Mists of Pandaria Cinematic Debut and A Retrospective on WoW Cinematics

The Mists of Pandaria cinematic finally came out this morning, a few short weeks before the release of the pre-MOP 5.0 content patch and a month shy of the expansion dropping. I watched the whole thing a couple of times to get the full effect. My initial feelings is that it is lighthearted but with a touch of seriousness and conveys a tiny snippet of the overall tone of the expansion well. It illustrates the inherent conflict in the Alliance vs. the Horde and sets the Pandaren nation as a contrast to that. It sets up the initial events leading up to the Azeroth primary races finding Pandaria after a naval battle and revealing the rich landscape that they didn’t know about.

Past that though?


I can’t get an accurate confirmation as to whether the pandaren man in the trailer is Chen Stormstout or not but the fact of the matter is that this trailer is literally and utterly masculine. It features male power fantasies and counterpoints them with a more wise, agile man. It’s all men! All men, all the time. Just the way we like it, eh?


I could easily see this being an amusing bit of symbolism for masculine conflict resolution and colonialism. The problem is that most of the viewers are not going to reflect on some of the subtleties here. Let’s take a magical journey through this trailer, shall we? (If it helps, some of this could be interpreted as the same tone as this. Thanks, @iateyourfood!)

Note: Lots of Images

I admit I really liked the voice-over asking the really hard questions but the nature analogy seemed very cliché. I will take this moment to say that the animation for the cinematic is a far cry better than the original cinematic. Very lifelike in some places. The cinematic also sets up, as I said before, the initial story of how people find Pandaria: a huge naval battle crash lands Horde and Alliance forces and strands them on this mysterious land shrouded in… well I’m sure you can guess.

Our first manly man, the delegate from the Horde! Let’s call him Thunk Rockjaw. Thunk, despite having eaten several full villages of Night Elves, does still manage to have a beautiful, expressive face. The detail on the armor, hair and his skin is just unbelievable. You can also see his WICKED SICK TATTS, BRO. Is this the same orc from the other cinematics? Who knows. I’m sure someone will figure it out.

And here comes the Alliance. Admiral Chestyhunk. Captain Hunkachunk. Slam Beefchin. Sizzle Beefslab. Reportin’ for duty with a very sharp stick.

He’s going exploring on this jungle island full of ruins that look radically different. This is NEW! STRANGE.

Secondary note: I hate to see you leave, Captain Beefypecs, but I love to watch you go.

Thunk Rockbuff spies the enemy. Sizzlechin Rockgroin uses up most of the animation budget on his glistening, dewy, chest hair. I really wanted to call this pic the PINNACLE_OF_MASCULINITY.jpg. My computer almost exploded from this much testosterone oozing out of my video card but I cooled it down with some compressed air and playing Cher on my iTunes.



Smolder Beefgrin can ring my beelll, ring my belllllllllll…

I like the salt/mud detail.



Whoa, it might not be human. Look at those eyes. And the noises! I swear though, if Pandaren have roarly-morwrorrr noises like the Worgen sniff, I am going to turn off all my in-game sounds permanently.

The fur detail is really intense. I’m pretty impressed.

The animations for the Pandaren in the trailer was one of the more impressive things given the weight/height of him. Interestingly enough, Pandaren are as tall/taller than Humans or Orcs, but he looks rather short in the trailer. I liked the fighting stance though.

Captain Sizzlebritches cannot best the Pandaren. For shame.

I couldn’t get a good shot of it but you can see lots of really intriguing clothing details, including the bottles hanging off the belt.


NOT IN MY HOUSE *expertly arranges post back into place*

Anytime I want to go into discussing toxic masculinity, I think I’ll just use this as a sort of LOLCATS-style reference. Because really, dual-fisting weapons, the vacant expressions, the INTENSE ‘ROID muscles, it is pretty much all jammed into this picture. This is like some sort of Liefield-cum-Conan manliness wet dream.




The Pandaren moved with a lot more agility and weightlessness than his size would suggest. I couldn’t tell if that was intentional or a flaw in animating mass/gravity.

Uh-oh. Shit’s about to get REAL.



Beautiful scenery, with requisite monks training in the background.

Voiceover: What IS worth fighting for?

That’s a very good question, actually.

I feel that the trailer had a very deliberate message/narrative to juxtapose the beliefs of the Pandaren versus the beliefs of the Horde/Alliance. It’s pretty evident that this is going to be the thread that weaves itself through all of the stories of the expansion.

