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 To Accompany This Feature 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.
- Several trailers for The Simpsons Movie did this.
- An early trailer pretended to be for Superman Returns, but it was just Homer wearing a Superman shirt.
- A later Simpsons trailer used the Spider-Man font before revealing... Spider-Pig.
- Yet another spoofed the first teaser for The Da Vinci Code, with Homer's face in place of the Mona Lisa.
- One trailer does it a bit differently by not being based on any particular movie:
(Fully CGI sequence of a bunny dancing with flowers to the "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy".)
Narrator: In a time when computer animation brings us worlds of unsurpassed beauty, one film dares to be ugly.
(Moe abruptly comes down in the movie's logo, knocking out the bunny.)
Moe: The Simpsons Movie... in 2D! (looks down) Uh... The bunny's not breathing.
- The trailer for Chicken Little opened with the exact same sequence used in the teaser trailer for The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005), another Disney production.
- The trailer for Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film For Theaters 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 lightning 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". Once the film's logo appears, there's a clip of Pooh saying, "Were you expecting someone else?" (a nod to the teaser for Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, which famously tricked audiences into thinking they were watching a trailer for the highly-anticipated Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace). 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.
Narrator: 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.
- The trailer for the 2002 film adaptation of Teacher's Pet appears to start as another trailer for Disney's classic Pinocchio, not minding the fact that it is animated in the former's style, until it is revealed that the figure the Blue Fairy has just transformed is Spot.
- 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, using footage from The Hunt for Red October - 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.
- 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 "the ultimate question", which turns out to be "Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?", as we see SpongeBob's pineapple, with his signature laugh playing after a few seconds.
- The teaser for 2015's The Peanuts Movie starts like the opening of 2001: A Space Odyssey, but it turns out the "planet" is Charlie Brown's bald head.
- One trailer for The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: A VeggieTales Movie appeared to spoof Pirates of the Caribbean, but then Eloise says "The heroes! They're here!" as we cut to clips from the movie.
- The first trailer for Care Bears: Oopsy Does It! built the film up to look like an action film, complete with an epic voice over and text, before being revealed to be what it truly is.
- A trailer for Scooby-Doo 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.
"Throughout the ages, there has been one hero standing watch over us all. One hero protecting mankind whenever he’s needed. He moves in shadows, cloaked in mystery. And now in the summer of 2002, he will be called upon yet again to save the world."
- Austin Powers:
- The second movie, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me came out the same year as The Phantom Menace and had a trailer that started by going through the Death Star with Vader Breath 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 only one movie this summer, see... Star Wars. But if you see two movies, see Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me!"
- 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. As for commercials, some opened with a disclaimer screen similar to those used by Jackass: The Movie, except reading "So for the sake of you and your dumb little clone..."
- 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.
"Deep in the African jungle lives a mysterious figure. His name is legendary. His strength is remarkable. And his theme song... is pretty good, too." (cue George of the Jungle theme)
- 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.
- One trailer from the year 2001 made it seem like it was hyping the next James Bond movie, and concluding with a big title screen reading "007." But then the "007" flipped upside down, and zoomed out to reveal that the 7 was actually a "Z." And that the rest of the word spelled out "Zoolander".
- 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 Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle. The trailer even concluded on 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 Returns (having a similar looking bad guy helped).
- One teaser for the 2009 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.
Coming soon, there is another school that will teach you how to fly.
- The 2011 movie The Muppets went crazy with this:
- "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.
- Two more trailers were also spoofs of the ones for The Hangover Part II & Green Lantern (2011). After releasing a proper trailer, they did it again, this time masquerading as The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
- Even a commercial for the DVD started off looking like The Hunger Games.
- Mere weeks before the film was to be released, they then went recursive by completely inverting the "Green With Envy" trailer (complete with Jason Segel billed as "Jason the Segel"◊), before doing rapid-fire parodies of Paranormal Activity 3, Puss in Boots, Happy Feet Two, and Breaking Dawn Part 1.
- The teaser trailer for MouseHunt starts off with a happy, Disney-like mood, but then gets weird.
- Virtually every genre parody movie does this by pretending to be dramatic and serious at first. For example: Scary Movie () Epic Movie () and Disaster Movie ().
- 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.
- The trailer for Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III initially made it look like it was for a movie based on the legend of King Arthur.
- An early trailer for Underdog started out spoofing Superman, in keeping with the superhero film theme. Didn't work.
