Last time we followed the trailer campaign for Wreck-It Ralph 2 , in June, the trailer featured Daft Punk’s internet-acknowledged hit “Harder, Better, Faster Stronger.” This week’s new trailer continues down this path of nostalgia-tinged novelty by rick-rolling us all.
Like the “Daft Bodies” video, rickrolling is a phenomenon that is now over ten years old; originating in May 2007, the phenomenon reached mainstream attention roughly a year later, having reached over 18 million people in the US alone according to one survey. This is to say that, while is hardly needs arguing, the reference is clear and widely known enough for adoption in a trailer for a Disney film that touches on North American Internet culture.
What’s more interesting is how the rickroll is set up. At 1:12 we hear some blaring, orchestral hits of the first two chords, but it pauses on that second chord, so even the most discerning listener could not be sure that this was in fact an orchestration of “Never Gonna Give You Up.” The next two chords arrive at 1:16, in tandem with some studio title cards “… and the studio that brought you Frozen.” Again, how the chords are separated by a few moments and some dialogue cleverly masks the song’s ready identifiability. In addition, the epic percussion gives off a completely distinct tone in contrast to the original’s 80s pastel synth-topia. The epic percussive intro ends on the subtonic chord (inconclusively, in other words).
Finally, Rick Astley’s inimitable baritone bursts forth with Disney’s title card, punctuated here and there with subtle synch points such the camera shutter during the princesses’ photo shoot. The lyrics turn out to have narrative relevance, as well: it’s revealed that a major point of conflict here is that Vanellope, one of the main characters in this buddy adventure / animated comedy, is tempted to leave the video game arcade that she and Ralph reside in for the vastly more interesting and perennially new and novel expanse of the Internet. She confides about this as Astley sings, “never gonna run around and desert you.” And so, beneath the thick veneer of silliness and memes lies an emotional core that pulls all of the novelty and one-off jokes together.
It’s this triple-layering of Astley’s lyrics connected to a real character conflict, and the music of “Never Gonna Give You Up” dressed as an epic musical track, that invites the audioviewer to quickly explore and understand the film as multifaceted. Even as it runs the risk of being dismissed as overly reliant on novelty by using a rickroll, its use both as a pastiche of epic trailer music and as a lyrical commentary for the promised dramatic arc showcase a well considered use of the song, tying it to multiple aspects of the film.
Wreck-It Ralph 2 arrives in theatres November 21st.
– Curtis Perry