'Bumblebee' Director Travis Knight on the Importance of VHS

(Photo: Jim Viscardi)

If you are a part of the Transformers fandom or just follow a lot of film Twitter, you probably saw on Monday that Paramount had provided a handful of select press with copies of Bumblebee on VHS, along with a printed press kit that simulated the packages -- complete with 8"x10" photos -- that studios used to send out before the Internet was widely available. Such a press kit fit with the aesthetic of the movie, which was set in 1987, and built on the gimmick that Disney had launched of releasing the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtracks on cassette tape to emulate the ones Star-Lord uses onscreen.

While they were not his idea, Bumblebee director Travis Knight was excited to see the film on VHS, noting that for people of his generation, picking up tapes at a video store was the dominant home video experience. Bumblebee is far from the only VHS currently in circulation -- new independent films are fairly regularly released to the format, and the upcoming documentary The Last Blockbuster featured a Kickstarter rewards tier where you could get a VHS copy of the movie. But it has not been used for a mainstream blockbuster in years. The last major motion picture released on VHS was the comics adaptation A History of Violence, starring Tom Hanks and Paul Newman.

"It was pretty awesome. Hats off to the marketing department at Paramount. Very, very clever idea," he laughed when we asked him about it. "It was really fun to see and I mean it's obviously very, very cleverly done, but yeah, it is funny how something like that feels like such a strange artifact to a certain generation of people and filmmakers and yet to us that's how we grew up. You'd go to the video store on the weekend and you'd chart the new releases and you couldn't wait to get home and watch it. It was really a fun idea and I think it does help to evoke the feeling, the nostalgia and the warmth that the film does underneath all that."

The format appeared within Bumblebee, with both commercial releases like The Breakfast Club and main character Charlie's home videos playing memorable roles in certain scenes. In addition to releasing the physical VHS to certain outlets, Paramount released an April Fools' Day VHS trailer for the movie.

Bumblebee is available now on Blu-ray, DVD, and streaming video on demand services.



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