life lessons from: a muppet christmas carol

Rizzo et al have some important things to teach us…

As we get deeper into the holiday season with each passing day the urge to watch various Christmas and other holiday films grows stronger. Whether it’s an acknowledged classic like A Christmas Story, something more recent like Love Hard or whatever else helps get you in the spirit these movies often contain some important moral lessons for the audience to latch onto and grow as a result of. That might be something as simple as “moving back to your hometown at the first sign of professional setback is the best way to find unexpected romance” or a bit more complex.

One seasonal favorite that has a fair amount of life lessons is A Muppet Christmas Carol, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. Directed by Brian Henson, it was the first movie released after the death of creator and performer Jim Henson. Michael Caine stars as Ebenezer Scrooge and is narrated/hosted by Gonzo as Charles Dickens himself with Rizzo the Rat as his foil, the pair providing many of the movie’s greatest moments and most important life lessons all of us can use.

There are two things in this life I hate: heights, and jumping from them.

For when someone asks you to make a prediction based on like one example and that’s not even completely applicable and why am I the one who has to go out on this limb?

The Muppet Christmas Carol GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

It’s good to be heckling again.

For when you finally get in the car after what seemed like an eight hour visit with family that you realize was only about 90 minutes and you have to talk through your feelings because you have a lot of them.

https://giphy.com/explore/the-muppet-christmas-carol

And I am here for the food.

For the beginning of the above-mentioned family visit.

Merry Christmas GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Even the vegetables don’t like him!

For when you’re reviewing your Christmas card list and come across that one person you know who I’m talking about it’s not that he’s a bad person necessarily but certainly isn’t someone who want to establish any sort of emotional precedent with.

The Muppet Christmas Carol GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Light the lamp, not the rat, light the lamp, not the rat!

For literally any situation where something goes even slightly sideways or wrong it doesn’t matter you can use this all year at any time and everyone will get it.

the fabelmans – marketing recap

How Universal Pictures has sold a nostalgic look back

The Fabelmans movie poster from Universal Pictures
The Fabelmans movie poster from Universal Pictures

Steven Spielberg directs – after cowriting with Tony Kushner – this week’s The Fabelmans, in wide theatrical release now after a few weeks playing in New York and Los Angeles. A semi-autobiographical look at the director’s own childhood, the movie stars Gabriel LaBelle as teenage Sammy Fabelman, the Spielberg proxy who uses his love of making movies as a way to process and deal with the tension in the marriage of his parents, played by Michelle Williams and Paul Dano. As the two influence Sammy in different ways he also comes into his own as he realizes what he can do with a movie camera.

Also playing roles in Sammy’s life are members of his extended family, especially uncle Bennie (Seth Rogen) and great-uncle Boris (Judd Hirsch).

With so much talent up and down the roster, including longtime Spielberg collaborator John Williams once again providing the music, it’s time to look at how it’s been sold to the general public.

announcements and casting

The movie was announced in early 2021, though Spielberg and Kushner had been working on the project throughout the previous two years.

Williams and then Rogen were included in the cast at that time. Dano joined a couple months after that followed by LaBelle. Others in the supporting cast, including Hirsch, were added over the next few months leading up to the beginning of filming in mid-2021.

Dano talked about the imposing nature of playing a real-life person and working with Spielberg in an interview earlier this year as part of The Batman’s publicity cycle. Similarly while she was promoting Showing Up Williams admitted to having her mind blown when the director said he wanted to work with her.

the marketing campaign

In a move that makes some sense given the talent and subject matter the first marketing beats of the film’s campaign involved announcements the world premiere would take place at September’s Toronto Film Festival and then that it would be the closing feature of November’s AFI Fest.

Things really got going in September, just before TIFF, with the release of the first poster. It immediately establishes the premise of the film by showing a young boy walking down a row of soundstages as filmstrip images of the boy’s family and life are projected on the building in front of him. It hits a warm, nostalgic tone that lets the audience know what they’re in for.

