July 15, 2008
New Video Genre Brings Cringes, but on Purpose
By Brooks Barnes
Gigglechick protectively covers her pet's eyes.The so-called reaction video - in which people record themselves watching something with the goal of capturing a visceral reaction - has turned into a YouTube staple. The genre took off last year with people reacting to a gross-out pornography clip. More recently, people have recorded themselves reacting to something called the "pain Olympics" (it involves self-mutilation; perhaps best not to ask).
Now comes "Beverly Hills Chihuahua."
Walt Disney Pictures over the last two weeks has been running a trailer for the live-action family comedy in conjunction with "Wall- E," the Pixar film about a lovable robot. The trailer depicts several dozen computer-generated chihuahuas performing a Las Vegas- style showstopper, dancing in formation and wearing elaborate headdresses.
"We're the real hot dogs," they sing. "Yo! Hold the bun."
A small but growing number of YouTube videos depict people reacting in horror to the jubilant trailer. One woman, sitting with her Yorkshire terrier on her lap, pretends to gag, then protectively covers her dog's eyes. In another video, two men look at each other in disgust and then one slips a noose over his head.
"You hear that sound?" asks a man in a tank top after watching the trailer. "That's the sound of Walt Disney spinning in his grave."
People seem to be responding to the over-the-top silliness of it all: the trailer starts with an ominous tableau that channels Mel Gibson's "Apocalypto," then morphs into a song-and-dance routine featuring dressed-up dogs.
But others have complained that it revives stereotypes of Mexicans. (Presumably these are the same people who took offense at the Taco Bell chihuahua, an advertising mascot that was retired by the company several years ago after shouting "Viva Gorditas!" one too many times.)
Most of the "Chihuahua" videos are staged attempts at humor - not that Disney is laughing - and not all of them are negative. Several videos show children smiling and laughing at the dancing dogs. "Oh my gosh, I'm, like, totally seeing this movie," squeals one young girl.
A Disney studio executive said the trailer was resonating more favorably among the movie's target audience, families with young children. The initial trailer, he said, was meant only as a teaser; a longer preview that reveals bits of the story line will be released closer to the American premiere Sept. 28.
This is not Disney's first encounter with reaction videos. Last autumn, a woman made a video of herself watching a "Wall-E" trailer to demonstrate how its message brought her to tears (the good kind).
Pixar saw it and invited her to a screening of the film in San Francisco.
Originally published by The New York Times Media Group.
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