FOX has just announced a brand new promotion entitled the “Treehouse of Horror XVII: Slice-Dice-and-Win” contest. As many people are undoubtedly aware, “Treehouse of Horror” refers to The Simpsons' annual Halloween episode. For the past sixteen years (this year will be number seventeen), The Simpsons have aired a Halloween episode made up of three short stories. It was originally entitled “Treehouse of Horror” because the stories were told by the characters while in Bart’s treehouse.
This year, FOX has set up a website where they will allow people to use simplified editing tools in order to let fans create their own promo for the episode. The website will be up and running from October 16 through November 5. Despite the end date for the website, the main portion of the contest itself is finished at 11:59 PM on October 30. After that point, a panel of judges will take a look at the submitted promos and one person will win a trip for two to The Simpsons’ 400th episode party in Los Angeles in May 2007.
Entries submitted after October 30 at 11:59 PM will be allowed to participate in a secondary contest in which one winner will receive a “Treehouse of Horror XVII” giclee print signed by The Simpsons' creator and executive producer, Matt Groening. Twenty additional contestants will win a “Treehouse of Horror XVII” poster and another 100 will receive a Simpsons' mini-poster.
After spending some time on their site, I can tell you they have made it very easy to use the tools and very easy to create a bad promo. It is, however, incredibly difficult to create a good one. There are numerous clips to choose from, and those clips can be trimmed so the user can select only a portion of the clip. However, the trimming tool is quite simplistic and if the trim is not satisfactory to the user, the entire clip needs to be deleted, reinserted as a whole into the timeline, and then re-trimmed. I highly recommend using a stopwatch in order to determine the correct ins and outs of the clips one wishes to trim. Music, sound effects, transitions, and titles can all be added to the promo as well in order to give it a more polished look.
Despite this being The Simpsons’ first ever user-generated promo contest, this type of thing has been done in the past (though not with the same rules, exact editing tools, and prizes). Notably, NBC’s The Office held a user-generated promo contest where people had to create their own video and send it in rather than using pre-selected clips.
More along the lines of what The Simpsons is doing here, the CW network, as a whole, currently has a create-your-own network promo website, where they promise to air promos they like (their site, though, does not allow parts of clips to be edited).
The Simpsons' "Treehouse of Horror XVII” airs on Sunday, November 5 at 8:00 PM (ET/PT).