The first trailer (3m YouTube views) came out as well. As soon as young Sammy is given a film camera by his mother he begins making his own movies. From there on out it’s a mix of being told to follow his artistic heart and being told to stop fooling around and get serious about his life, all filtered through Sammy’s experience with his parents, including his mother’s frustrated dreams.

At TIFF the stars joined Spielberg and Kushner to share their thoughts on making the movie and more. They all turned out for the premiere as well. Spielberg also talked more about how the pandemic and his parents getting older made him realize if he was ever going to make this film, which he’d been considering for 20 years, it was going to have to be soon. The movie went on to win the People’s Choice Award at TIFF as well as accumulate plenty of positive reviews from those in attendance.

Also on the festival front, the movie was slated as the opening feature of MOMA’s The Contenders series.

There were, of course, a number of feature profiles of Spielberg that examined how it’s the culmination of the family-centric themes he’s explored throughout his career but the first to do so in such a personal and explicit way.

Hirsch was interviewed about how Spielberg prepared him to play a character based on the director’s uncle, which included precious little actual direction but lots of encouragement to make choices and do what he felt was right for the character.

At the AFI Fest screening Rogen, Williams and others talked about how emotional filming was for everyone involved as well as the occasionally surreal experience of working with Spielberg on such a personal project.

In a clip released to Fandango in early November Sammy’s mom is giving him a camera to film his trains with so he can watch them crash over and over.

The cast and crew assembled again for a conversation about the movie at The Academy.

A short video shows Spielberg engaging in his traditional toast before filming the last shot of the movie and praising the cast and crew for their hard work while behind-the-scenes footage rolls of everyone making the movie.

Rogen appeared on “The Tonight Show” to talk about the movie while Williams appeared on “The Late Show” and “Kimmel” and Dano stopped by “The Late Show” as well. The whole cast as well as Spielberg then appeared on “Today”.

LaBelle was profiled in a piece where he talked about the pressures of playing a young Spielberg in front of the old Spielberg and more. Another feature on Dano again emphasized how he’s beginning to loosen up in his career and have some fun with the roles he chooses.

A featurette that came out last week opens with Spielberg talking about how he’s always drawn from real life experiences for his movies and that this one is just an extension of that while the cast praises the director and his approach.

overall

A few non-sequential thoughts on what’s been recapped above:

  • Spielberg is always at his best when he’s making movies he wants to make as opposed to making movies he should be making and this seems to fall firmly in the former category.

The Fabelmans GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

The Fabelmans GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

The Fabelmans GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

The Fabelmans GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

A Christmas Story Christmas – marketing recap

How Warner Bros. has sold the sequel to a bonafide classic

A Christmas Story Christmas movie poster from Warner Bros. Pictures
A Christmas Story Christmas movie poster from Warner Bros. Pictures

There’s little use in recounting how 1983’s A Christmas Story became a seasonal classic through the power of home video and basic cable as everyone likely knows the story. While there were two attempts at sequels – 1994’s It Runs In The Family (also called My Summer Story) and 2012’s straight-to-video A Christmas Story 2, the adventures of Ralphie and his friends and family have never continued in a way truly worthy of how beloved the original is.

Seeking to rectify that is A Christmas Story Christmas, debuting on HBO Max this week. Set in the mid-1970s, Peter Billingsley returns for the first time as a now-grown Ralphie, now with a wife (played by Erinn Hayes) and kids of his own. He brings the family back to his childhood home in Hammond, IN where Ralphie finds that creating a magical childhood Christmas for his kids is a lot harder than he realized all those years ago.

In addition to Billingsly much of the original cast also returns, including the actors who played Ralphie’s younger brother Randy and his friends Schwartz and Flick as well as their schoolyard nemesis Scott Farkus. Julie Hagerty takes on the role of Ralphie’s mother as Melinda Dillon retired years ago. Clay Kaytis directed the movie and cowrote the screenplay with Nick Schenk.

announcement and casting

Warner Bros. and Legendary announced the movie in January 2022, with Billingsly set to reprise his role and Kaytis directing. Others from the original cast joined the sequel a short while later.

