May 7 2014, 3:45pm CDT | by Forbes
My six-year old daughter really wants to see this. I know that’s no scientific measurement for box office success, but she really REALLY wants to see this. She asks me once or twice a week about when she’ll be seeing Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty revamp, to which I explain that it opens on May 30th (now May 28th it would seem), but hopefully we’ll see it a week early, give or take. What’s interesting about this final trailer, aside from the fact that it runs just 62 seconds, is that it is the mostly explicitly kid-friendly sell thus far. It has a mostly friendly narrator and most of the imagery is either animated or shots of Elle Fanning going about her doomed business. Point being, there isn’t a ton of what would qualify as “frightening images.”
This trailer, which is short enough to run on television as well as theaters (preceding this weekend’s Dorothy of Oz and next weekend’s Disney production Million Dollar Arm), is very much doing the whole “this won’t scare your kids” sell. That’s more important than you’d think. Even in an era when very young kids see PG-13 action fantasies like Transformers or Divergent, there is still a concern about making sure that the nation’s parents don’t think their kids will be traumatized seeing Angelina Jolie as Maleficent doing her various acts of evildoing. The weekend Mirror, Mirror opened, I was deluged by questions from parents asking if the PG-rated Snow White adaptation was in-fact okay for their young kids. We live in a PG-13 world, so even what should be kid-safe material is often viewed by parents with a skeptical eye.
Sam Raimi’s Oz: The Great and Powerful had an easier time of it since most of its imagery was in broad daylight and filled with bright and robust colors. Maleficent is a much darker picture, shrouded in black and grey. And quite a bit of the marketing up to this point has been as much about targeting older (presumably female) audiences as it is about going after the kiddie demographics that will make or break the $200 million picture. Jolie, arguably one of the last old-school movie stars left, starring as (arguably) Disney’s most iconic villain, has an obvious star+concept appeal, but it won’t matter much if parents are worried about their kids crying and wanting to leave the theater.
As such, this trailer has as non-threatening a voice over as they can get away with while still selling the “Watch Jolie be super evil!” shtick that has motivated most of the marketing, if not the green-lighting of the picture from the get-go. Obviously Mark Elliot is much too jovial, and this frankly sounds like a lighter version of George Del Hoyo’s standard read, although I may be mistaken. So we get just enough PG-rated creepiness, complete with music that is more action-centric than scary and a reading of the title that is almost friendly. I’ve talked a lot about how films cut trailers for different audiences, and especially about how PG-13 action films get weirdly kid-friendly trailers. This is a hybrid of such, a trailer for what is technically a kid-friendly feature that is intended to reassure parents of the film’s kid-friendly nature.
Anyway, I presume Disney will start screening the film soon enough. It’s got its rating (PG) and its running time (135 minutes) locked down, so now all that’s left is for the press to feast their eyes on the troubled production. My daughter can’t wait. Which means in turn that I can’t wait either. Walt Disney’s Maleficent, starring Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, and Juno Temple, opens May 28th. As always, we’ll see.
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