Halfway through Super Bowl XLIII, the Baltimore Ravens’ Ray Lewis instigated a skirmish among a cadre of hip-hop-loving lizards over a bottle of SoBe Lifewater, then morphed into a lizard himself. On the biggest marketing night of the year, however, a standard-issue linebacker-lizard spot has no chance of moving the needle. The solution? SoBe’s corporate parent, Pepsi, teamed up with Intel and DreamWorks Animation and reportedly distributed 125 million pairs of 3-D glasses—the eyewear needed to experience SoBe’s break-dancing reptiles as well as a three-dimensional trailer for DreamWorks’ Monsters vs. Aliens.
|Watch the Baltimore Raven’s 3D superbowl commercial
Like a headache-inducing cicada, 3-D programming shows up on television about once a decade, only to disappear and be forgotten until whenever it appears again. Twelve years ago, NBC and ABC treated America to 3-D episodes of shows like 3rd Rock From the Sun and Coach; America reported back that Coach already had two dimensions too many. In 1989, Coca-Cola bankrolled a lizard-free 3-D Super Bowl halftime show starring a magician named Elvis Presto. “I’d just like to say,” NBC’s Bob Costas intoned sarcastically as he introduced the segment, “this is one of the single proudest moments of my life.”
But this year’s 3-D fodder might augur a new era. For one thing, 3-D movies appear primed to transition from a curiosity to a cultural norm, so long as Hollywood and the theater chains find the cash to build more usable screens, now at about 1,700. Starting this year, Jeffrey Katzenberg’s DreamWorks will release all of its features in three dimensions, as will Disney’s Pixar.