Hayes and the actors playing Ralphie and Sandy’s children were added later on.

the marketing campaign

The first teaser trailer wasn’t released until mid-October. It’s not much, but shows new footage of the Parker’s home with audio from the original film to communicate that it’s something new but also something very much rooted in what’s come before.

Ralphie stands in the foreground with his childhood home in the background on the one poster that was also released in mid-October. Everything about the design is meant to evoke memories of the first movie, but especially the home video covers as opposed to the 1983 one-sheet. In case the image wasn’t clear, copy on the poster reads “Ralphie comes home.”

A batch of first-look photos was shared at the same time along with comments from Billingsly about where Ralphie is in this story and what he wants to accomplish.

As the full trailer (837k views on YouTube), which came out at the beginning of November, opens, Ralphie is reminiscing about the passage of time as he shares a drink with some old friends. At the behest of his mother, he tries to create magical Christmas experiences for his own kids but finds that it’s a lot more difficult on the adult end of that equation. There are plenty of references to moments from the original movie along with some updates and it looks just charming.

Last weekend the cast and crew were in attendance at an outdoor screening of the movie. That was followed by a featurette with Billingsley explaining how the characters have been updated in a way that still honors the original, getting all the kids back together and more. He also took part in a fun little video where he answers Christmas related questions.

An interview with Billingsley had him explaining in a bit more detail how he and his producing partner decided the time was right to revisit the story and characters, how Dillon gave him her blessing to cast someone else as Ralphie’s mom and lots more.

overall

Your mileage will likely vary based on how you feel about the original movie (if you don’t love it with all your cold cynical heart you’re the world’s greatest monster though) and how you feel about legacy sequels (it’s completely reasonable to have different opinions, so ydy) but I find a lot to like here. Mostly that’s because it seems to be focused on Ralphie’s struggles to meet everyone’s expectations and live up to the sepia-toned memories he and others have of “the good old days”. Both of those are very relatable.

The most surprising part of the campaign is actually the release itself. It seems like this would be a natural fit for theaters, especially since there aren’t a ton of (or any?) other holiday films playing on the big screen this season. But perhaps, despite WB’s new “theaters first” doctrine it was felt that since the original didn’t really take off until home viewing it was more natural for this one to be a home experience.

slumberland – marketing recap

How Netflix has sold its latest fantasy adventure

Slumberland movie poster from Netflix
Slumberland movie poster from Netflix

Marlow Barkley stars as Nemo in Slumberland, new this week on Netflix. Nemo is a young girl mourning the loss of her father Peter (Kyle Chandler) by escaping in her dreams to the fantasy world of Slumberland, where she hopes she’ll find him. Helping her navigate Slumberland is the outlaw Flip (Jason Momoa) and the two opposites bond as they continue on their journey, each with their own agenda.

Directed by Francis Lawrence and based on the “Little Nemo in Slumberland” comic strip, the movie also stars Chris O’Dowd, Weruche Opia and others. Let’s look at how it’s been sold to the public.

announcement and casting

Netflix announced the film in mid-2020, with members of the cast added to the roster over the next few months. A first look still was revealed in April of 2021, with Netflix saying the film would be out the next year.

Footage from the film was included in Netflix’s 2022 feature film preview.

the marketing campaign

Netflix kicked off the marketing of the movie in August with the release of a teaser trailer (3.5m YouTube views). It starts off with Peter telling Nemo a story about Slumberland. Most of the spot shows Nemo having adventures in that fantasy world with Flip to show off the visuals while not going into the actual story very deeply.

“Every adventure begins with a dream” we’re told on the poster that came out at the same time. It shows Nemo sitting on her bed, with the dream world represented as an upside down reflection of the real world. It’s very beautiful, with an artistic approach taken that is increasingly uncommon on Netflix’s one-sheets lately.

A month later during its TUDUM virtual event an extended clip came out of Flip explaining the rules of surviving in Slumberland to Nemo and therefore the audience.

