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"Do you feel the taunting power of my eyebrow?"
—Megamind, Megamind: The Button of Doom
You know that face. The clever, asymmetrical smirk. The similarly crooked eyebrows. The intense stare-down that comes at you from the promo posters. It's the expression that tells you the hero is going to be up to no good, and is much cooler than any of those classic, mainstream, conformist wimps those other studios produce... except the character him or herself never, or rarely, makes that face to begin with in the show! It's usually a way to get audiences to see a particular film over another, and promises a very different tone than what we're used to. It's the facial expression form of hip, sassy and snarky dialogue.
This trope pertains to faces seen outside of the body of the film or TV show and only in marketing material... in posters, billboards, ads, etc. Otherwise, it would be a No Fourth Wall or an Aside Glance.
Films produce advertising and posters as various stages of production and all of these are meant to be teasers. The stuff that comes first is normally dominated by faces staring at you because that's the only thing finalized at that point (if all the poster maker knows is that the film stars Sean Connery and he shoots some people, then all we're going to get is Sean Connery Is Going to Shoot You). So the Dreamworks Face is one of numerous stock attractive faces. For instance, you may have also seen the "everyone is smiling, bright eyes and maybe waving at you".
Named after this memetic picture, that originally tried to prove how generic the Dreamworks movie concepts are, including their posters. As others pointed out in reaction, Disney-Pixar, and practically every other studio also uses this face (note Cars in the page image), and it occasionally cropped up in works made before Dreamworks was even around. So, even though it's not a Dreamworks-exclusive trope, it is still commonly associated with them. Also, this trope is not limited to Western Animation, for it can be applied to all forms of media.
See also Mascot with Attitude, though in this case the character needn't have attitude in the actual work. Moe Stare is a similar trope in how it advertises by appealing to emotion (in that case, a Warm and Fuzzy Feeling rather than a challenge.)
- This is Older Than They Think: The Looney Tunes did this a lot of times in show cards and cel artwork, especially in Chuck Jones' work.
- Used in every (or most) Dreamworks animated film posters, where it may be the Trope Codifier. The image above explains it.
- Sometimes used in Pixar's posters. Lightning McQueen and even Buzz Lightyear, in particular. The poster for Cars had Lightning covered in a vehicle hood with only the corner lifted to reveal the smile.
- The poster for Cars 2 included all four main characters doing it now!
- Disney's been doing this more often lately. Ads for Bolt, Meet the Robinsons, and Home on the Range all included this. The dot-eyed Chicken Little even managed to do this sometimes.
- The minimalist poster for Tangled had Rapunzel and Flynn side by side, looking at the audience deviously behind a sea of hair. Those who see the film know that Rapunzel is actually polite and cheery at heart and only rarely gets devious when necessary. It's equally as unnecessary as the rest of the movie's Totally Radical style ad campaigns.
- Disney was associated with a Bollywood animated musical called Roadside Romeo, and pretty much all the posters featured this.
- These posters for Mars Needs Moms.
- Horton does this on the poster for Blue Sky's Horton Hears a Who. It's more jarring if you're only familiar with the humbler Horton from the 1970's Chuck Jones special!
- The DVD and 'Art Of' cover for Coraline. This is a curious case, as the posters released before the movie had Coraline in a suspicious or frightened expression to tell viewers that this is will be scarier than a typical family film. While she is normally a sarcastic girl, she does spend the majority of the film scared.
- Planet 51.
- Balto on the cover for Wolf Quest.
- Even DisneyToon films get in on the act! Shortly before the We Are One Song In The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride, Simba makes this face. See here
Live Action Film
- The 2000's CG feature film Alvinandthe Chipmunks and the Squeak-quel.
- This poster for Paul.
- The poster for the movie Ferris Buellers Day Off is a non-animated example.
- This poster for The Inbetweeners Movie. Hell, it's so obvious that it almost looks as though they just saw the face themselves and are mocking it.
- Stephen Colbert likes doing it in promotional images for The Colbert Report.
- David Tennant, period. See examples here.
- Jay Leno.
- Oh, hi, Jim Carrey! Pull off a cartoon Dreamworks Face with ease, you say?!
- Spyro the Dragon has been doing this face on the covers of his video games since The Nineties.
- The title character of the Sega Saturn game Bug!.
- Sonic Unleashed, due to the Werehog having a lower brow, accidentally gives Sonic this expression on the boxart.
- The Nostalgia Chick examined this trope in her "Dreamworks vs. Disney" episode.
- Raimundo from Xiaolin Showdown wears the Smarm Brow as his default expression.
- Term is directly used in a storyboard for the Regular Show episode "Cruisin'"
- A drawing tutorial in Lackadaisy lists this among "things to unlearn," and the character making this face gets smacked so hard his eyebrows pop off.
- In this leaked teaser for the scrapped Thundercats CGI movie, this appears to be Lion-O's default expression.
- Explicity avoided in John Kricfalusi's cartoons--he hates this expression so much that he forbids any of his artists from ever drawing it--and that includes any expression that even remotely resembles it, including non-cocky smirks or eyebrows raised out of curiosity.