Visual Rhetoric dissection of a film trailer

For this post, I’m analyzing a trailer for the animated film, Frozen:

The trailer opens with a standard establishing shots, meant to give a sense of the film’s setting. The shots get closer and closer to their subjects to transition from the super-wider establishing shot to more close-up shots of the main characters. “Everything is changed forever” by the inciting action that turns the world to frost. Another wide establishing shot of the changed landscape. Textual cues take over for the narrator to introduce the main characters of the movie and the basic plot: “who will save the day?” Chanting music in the background maintains an upbeat mood throughout the trailer, increasing and decreasing in volume to accommodate video. The flare/flash sound paired with each character introduction helps the pacing of the trailer, but also serves to draw your attention. Flashing colors and loud noises are tried and true methods of drawing attention. Because it’s a Disney family film, a good chunk of the trailer is devoted to comedic highlights (to appeal to children) and excitement-building action clips (to show off animation). Throughout the trailer, short clips perpetuate its fast pace, and longer clips are interspersed for comedic value and to contrast and emphasize the faster, short clips. The audience is given breaks this way, short reprieves from the constant overlapping sounds and bombardment of visual information. Cool blue colors are present throughout the trailer, since everything is frozen, but warmer purples tend to show up during comedic scenes to lighten the mood and to correlate with the main princess character.


It is strange to think of all the editors who make film trailers for a living… They have to condense the general ideas/plots of feature-length films into a short video probably no longer than three minutes. It’s no wonder why so many of them end up so similar.


One thought on “Visual Rhetoric dissection of a film trailer

  1. I’ve always wondered way most trailers try to bombard you with a cluster of information and practical show you the whole movie before you’ve even seen it. For me I like when trailers are a little more stealthy and subtle, sort of like teaser trailers. For instance one of my favorite trailers is the teaser trailer for the film “The Master”, its sublet and vague which allows your mind to fill in the missing gaps, which is much more enticing then being bombarded with loads of information.

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