The official trailer (8.4m YouTube views) was released in early October. As it begins we see Nemo is adjusting to her new life, including going to an actual school, following the passing of her father. Nemo finds herself in Slumberland alongside Flip, who it turns out used to work with Peter. But while Slumberland is a magical place with incredible places and creatures it’s also dangerous, something Nemo finds out as she searches for her father.

Flip and Nemo, along with the stuffed pig that accompanies them, are seen on what looks like a thrill ride on the next poster. The lighthouse where Nemo grew up with her dad is seen in the background

Each of the main characters gets their turn in the spotlight on a series of posters released in early November that look very much like comic book variant covers.

Momoa promoted the movie when he appeared on “Kimmel” last week, though of course he also discussed some of his other projects.

Mattress company Casper partnered with Netflix for a special “in-bed screening” at Casper’s Dreamery in New York City this coming weekend. Everyone could register to join the event virtually, with a sweepstakes also run for those who wanted to share their home setups on Instagram.

overall

It’s a fine campaign and there’s nothing here to argue with or call out specifically, but that’s true in both directions, meaning there’s also nothing particularly special or hugely engaging about what’s being presented. We’ve seen movies about visiting dream worlds and movies about searching the afterlife for lost loved ones before and the marketing from Netflix doesn’t offer much that’s unique about either idea to latch onto.

That’s not to say it’s a bad campaign, just that it presents a movie that seems entirely adequate and probably enjoyable but isn’t going to knock anyone’s socks off, even with Momoa’s larger than life presence.

she said – marketing recap

How Universal Pictures has sold a retelling of a reckoning

She Said movie poster from Universal Pictures
She Said movie poster from Universal Pictures

No industry is perhaps more associated with the “#MeToo” movement of a few years ago than Hollywood. After all, it was the women who finally stood up against now-disgraced mogul Harvey Weinstein that was central to it as one woman after another came forward to share their experiences with Weinstein and other men in the workplace.

Adapted from the book of the same name, She Said arrives in theaters from Universal Pictures to revisit the era where two reporters worked to pierce the movie industry’s veil of silence. Carey Mulligan plays Megan Twohey and Zoe Kazan plays Jodi Kantor, both of whom worked at The New York Times and followed the whispers, evidence and statements of a number of women whose lives and careers had been impacted by Weinstein. The results of that investigation were first published in a ground-shaking NYT story and later in book form.

With Patricia Clarkson, Andre Braugher and others in supporting roles, Maria Schrader directs from a screenplay by Rebecca Lenkiewicz so let’s look at how the movie has been sold.

announcement and casting

Mulligan and Kazan were named the leads when news broke in June, 2021 that Universal was developing the film. A release date was announced a month later. Over the next few months others were added to the cast including Clarkson, Braugher and Morton.

Footage was shown during Universal’s CinemaCon 2022 presentation, with Mulligan and Kazan appearing in person to talk about and hype up the film.

the marketing campaign

For the public the marketing began in mid-July with the release of a poster that nicely illustrates the nature of the story by showing a woman’s silhouette against a white background with “Will you go on the record?” running across the image. That shows how the story relies on the accounts of multiple women who are both in the background – whether by choice or not – and whose identities are being either protected or withheld.

The trailer (11.8m YouTube views) released at the same time starts out Kantor taking on the story of sexual harassment in Hollywood and enlisting the help of Twohey to do so. What she finds is overwhelming as numerous women share their experiences as Weinstein’s victims. Still, some are unwilling to speak with them and there are plenty of people still trying to protect him in various ways and the reporters find themselves under surveillance. As a few women agree to go on the record the story unfolds, leading to its ultimate conclusion.

In August and September the movie began being slated for screening at festivals including New York, BFI London and AFI among others.

How Zazan and Mulligan worked to get the story right and effectively portray the journalism that was done was the subject of a feature story that included not just the actors but the writers they portray in the film.

Lenkiewicz was interviewed about the process of writing the movie, including speaking with some of the women abused by Weinstein herself and getting work-in-progress chapters of the source book from the journalists as they were putting it together.

