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!
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.
- 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.
- 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, another Disney production.
- The trailer for Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon 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 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". Once the film's logo appears, there's a clip of Pooh saying, "Were you expecting someone else?". 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 - 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 "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.
Film: Live Action
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. 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.
- 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.
- 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 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 (2009) ... 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.
- Several trailers for Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS/Wii U 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. It helped that in the Nintendo Direct installment that featured the trailer, Satoru Iwata introduced it by saying, "The last title to show is one coming out next year you are probably familiar with. Please take a look." (Mario Kart 8 was released in the same year as both Smash games.) 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. (After the trailer, Iwata admitted, "We didn't discuss what other content would be included in this Nintendo Direct with Smash Bros. director Masahiro Sakurai, but he must have figured it was about time to show more on Mario Kart 8 when he created that video. I have to give Mr. Sakurai some credit, because here is the latest video for Mario Kart 8. Please take a look.")
- 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.
- Ultimate's initial trailer was a recreation of the original Splatoon trailer, before it suddenly goes dark. As the female Inkling looks over her shoulder in confusion, the Smash logo is seen reflecting in her eye, which is revealed to be a giant flaming Smash logo with a number of veteran characters in front of it.
- The trailer for Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival looked like a long-awaited Wii U main Animal Crossing title, until the screen pans to reveal board game titles. That's right, it's another Nintendo Party Game. 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.
- 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.
- 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.