‘M3GAN’ is an internet star thanks to his TikTok-esque dance

Before hitting the big screen, M3GAN was a social media icon.

The killer android doll is the star of the movie “M3GAN,” which was released nationwide on Friday. But her TikTok-esque dance moves, which featured prominently in the film’s trailer, made her a viral sensation months ago.

In the trailer, M3GAN is seen dancing — swinging his arms, twirling, posing against a wall and, inexplicably, doing an air cartwheel — to a remixed track of Taylor Swift’s “It’s Nice to Have a Friend.” is actually set to the disco hit “Walk the Night” by the Skatt Brothers.

The film was made with the help of actor Amie Donald, who physically embodied the doll, as well as a combination of visual effects, animatronics, and puppets.

Donald, who has a dance background, helped choreograph the dance, which has since exploded onto platforms including TikTok and Twitter. As of Monday, the hashtag #M3GAN has over 954.4 million views and #M3GANDANCE has over 186.5 million views on TikTok.

Many social media also declared M3GAN to be a queer icon. Dancing M3GANs have become commonplace at events where the film is promoted. Some online are also sewing videos by M3GAN side by side with Jenna Ortega’s viral “Wednesday” dance.

“I wanted people to like her and have fun with her, but I couldn’t understand the reaction we got,” director Gerard Johnstone told NBC News in a recent Zoom interview. “It’s amazing. It makes your head spin.”

The film, written by Akela Cooper and based on a story by James Wan, follows newly orphaned Cady (played by Violet McGraw) after she goes to live with her robotic aunt Gemma (played by Allison Williams). Gemma introduces Cady to her new Model 3 Generative Android, aka M3GAN, after Cady struggles to adjust to her new life with Gemma. M3GAN and Cady become best friends until M3GAN becomes so overprotective of Cady, she goes on a murderous rampage.

As the dance is poised to become a staple on TikTok, an app that was built on the success of lip-syncing and dancing among teenage girls and young women, Johnstone said the choreography for “M3GAN” was not created with the intention of becoming the next TikTok Sensations.

Models perform the viral dance at a special screening of
Models perform the viral dance at a special screening of “M3GAN” in New York City on Wednesday.Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images for Universal Pictures File

Johnstone, who said he’s been in a “self-imposed social media exile,” doesn’t spend time on platforms like TikTok. But, as a filmmaker, he understands the role he plays in girls’ social lives and how elements of TikTok, like dance, are bonding experiences for young women. He said he wanted to incorporate that experience into the film’s narrative.

“There’s a scene early in the movie where M3GAN and Cady bond and dancing is one of the things they do,” Johnstone said.

For the dance scene, Donald – who has a dance background – told the Los Angeles Times that Gerard asked her to be “scary but also a bit distracting”.

Internet users have indeed found it scary, distracting and extremely entertaining.

“all my TL is stanning gays M3gan,” one person tweeted in October.

“‘Th3 clouds lift3d for cin3ma’s futur3 wh3n I saw M3gan’ -Martin Scors3s3,” one person tweeted.

Another person, tweeting in reference to a scene from the movie where M3GAN sings for Cady, wrote: “M3GAN will single-handedly send Sia’s ‘Titanium’ skyrocketing to the top of the charts.”

Williams said the reaction on the internet showed just how well people understand the character.

“The memes, the copies of the dance, people just understood it in that way which I absolutely loved,” Williams told Insider. “And we just thought, ‘OK, job done. They’ve got it. It’s theirs now. This is amazing.”

Over the weekend, many people flocked to theaters to see the M3GAN do its dance on the big screen. The film earned $30.2 million at the domestic box office. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 93% review score with 167 reviews on Monday. (“M3GAN” is distributed by Universal Pictures. Both NBC News and Universal Pictures are owned by NBCUniversal).

Like other viral phenomena before it, M3GAN’s social media success was a happy accident – something Johnstone didn’t see coming.

“I’m so grateful that she got through, and she just has an army of people who are willing to stand by her,” Johnstone said of M3GAN. “It’s incredible”

He credits some of the film’s early praise to social media buzz.

“A big part of a movie’s success is how well you can market it,” Johnstone said. “I started doing trailers, doing TV trailers, so it was definitely a conscious thing in my mind – what are the tracks that could be selected?”

Even with that in mind, Johnstone said he doesn’t think M3GAN’s dance should appear in the trailer.

“I really thought they gave too much dancing,” he said. “So that shows how much I know.”

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