- A trailer for Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul started out as one for a generic Marvel Cinematic Universe style superhero movie, showing Cartoon!Greg in a muscular superhero suit. The actual trailer footage was triggered by Greg's "muscles" deflating. This iteration of the trailer was also abbreviated for television.
- The teaser for the third Alvin and the Chipmunks film baited us with the possibility of a Titanic (1997) remake or sequel (or even the then-upcoming 3D rerelease), with an instrumental of "My Heart Will Go On" playing over footage of an ocean liner. Then Alvin appears over the ship's bow, claiming, "I'm king of the world!"
- A trailer for The Hustle imitated an Avengers: Endgame trailer by starting out very dark, with black-and-white footage similar to that of the Endgame flashbacks, and using the infamous dust effect.
- The teaser trailer for Birds of Prey (2020) was exclusively released before screenings of It: Chapter Two and was made to look like the opening credits of that film, with red balloons floating in front of a shadowy figure who is then revealed to be Harley Quinn.
- The American trailer for The Return of Godzilla (known in the US as Godzilla: 1985) spends most of its time hyping up its star, a superstar performer who made his debut in 1956 and immediately wowed audiences with his revolutionary acting technique and overwhelming presence, only to retire at the height of his fame... until now, when he makes his big comeback, more magnificent, more glamorous, more devastating than ever. Cue the SCREEEEEEKKKKKK!!!
- Played for Horror with the first trailer for Brightburn, whose first half is consciously meant to evoke the trailers for Man of Steel. A very Hans Zimmer-esque score plays over shots of rural Kansas while a young boy is told by his parents that, while he may feel different and alone, he was a gift who is destined to do great things. The trailer also emphasizes that producer James Gunn was the "visionary director of Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)". Then the second half of the trailer kicks in, the music turns a lot more ominous, and it becomes clear that the young Superman Substitute in the trailer is a Corrupted Character Copy as he starts acting like a Creepy Child and eventually killing people.
- Some TV spots in 2005 opened with images of swirling chocolate or "Bad to the Bone" playing—It's a Wedding Crashers ad.
- A commercial for the episode of The Goldbergs that aired October 21, 2015 started off spoofing Back to the Future, the airdate being the day that Marty went into the future in the second film. However, it showed the series' title in the form of a hashtag in the lower left corner, which somewhat ruined the effect.
- The promo for the fourth season of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver had three straight Bait-and-Switch (with Self-Deprecation on how the show isn't that successful or broad appeal): the biggest HBO show on Sundays (John appears from behind the Iron Throne), the HBO hit comedy (John is revealed to be in the Pied Piper offices) and the return of the HBO show everyone was waiting for (Larry David is besides John - "[we've been off for] five years!").
- A trailer for Scrubs exactly duplicates ABC's own V... until the spaceship shows J.D.'s face instead of Anna's. He announces Scrubs is back to general rejoicing, then adds "By the way, these people are lizards."
- The Nintendo Switch Presentation trailer for 1-2-Switch starts off with two cowboys approaching each other and preparing to do a fast draw, which looks like something for a Western video game. It turns out to be a demonstration for the "Quick Draw" minigame.
- 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.
- The trailer for the PlayStation 4 version of Final Fantasy VII looks like a trailer for an entirely different game all together, just to show how well the graphics have improved. Only at the end, when you see Cloud's distinctive BFS, you'll realize this is FFVII.
- Super Smash Bros. loves doing this trope, mostly for character reveals. Fans of the source series immediately know it's Smash Bros., but it doesn't stop these from being fun:
- 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 crossover. 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. Funnily enough, the presenter of that particular Nintendo Direct (Satoru Iwata) jokes that this ended up being a happy coincidence, as he's can use it to segue into a new trailer for an actual Mario Kart game (Mario Kart 8, to be precise).
- Super Smash Bros. Ultimate's initial trailer was a recreation of the original Splatoon reveal trailer, before it suddenly goes dark. As the female Inkling stops in confusion, she looks over her shoulder and is stunned; the viewer can see the Smash logo reflected in her eye, before we see that she looking at a giant flaming Smash logo with a number of veteran characters standing in front of it.