My biggest beef (heh) about the trailer was that despite it playing some notes about the conflict at large, it didn’t really give us a new or unique look that was different from any of the other trailers. Notice how there are no women involved. I know that women would have destroyed the giant EAST MEETS WEST, rage and fighting trope going on, since you know, women are not into being aggressive fighters out to push their empire outwards but would it have killed Blizzard to throw us a bone here? Also, no gnomes. There have NEVER been any gnomes in any trailers at all, ever.

Cinematics: An Interesting Retrospective

The lack of women in this trailer in particular got me thinking, however. How many women HAVE there been in all of the Blizzard cinematics since the game first came out? I knew that I had a pretty decent memory but I went back and watched all of them just to refresh myself. And surprisingly? The trailers have gotten more and MORE male-dominated since Vanilla came out.

World of Warcraft (2004)

One night elf druid versus the five other male characters (dwarf hunter, orc warrior, human mage, tauren shaman, and undead warlock) present in the cinematic. The voice-over is also done by a woman.

The Burning Crusade (2007)

One blood elf mage versus the SIX other male characters plus voice-over and additional footage of the masculine “big bad” Illidan.

Wrath of the Lich King (2008)

No woman in the trailer unless you count Sindragosa*. Trailer predominantly features masculine villain Lich King with voice-over done by King Terenas (also male.)

Cataclysm (2010)

No women in the trailer at all. Trailer predominantly features masculine villain Deathwing with voice-over done by …Deathwing.

Total: 3* women out of 13 men in the first four cinematics, 3 out of 16 if you count MoP.


I can’t really infer much about this other than the fact that despite there being slightly more women involved in the actual storylines in-game, the trailers are woefully under-representing everyone, but mostly women and have been going backwards in this fashion, this newest cinematic being no exception. This also could include the box art and promotional items as well but that’s a longer post for another time. My real interest lies in seeing more women involved as major players in the stories present to the players inside of the game, but some recognition in the big showy cinematics or even the machinamatics would be a real treat.

Stop centering narratives around masculine, Western pursuits for conflict, Blizzard

Until then, enjoy the Thunk and Captain Burlychest v.2.


25 Responses

  1. I actually would have really liked to see a male orc/female human, or female orc/male human, who then get interrupted by both a male and female Pandaren. And then they could end up facing off individually 1-on-1, but with the male and female Pandaren smoothly working together and changing combatants fluidly, while the Horde/Alliance figures stumbled and tripped over each other, completely outmaneuvered by the Pandaren teamwork. Balanced gender AND more emphasis on how harmonious the Pandaren are compared to the clumsy orcs and humans. :D

    Also, I think if you consider Deathwing – a dragon – as a male character in the Cata trailer, you need to consider Syndragosa a female character in the Wrath one. And personally, I think it’s also important to point out how many female characters out of how many total characters. 1 female to six males in TBC, 1 female to two males in Wrath, and 0 females to 1 male in Cata.

    • I didn’t discount Sindragosa as a female out of the cinematic because she’s a dragon but rather because she’s not really a character so much as a prop. Deathwing is very much the villain and major character/trust of the Cataclysm expansion, Sindragosa is not. If she wasn’t in ICC, you wouldn’t really even have known who she was in the trailer nor would she be missed.

      • Hmm, I can get that. I think she’s a bit more than a prop though, considering she’s the focal point of the main action in the trailer – definitely moreso than if she was just flying in the background or something. And I think she’s far more important – in game lore, but also just in the context of the trailer itself – than the night elf in the Vanilla trailer. (Maybe not the Belf in the TBC one, since that’s the WHOA NEW RACE significance.)

        However, I suppose one firm strike against her as a female character is that you can’t tell she’s a female since she’s a) a dragon, b) a skeleton, and c) doesn’t speak. Maybe half a mark?

        • Half a point, maybe. You cannot overtly tell she’s a lady unless you knew who she might be or was at the time the trailer came out. The only way I knew is that people who were more versed in Lich King lore made a guess that she was the risen blue dragon consort, really. You don’t even see her until ICC well into the expansion.

          The trailer is deffo about Arthas/LK.

  2. Dear Apple,
    Interesting. I’m becoming more and more interested in this kind of metric: simply breaking things into numbers to see where games pan out.

    WoW’s always been pretty terrible about their female portrayals, and the blasé “it’s just the genre” argument seems to have satisfied a lot of people for a long time. Still, to realize that they’re becoming even worse than where they started is a bit revelatory.

