The Emperor’s New Meaning

Overview

For my movie trailer, I chose to take the lovable henchman Kronk from “The Emperor’s New Groove” and turn him into a scary murderer. Taking a cute Disney movie and turning it into a horrifying slasher film was not without its fair share of challenges, but it was made possible through the manipulation of the film medium to create new signifiers of the horror genre that the audience could easily comprehend.

Specific links to course readings

In regards to the readings, Bernard Dick’s writings about film pace heavily influenced me. In a project where the film’s focal points, scenery, and costumes are already established, the length of created sub-clips become all the more important to set the rhythm of the trailer. Dick says in Anatomy of Film, “The best filmmakers vary speed, movement, and pace, knowing that long strips of film produce a slower rhythm, short strips a more rapid rhythm” (Dick, 2002, p. 21). Varying the pace of the trailer through different strip lengths is important to keep the audience interested. Signifiers are also important to the audience because it keys them in to what genre the film is from and what they can expect from the movie. A big signifier I used in the project were horror movie clichés – heavy breathing, a knife, a dead body, etc. – because they are culturally ingrained in the audience to be associated with the genre. As Robert Edgar-Hunt, John Marland, and Steven Rawle put it in The language of film, clichés are “overused for a reason – they tend to work, especially when given a slight ‘tweak'” (Edgar-Hunt, 2010, p. 4). The ultimate purpose of the trailer was to take various parts of “The Emperor’s New Groove” and sequence them in such a way to change their entire meaning – a process only possible by the effects of connotation. Connotation allows the audience to take these same signs and derive new meaning from them simply from changing their order or purpose. Connotation, as Marcel Danesi puts it in “What is semiotics?”, “allows humans to expand the application of signs creatively” (Danesi, 2004, p. 12).

Rationale for creative choices

My job? It was to bring out the bad in Kronk.

 

Why did I choose “The Emperor’s New Groove” for my project? For one, I had the DVD in my possession. Also, I felt the character Kronk – with his large frame and deep voice – could easily be manipulated into an evil character from a horror film. Finally, I thought the horror movie genre was the one I was the most familiar with in terms of the genre’s tropes. When turning “The Emperor’s New Groove” into a horror trailer, I often looked at other horror trailers for inspiration. The sudden booming noise that is designed to shock the audience comes directly from the trailer for the horror movie, “Smiley.” The sudden shriek at the end comes directly from the classic Hitchcock film, “Psycho.” Other clichés such as the loud heartbeat, heavy breathing, and evil laugh are also horror movie staples that allow the audience to easily see what genre the trailer represents. I also really wanted to control the pace of the trailer in order to keep people on the edge of their seat. I was able to accomplish this four ways – through music, shot length, action, and shot transitions. In the slower sections of the trailer, I use slow music or no music at all combined with longer shots with minimal action in them that fade in and out to create the pace. To contrast this, the faster sections of the trailer utilize upbeat music combined with shorter shots with a lot of action in them that cut instantaneously. Changing the pace a lot keeps the trailer in line with that slasher-flick tone. The final creative decision that had a big impact on the trailer was to use title screens at the end. I felt this was appropriate with the escalating tension in the trailer and the fact that title screens are often used at the end of trailers to introduce the movie title. The chilling blood-red font also adds to the horror effect.

Frustrations, difficulties, and solutions

The main difficulty I had with my trailer was finding dialogue to use asynchronously. Anyone who watches Disney movies like “The Emperor’s New Groove” knows that a riveting, happy score accompanies a lot of the dialogue and this would not work well with a horror movie trailer. The only solution I had was to use the dialogue I could find that had no background music and create the horror atmosphere through other means such as pace and music. If I had the option, I would have loved to take away music from some of the movie’s dialogue to use. Another frustration I had was the quality of the picture. As Dr. Delwiche noted, Disney DVD’s are notorious for their protection and I think the film’s quality suffered when it was was ripped and put on the department’s network. Alas, there was no solution I could find for this, but I think the trailer turned out pretty good regardless. Finally, I had trouble finding the right music and sound effects for the sequences I had. The solution? Keep looking! After going through many different YouTube videos and music libraries in the Communications folder, I was finally able to find music that fit what I wanted. If anything, this project certainly made me appreciate the time and effort required by film editors to make an effective trailer. Overall, I enjoyed the project and I’m glad I was able to be a part of it.

References

Bernard Dick (2002). “Film, space, and image,” excerpt from Anatomy of Film. Boston: Bedford / St. Martin’s.

Danesi, Marcel (2004). “What is semiotics?,” excerpt from Messages, signs, and meanings: A basic textbook in semiotics and communication. Studies in linguistic and cultural anthropology, v. 1. Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press.

Robert Edgar-Hunt, John Marland, and Steven Rawle (2010) The language of film. Lausanne: AVA Academia.

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