The cast and crew along with Twohey and Kantor and others were in attendance at the NYFF world premiere in mid-October. At a Q&A there they all spoke about the impact the story had and how the movie reflects that along with how it’s not as if all problems have now been solved and there’s still work to be done. To coincide with that premiere the two journalists wrote an account of how things have gone since the story was initially published, how the movie came about, what changes have been made to compress it all into a two-hour film and what it’s like seeing their work dramatized on the screen.

A similar event was held at the BFI London Film Festival just a couple days later.

Women in Film announced at the end of September that Mulligan, Kantor, Twohey and producer Dede Gardner would be given their “Forging Forward” award at this year’s ceremony. At that event in late October Mulligan recounted her experiences after getting the script and tapping Twohey and others for background and context about the events depicted.

TV spots and other online promos began running in late October as well. They feature different cutdowns of the trailer footage for the most part while banner ads mixed the key art of the two leads conversing in the newsroom with the same footage.

IMDb was given an exclusive featurette with the cast, crew and real journalists discussing the making of the movie and the story behind it.

Right after that the AFI Fest screening took place with another Q&A with the major players. There were also other select screenings held by different groups, often with a subset of that group in attendance.

Another feature story included both the pairs of Mulligan and Kazan along with Kantor and Twohey. All four then appeared together on “The View” to promote the film and discuss the story. Mulligan and Kazan broke off for a joint appearance on “Today”.

It should also be noted that the movie’s official website has, in addition to the usual selection of marketing material, sections devoted to resources for those who need to report sexual harassment/abuse or deal with its aftermath as well as profiles of Kantor and Twohey.

overall

As I’ve said about a number of recent movies, the supportive relationship between Kazan and Mulligan is constantly referenced in this campaign and is a nice touch, especially given the subject matter. That lends a humanity to the marketing that grounds the story even more than already happens by virtue of the subject matter.

Having the real life journalists so heavily involved is both a blessing and a burden in that they provide some valuable context for the story and how it was investigated and told before becoming a movie but also pull focus from the movie at times. They are there to lend their expertise and experience, of course, but the message sometimes becomes muddled as to whether audiences should be more interested in this dramatized version of events or the more factual retelling in the original book.

It’s an otherwise solid campaign that unfortunately also seems a bit underwhelming, maybe because it’s being crowded out by so many other late-year releases, though few seem as culturally relevant and important as this one.

black panther: wakanda forever – marketing recap

How Marvel has sold what became an unexpectedly emotional sequel

2018’s Black Panther was, and continues to be, one of the more solid entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Sure, there were the usual problems with the antagonist and some of the special effects appear to have been completed with a Spin Art toy, but you can’t argue with the emotional honesty of Chadwick Boseman’s first full-length outing as the title hero as well as director Ryan Coogler’s ability to work some engaging elements into the story.

Now Black Panther: Wakanda Forever arrives in theaters two years after Boseman passed away from colon cancer. That’s an unquestionably tragic loss that for a time threw the fate of this sequel into doubt as everyone wondered: How do you tell another Black Panther story if the actor is gone? Aside from Hulk and Rhodey, that’s something Marvel hasn’t done much of and would have been extremely disrespectful since this isn’t just another switch but the result of an untimely passing.

Coogler and his collaborators have opted to tell another story and acknowledge the reality of the situation instead of pretending nothing happened.

The sequel finds the African nation of Wakanda mourning the loss of T’Challa and working to find a way following his revealing the truth of the nation at the end of the last movie. As the kingdom’s warriors defend it from various threats, Namor (Tenoch Huerta), the ruler of the undersea kingdom of Talokan, launches a full-scale invasion in an effort to protect his people from the surface world.

Much of the original cast, including Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Angela Bassett and others return. In addition to Huerta, new members include Michaela Coel as the Wakandan warrior Aneka and Dominique Thorne plays Riri Williams, a young woman who builds her own suit of armor to become the hero Ironheart.

With so much going on, let’s take a look at how the movie’s been sold.

announcements and casting

Coogler appeared on stage at Disney’s D23 Fan Expo in August, 2019 to announce the movie’s official release date. The fact this came a year and a half after the release of the first movie when Marvel usually sets up sequels five minutes after opening weekend was not lost on anyone.