    I wonder how the traditional Warcraft games figure in to this. I’m certainly in no way defending their decisions, but their lack of femininity in the original warcraft titles may be informing their lack here. At some level the early designs in which the lore was created have handcuffed them. Unless most new characters were women (which I’m not opposed to), I’m not sure they’d be able to get up to speed. Still that argument becomes pretty nullified when you put it up against the total lack of new major females since Wrath.

    Hell, they even had a chance to bring in a new female dragon when Malygos went down, but instead replaced him with a male.

    I’d actually be very interested to track brand-new characters that have appeared in WoW that weren’t in the earlier games and see the ratio to which they introduced the genders. I wonder if we discount old lore if we see any patterns develop – for better or worse – and I know who the person for the job would be, Rades (;

    Very interesting post, and the ending retrospective really nailed it home. Thanks, ACM!


    • Unfortunately numbers are just numbers and much like something like the Bechdel Test, it doesn’t really divine any context. It is, however, a good starting point for a larger discussion. The in-game story is radically different from something so narrow as the cinematics and they are two different sets of pragmatic and creative endeavours, for sure. I do find it interesting though that there are less and less marketing figures and stories being represented here that feature women.

      I could even say that less and less figureheads in WoW canon too but I have no hard proof. We’ve always been on the smaller end of the scale in that regard, whether in numbers or simply relevance. Relevance is one of those things that becomes more and more stringent when people want to beef up the “numbers” so to speak but do nothing but use limiting, rigid tropes or use women as props or tools for emotional growth that are fridged or married off or impregnated.

      Malygos could have been replaced with Tarecgosa but they used her for the legendary (and she still ended up dying, a tragical little story unfortunately.)

      I have high hopes for MoP with Aysa and whatnot but given some of the stuff Jaina is going through, I’m not AS optimistic as I could be.

  3. That was hillarious! Thank you for that Apple Cider. You really pointed out some of the things Blizzard has going on there. They probably don’t even know what they are doing. Personally, I’m no fan of the fighting questions, though. “What could we do instead of fighting?” would have been a good one.

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  5. You know, I was also quite surprised to not a single female character played a role in that trailer. I was grump at first. Then I realized: if we had gotten one, it obviously would have been a female human. Because everybody hates female orcs, right? (cue sadface, I love them.) And the “girl” (because that’s what she would’ve been) would’ve been a mage, because important women in MMOs lack the ability to wield big weapons. She also would’ve been scantily clad, and her clothes would’ve been ripped apart in strategic places from her unfortunate boating accident. After I reached that point in my train of thought, I started wondering whether maybe three guys brawling it out at least wasn’t the worst of all scenarios…

    Also, the whole thing doesn’t make any sense. So we learn that it’s worth fighting for family and home and blabla something-with-harmony. So that’s why, six weeks from now, those pandas will choose a foreign faction so they can proceed to leave home smash each other’s heads in?

    • I’m sorry for the shoddy typing and proofreading. I should make a habit of not posting right after a large mug of extra strong coffee. “Doing stupid things faster, with more energy!” indeed. I think the gist at least is still understandable.

  6. Very nice, Apple! Thanks for the laughs!

    And, you’re right. The ladies are once again forgotten in an all-too male dominated gaming world. I often have that chicken-egg-egg-chicken debate in my mind. If the target audience is mostly male, then obviously, play to that strength. But, why is the target audience male? Is it because the game companies think that only males want to play video games?

    In 2012, I don’t think it’s doing anyone any favors to assume that all gamers are male, and that only males want to play video games. Maybe there would be even more female gamers if the game companies would bother to appeal to them. Just like the Blizzard commercials – I know we had Ozzy, Mr. T, Verne, and Chuck. The one female I recall, Aubrey Plaza (who?? lol) got very little airplay that I recall, and the commercial was pretty lame.

    Anyway, I’m looking forward to MOP, and I’m glad to see a more “updated” style of cinematic. I will be making a lady panda, and I’m going to kick some Orc butt with her! :)

    • I had completely forgotten about the Aubrey Plaza video – and honestly after rewatching it, I think that Blizzard was trying to be tongue in cheek regarding the perceived stereotypes of female gamers, but it doesn’t really come off well, especially considering the aforementioned outright lack of other female celebrities or otherwise as people in their commercials.

  7. Enjoyable play-by-play, always something fun from you.

    That said, I’m not entirely sure that the lack of women in trailers is a reliable metric in this case. Warcraft was established with the very iconic “beefy orc” vs. “beefy human” imagery from the very beginning. While they could have attempted to do something more politically correct here, they chose instead to draw upon people’s emotions dealing with that iconic imagery from Warcraft I.