- The reveal trailer for Isabelle was placed near the end of a Nintendo Direct, looking very much like a trailer for a new Animal Crossing game. Isabelle starts to give away the game when she mentions the mayor (Villager) being in Smash, but it's still a bit before it officially confirms itself as a Smash trailer. Then trailer then becomes a Double Subversion, as it ends with Tom Nook in his office watching the Nintendo Direct himself, before addressing the audience and revealing an actual Animal Crossing game will be releasing next year (though the game in question would end up getting delayed a few months).
- The reveal trailer for Banjo-Kazooie's inclusion in Ultimate is a parody of King K. Rool's own reveal trailer, complete with Duck Hunt in King Dedede's role of the double fake-out.
- The reveal trailer for Pyra and Mythra opens with Rex searching for her in what could easily be mistaken as a trailer for Xenoblade Chronicles 2 DLC, until he manages to find her on a foggy version of Smash Bros.'s Battlefield stage, where she admits she's been hiding that she had been invited to Smash.
- The trailer for Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival is perhaps an unintentional case of this. Fans saw it and believed that it was the trailer for the eagerly-awaited Wii U installment in the series, until the screen pans to reveal board game tiles. That's right, it's a Party Game spin-off. Reaction to this was mixed.
- In the Ubisoft video conference of the 2016 E3, there was a teaser which gives off the appearance of a Tom Clancy game, with criminal violence on the rise throughout the United States, which calls for extreme measures. "The question becomes: Who will take them?" And shortly afterwards, Eric Cartman in his Coon costume can be seen, turning this section of the conference to South Park: The Fractured but Whole.
- A trailer for a Nintendo Switch game starts as an intro for an anime starring a catgirl, who turns out to be Mew Mew Kissy Cutie, the star of the Show Within a Show in Undertale. Mew Mew herself looks a bit embarrassed once she realizes that it's really an Undertale trailer.
- The initial E3 reveal trailer for the upcoming No More Heroes III started off looking like a trailer for a mecha game, one where you had to stop an extraterrestrial threat. Then the man in the armor does the famous pose from the first game and reveals himself to be Travis Touchdown.
- The Game Awards trailer started off seemingly to announce a cute game about a boy named Damon meeting and trying to bring back to its home planet an alien named FU. Cut to fifteen years later, where the two reunite... only for the alien and his friends to destroy the world around him, revealing "Goddamn Superhero" to the world... only for a motorcycle to be heard after the logo and the screen shattering revealing Travis again on his bike, revealing the trailer to actually be an announcement that No More Heroes III would be coming next year.
- The trailer for The Outer Worlds 2 is a rather caustic parody of the marketing for AAA video games, complete with a monster that the narrator tells us won't appear in the final product, gratuitous slow-motion and Lens Flare in the name of Rule of Cool to convince people to pre-order, the protagonist seen only from the back in silhouette because the developers haven't finished the design yet, and no actual gameplay footage or story details because they haven't finished that yet either.
- The first teaser trailer for Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare initially presents the game as a gritty, realistic Battlefield-esque military shooter, but after the Title Drop, it shows the game for the outlandish, cartoony shooter that it really is.
- The E3 2021 trailer for Bayonetta 3 had JGSDF soldiers opening fire upon some misshapen abominations, which is usually par for the course for their games, but the bait-and-switch comes into play when one of those abominations is shot at by... Lappy. The creature retaliates in kind, only to be cock-blocked at the point of entry by sudden invocation of Witch Time as Bayo herself arrives "fashionably late" by her own admission.
- 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.
- Fanmade trailers will often go this route.
- For example, Mitchell Movie Productions made a trailer for Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius to make it look like Man of Steel. They also remade the Toy Story 2 trailer with different characters.
- Mr Bamason has done some excellent recuts of movie trailers In the Style of other trailers. There's Kong: Skull Island as The Boys season 2, Joker (2019) as Logan, and The Shining as The Lighthouse.
- Lilo & Stitch: The Series had some TV spots, attempting to follow suit of the aforementioned movie trailers, which started as ads for other cartoons Disney Channel aired at the time.
- This YTV promo talks about Goku and how awesome he is. But it also adds that you won't find him on Alvin and the Chipmunks.
- Fox's Animation Domination High-Def late-night animation block had a fake trailer for Michael Bay's Beavis and Butt-Head, done In the Style of Transformers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014). The two idiots from Highland, Texas murder hordes of bad guys while constantly chuckling in such a manner that comes off as extremely unnerving, while Daria now looks like Megan Fox and is wearing a much skimpier version of her Iconic Outfit.