Tragedy struck in August 2020 when Boseman passed away suddenly from colon cancer he’d been diagnosed with six years earlier. While the fate of the movie and character were the first thing on no one’s mind, it certainly left it up in the air. Coogler, in his statement on Boseman’s passing, talked about being in the midst of working on the script, including lines Boseman would never get to speak.

News then came in late November that Marvel had set a date to begin production, though details on how Boseman’s absence was going to be handled were not shared at that time. That was cleared up during Disney’s 2020 investors presentation, with executives sharing that T’Challa would not be recast but that this movie would continue to explore other characters in Wakanda.

In an op-ed, Coogler explained why he was alright with the movie’s production remaining in Georgia despite the state’s recently-passed voter suppression laws. That was in response to calls for him and other filmmakers to pull their productions.

How she and the others were preparing for the eventual filming in the wake of Boseman’s passing was the subject of an interview with Nyong’o.

The movie, along with other upcoming MCU entries, was name-checked – and given its official subtitle – in the “Marvel Studios Celebrates The Movies” video from early May.

Production officially got underway in July 2021. Coel was cast in an unnamed role later that month, with speculation she would play Storm. Also raising eyebrows was the August news that Thorne would appear as Ironheart ahead of her already-announced solo Disney+ series.

While in Cannes in May 2022 Wright spoke more about how they worked to honor Boseman while filming the sequel.

News came in July of that year that, because of scheduling conflicts resulting from the many delays in shooting, Kaluuya was dropping out of this film.

Right after that, the cast and crew appeared at San Diego Comic-Con, where they were part of Marvel Studios’ Hall H panel to talk about what fans could expect, the loss of Boseman and lots more, including the introduction of Huerta as Namor.

the marketing campaign

After the panel concluded the studio released the first poster, which shows the Black Panther helmet empty and nearly hidden in the black background, and the first teaser trailer.

That trailer (41.5m YouTube views) starts with establishing shots of some of the characters we met in the first film, all of whom seem to be collecting their thoughts and dealing with what can be assumed to be the loss of T’Challa. Then the focus shifts to what’s happening underwater. Lots of shots of characters in some form of anguish – including Ramonda’s impassioned speech about what she’s sacrificed for the good of Wakanda – and the appearance of Namor (who’s unnamed because there’s almost no dialogue here) all lead up to confrontation between the people of Wakanda and the armies of Talocan. It ends with someone new in the Black Panther garb as they prepare for battle.

Funko also revealed the first look at the movie’s line of POP! Figures at SDCC.

Right after the convention ended Marvel released a “Prologue” album including the music featured in that trailer and more.

Marvel put out a Namor 101 video in August to make sure everyone was up to date on the character.

Bassett praised Coogler and commented more about the movie when she appeared on “The Ellen Degeneres Show”. Wright did likewise a bit later on when she stopped by “The Tonight Show.”

In mid-September Disney gave attendees of its D23 event an early look at footage from the film with Duke, Wright, Nyong’o and others from the cast appearing on stage to talk about what fans can expect.

Huerta was interviewed at the event about how Namor is unique and how the character adds something new to the story.

Loungefly revealed a line of movie-inspired fashion accessories.

Empire published a cover story about the movie in September that included new images of many of the characters along with comments from the cast and crew. Some of those had Feige discussing why the role of T’Challa wasn’t recast and the revelation the movie’s running time was nearly three hours. Wright, Nyong’o and Gurira then appeared on the cover of Elle UK and were interviewed about the situation they found themselves in when it came time for the sequel.

The second trailer (31.3m YouTube views) was released in early October. It’s not too terribly different from the first spot but does add more of Namor and his attacks on Wakanda along with the rest of the surface world along with some vague comments about who he is and the threat he poses.

Shuri stands at the forefront of the heroes on the theatrical poster that came out at the same time, with the others arranged in a V formation behind her. That’s the top of the one-sheet, with Namor on his throne as others flank him upside down at the bottom to illustrate how he comes from the world below our own.

