How to create a “Toy Nightmare”

After looking at several remix and original horror trailers, it is clear that in order to make a horror movie, the trailer needs ‘scary’ sounds, music with dissonance, short cuts, and fade in transitions from black backgrounds. These signifiers create the horror genre because their combination generates suspense. Toy Nightmare is a trailer remix of Toy Story 2 (John Lasseter, Lee Unkrich, Ash Brannon, 1999) that changes the movie’s genre from children and family to horror. The story is altered, so it appears like toys come alive at night to kill humans. 

In Toy Nightmare, the story and editing techniques make it a horror trailer. In Greg Smith’s writings about genre, he discusses Noel Carroll’s belief that horror is created through a ‘threatening, impure and supernatural monster.’ Toy Nightmare fits this genre because killer toys do not exist and their presence causes fear in the other characters during the trailer. There are also auditory symbols throughout the trailer that tell the audience the movie will be horror. According to Marcel Danesi, symbols are created through ‘social convention,’ and in Toy Nightmare, I used auditory symbols in order to convey the horror genre. For example, screaming and booms mixed with creepy music is symbolic of horror movies. In Toy Nightmare, there are booming sounds at the start of each new clip in the second half of the trailer in order to build the suspense and make the trailer recognizably horror through symbols.

There are also patterns for transitions between shots in horror film trailers. In most horror trailers, the fade transition is used. According to Bernard Dick, the fade transition is the simplest transition and most widely used, so in Toy Nightmare is it the only kind of transition used. Although this transition is simple, it helps add to the suspense of the trailer. The shots will fade to a black background which is followed by white text or another shot. Toy Nightmare follows this pattern through a fade out transition before the text appears and a fade in transition after the Pixar title screen. Straight cuts are used in horror trailers during fast paced sequences. In Toy Nightmare this technique is demonstrated after the text appears.

The editing choices in Toy Nightmare were made in accordance with the patterns of original horror movie trailers. The music is very successful in the trailer. It is similar to other horror trailers due to the screeches and booms that intensify the scenes. The only section where the music is not as effective is during the scenes were Buzz is running, before the Prospector begins talking. During this section, the previous dialogue from the “L-cut” has ended, so the sound fades which reduces the suspense. One characteristic that is different between Toy Nightmare and other horror trailers is the use of repeated dialogue. In the beginning and end of the trailer for Toy Nightmare, “toys don’t last forever” is repeated. The purpose of this is to provide unity between the intro and the story line of the updated plot. It connects the opening scene of Andy (John Morris) ripping Woody’s arm to the ending where toys are murdering their owners. Also, the repetition of the phrase is meant to build suspense. Overall, this technique works well because it emphasizes a point while giving the dialogue a creepy ambiance.

The most difficult parts of the project were rearranging shots and adjusting audio. Throughout the project, audio provided the most problems because the audio tracks had different sound levels and were not balanced. For example, my background music overpowered the dialogue in the beginning sequence, so the listener could not hear what was being said. In order to fix this, I found a YouTube tutorial on how to adjust audio levels and learned how to adjust audio gains. The process was easy, but it took several adjustments to get the right levels. The other difficulty was adding in video and audio into the middle of the sequence. I had pull the audio and video down to make room for the new clips. There was some audio that did not line up directly with the shots, so it was difficult to find the correct placement again after moving all the video clips down. I was able to fix it, but the process was very slow. My advice to future students is to start the project early because creating the trailer takes more time than one would think. Also editing can take a long time, so the earlier one starts on the project the better it can be.

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