    Was there a gender bias back when Warcraft I was created? Probably. But for the purpose of this trailer, creating a visually impressive, thematically similar trailer was a much higher priority than trying to represent each gender in a perfect 50/50 ratio in every scene.

    There are also no specifically black or hispanic humans in any of the trailers. This doesn’t mean that they hate blacks and hispanics. It means that they don’t have an obligation to try and represent each gender, nationality, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and social status in a perfect 100% reflection of real-life. I wonder if it’s simply a matter of — “There are only 3 characters in this trailer. Let’s fill those slots with the most iconic characters we can come up with, instead of introducing new and unfamiliar ones”

    Gnomes on the other hand, are an actual bias. :D

  8. Your breakdown invoked the MST3K litany of manly names:


    And for that alone it deserves applause.

    However, I’m nonetheless a big fan of this cinematic, because it essentially brought back the guys from the cover of Warcraft 2, which was a game I maniacally obsessed over back in the day. While ladies would have been good, those two glaring furious dudes will never be unwelcome.

    • It *is* certainly worthy of note that there is a lack of female presence both in Blizzard cinematics and in the overall presentation of World of Warcraft. However, I can see very real reasons why this video has the characters it does.
      Admiral Taylor and General Nazgrim are both recognizable characters who can easily be explained into that situation and, as an added bonus, provide the long term Warcraft fan with a sense of nostalgia res Warcraft II cover art. Blizzard has made no secret that they want MoP to return our focus to the Horde/Alliance conflict and reminding us of where it all started certainly does that.
      It seems very likely that our Pandaren friend *is* Chen Stormstout, which again brings nostalgic feelings to those of us familiar with him. Could they have included a female Pandaren? Yes. Should they have? Probably. But note that I said “included”. The three characters chosen for the cinematic carry emotional weight with the audience. Unfortunately, there aren’t any female Pandaren who do that as of yet.
      Beyond those three characters and perhaps a Pandaren female, I think the purpose of the cinematic would have been lost. To give us a warm fuzzy feeling that reminds us of how we felt in the old days, both as RTS and vanilla WoW players. To make us feel like Blizzard not only remembers, but really cares about us. And to give us hope that, just maybe, MoP will bring back the good stuff!
      Additionally it deserves to be considered that the majority, if not all, of the creative development team at Blizzard is male… and as the age old adage goes: “Write what you know.” I’d prefer that they only have well executed male characters than that they fill the screen with hollow placeholder females that are only there to be politically correct. Though this does all bring to mind a bit from the Blue Collar Comedy Tour about all men being a little bit gay…

      • I have it on very good authority that Blizzard’s creative dev team contains no small percentage of women as full-time members. :) That said, there’s still plenty of self-imposed “I am boy, how I write girls ” situations, no doubt.

        The Pandaren in the cinematic is Chen Stormstout. While it’s been officially confirmed, the big cask he picks up right at the end is a dead giveaway.

        While a female would have been satisfying to see, I believe that when this cinematic was being drafted, the design for female pandaren had not yet been finalized, which itself is a good reason for not having any, as making last-minute changes, even small ones, to CG like this is difficult, if not nigh-impossible.

      • “But note that I said “included”. The three characters chosen for the cinematic carry emotional weight with the audience.”

        Not necessarily. I’ve played WoW for *checks account* six years come November, but I never played any of the WC games previously (and still haven’t, because I’m godawful at RTS). I had no idea who they were before I saw the names appearing around the Internet. To me they were just random badass dudes doing badass dude things.

        Obviously, ymmv. I know there are tons of people who have been playing WC since the beginning of the franchise, and I think it’s awesome that those characters were brought in – it’s a fantastic nod to the origins of the series, and to the fans who’ve been around that long! But I doubt I’m the only a) woman b) WoW player c) who didn’t play WC before and who would have liked to see a woman in a cinematic for once. Badass dudes doing badass dude things are fine, but it would be nice to see women doing significant things in the official trailers – especially since WoW doesn’t have a particularly excellent track record with the portrayal of women in the game (because for every Lorna Crowley and Mylra Stormcaller who are out there being awesome, there’s a Tyrande shoved aside in favor of her husband, or a Tiffin Wrynn who’s fridged before the story even starts).

        It just gets old and very tiring.

  9. I have to say you really made me lauph with this blog XD I really enjoyed it, because I often made fun of it myself and I have to agree the lack of women in the trailers is awful, I was dissapointed in the trailer, SO DISSAPOINTED :*( my boyfriend said the same and that it isnt fair, specially to our female viewers, and seriously blizzard, just look at how you have made the male characters, im surprised they can move their heads with that much muscle!

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