An interview with the director had him sharing how Boseman’s death had him questioning not just whether he could make another Black Panther movie without his lead actor, friend and collaborator but whether he could go on directing. There were other parts of that Entertainment Weekly package that had Duke, Thorne and others talking about the movie and story.

Exclusive posters were released for IMAX, Dolby, RealD3D, Screen X and 4DX, all of which take slightly different approaches in how they display the warring factions of Wakanda and Talokan, some of which are more like high-gloss family portraits and some of which are more artistic.

Marvel offered exclusive movie-branded apparel and other items at its New York Comic-Con booth.

A TV spot from a week later in October uses much of the same footage as the trailers but also offers the first actual dialogue from Namor, who warns “Wakanda will fall” while later on Shuri declares her defiance.

The cast also appeared in a commercial announcing tickets were now on sale.

Gurira appears in character in a Lexus tie-in commercial where she has to fight off attackers on her way to a speech, all while enjoying the comfort and amenities of the electric RZ 450e.

A set of character posters highlight Shuri, Attuma and Agent Ross.

Coel was featured on the cover of Vogue later in October while Nyong’o received feature profiles in both Vanity Fair and The Hollywood Reporter where she talked about coping with Boseman’s passing, how much she and the rest of the cast bonded once again with their grief and more.

Coogler and the cast reflected on the loss of Boseman as well as what audiences can expect in this sequel in an IMAX featurette.

Riri Williams is the focus of a Target tie-in commercial where she inspires a young girl working on a project and shopping for supplies at the retailer.

Another collection of character posters features Shuri, M’Baku and Okoye.

Bassett was interviewed for a cover story in Essence.

Viewers of the NBA games on ESPN on 10/26 got a special look at movie.

At this point the big news was that the rumors were true and a new song from Rihanna would be featured on the movie’s soundtrack. She and the studio started teasing “Lift Me Up”, with the full song dropping later in the month.

The purple carpet premiere was held at the end of October with the cast and crew along with the usual array of others from the MCU franchise and various friends in attendance. They all talked more about what they hoped this movie would accomplish as well as the emotional nature of making it.

Lexus continued its sponsorship deal to a trivia contest at that premiere.

Some members of the cast also appeared on “Kimmel” while they were in L.A. Huerta appeared on that show a few days later. Both Duke and Nyong’o showed up on “The Tonight Show” a bit after that.

A line of movie-inspired cosmetics was announced by Mac Cosmetics at this time as well.

More details about Namor’s attack on the surface were shared in an extended TV spot that features a lot more new footage than we’d seen before.

Marvel Studios teamed with the Chadwick Boseman Foundation for the Arts and the Smithsonian National Museum for a special screening of the movie that included an appearance by the cast and crew.

News came at the beginning of November that writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, who famously wrote one of the most well-received “Black Panther” comics runs in the last decade, would host a six-episode audio series featuring recollections of the character along with interviews with Coogler and others.

Further TV and online advertising was done as the weeks went on, including a sponsored playlist on Spotify and an extended spot featuring Rihanna’s original song.

Both Shuri and Attuma were added as playable characters to Marvel’s Contest of Champions mobile game.

An Ebony cover story featured all the main cast members.

Additional premiere events were held in Europe and Africa with the cast and crew in attendance.

Coogler talked about the making of the movie in a featurette that also had the cast praising him as a director and leader on set.

overall

Tracking projections estimate an opening weekend box office of at least $175m, but it’s likely the final number could be higher. That shows a lot of interest in how the story will continue given the seismic shift that occurred with the loss of Boseman.

As for the campaign itself, as is usual for Marvel Studios marketing efforts it’s so massive as to be nearly overwhelming. It’s huge, with dozens of trailers and other videos yet at the same time it manages to betray very little about the story itself save for the broadest of strokes about the conflict and such.

There’s a disconnect that runs through the campaign, though.

