off from the something and lands. Rosalina appears shortly after, and title card "Rosalina and Luma Launch Into Battle!" appears.
- The reveal trailer for Robin starts with Lucina (also playable) dueling with Captain Falcon, who has laid Chrom out like a floor mat. Chrom laments, "Guess I'll get my chance...another day..." shortly before it's revealed that he's in, too, as part of Robin's Final Smash.
- The start of the trailer for Red vs. Blue: Recreation starts off looking identical to the trailer for Reconstruction, right up until Caboose causes an explosion.