On the one hand you have the very emotional element where Boseman’s memory is evoked, either through comments by Coogler and the cast in the press or the overt references to T’Challa’s death in the marketing elements. On the other, you have the blatantly commercial, where all of that emotion is evoked in order to sell tie in merchandise.

Not that the two elements can’t coexist, just that the one inherently impacts the other and creates a sometimes inconsistent tone.

Regardless of all that, I think that while your mileage might vary for various individual parts of the campaign, we can all agree there isn’t enough Ironheart, who too often simply evokes some moment originated by Tony Stark 14 years ago, and that Namor’s feet wings are proof we have strayed too far from God’s light.

Black Panther Heart GIF by Marvel Studios - Find & Share on GIPHY

enola holmes 2 – marketing recap

How Netflix has sold its young adult mystery sequel

Enola Holmes 2 movie poster from Netflix
Enola Holmes 2 movie poster from Netflix

Millie Bobby Brown returns in the title role in Enola Holmes 2, out this week on Netflix. In the sequel to the surprise 2020 hit and still based on Nancy Springer’s series of books, Enola has decided to hang out her own shingle as a detective for hire. She’s enlisted by a young girl who works in a matchstick factory to find her missing sister. Soon Enola discovers she’s working on a different part of the same case being investigated by her older brother Sherlock (Henry Cavill).

Louis Partridge returns as Viscount Tewkesbury, a young man Enola frequently encounters and sometimes needs help from in her adventures around London. Helena Bonham Carter is also back as Eudora Holmes, who disappeared years ago but who trained Enola for the day she’d be on her own. Others from the first movie are back as well, as is director Harry Bradbeer.

Let’s recap the campaign Netflix has run.

announcement and casting

Netflix announced the sequel to much acclaim, especially because both Brown and Cavill were slated to return, in May 2021. In September during that year;s TUDUM virtual event it revealed Louis Partridge would be back as Tewkesbury.

The end of filming was marked in January, 2022 when Netflix shared a short video.

Footage from the film was included in Netflix’s 2022 feature film preview back in February.

the marketing campaign

Things kicked off in August when a batch of stills was released.

Brown took part in this year’s TUDUM event to hype the film and introduce the first trailer (5.4m YouTube views). It starts with Enola being chased by the police before stopping to explain what’s happening. We see how she’s started her own agency and gets involved in the case of the missing girl and from there things get crazy as she once more defies everyone’s expectations for how she should act in order to make her own life as well as solve the mystery.

We see Enola standing and looking quite pleased with herself behind the door of her agency on the poster that came out at the same time.

The second trailer (2.1m YouTube views) came out in early October. It uses different footage but sells the same basic idea, that Enola is once again in over her head but refuses to give in or give up despite everyone telling her to do just that. We see a bit more of her working with Sherlock and enlisting the help of Tewkesbury as it again sells a high-energy, fast-moving and funny good time.

The poster that accompanied that trailer uses the same collage style as the one-sheet for the first movie, placing cutouts of the main characters against a pasted-together backdrop of the London skyline with a few codes and maps thrown in to add to the sense of mystery.

A clip showing Enola reluctantly convincing Tewksbury to teach her to dance came out a couple weeks later.

Shortly after that came a series of posters showing all the main characters, all of which also feature some form of pun or other play on words as part of describing that character.

Brown and Cavill both appeared in a handful of fun little videos where they recapped the first movie, unraveled word game mysteries and unscrambled anagrams.

Brown appeared on “Kimmel” to promote the film and engage in some hijinks with her “Stranger Things” costar Noah Schnapp.

Netflix brought the cast and crew out for the premiere at the end of October. At that premiere the stars commented on the story of the movie, how they worked out having Enola break the fourth wall, the unique place these stories hold in the overall Holmes landscape and more.

overall

Like the campaign for the first movie, this marketing push is just a lot of fun. There’s a light entertaining attitude and vibe throughout the campaign that makes it look like it will be just as enjoyable as the first one was. And it maintains much of the branding established in the first campaign, creating a nice sense of continuity for the audience.

Much of that attitude comes from the stars. Brown is *so* much more fun and charming when she’s not weighed down by the pressures of “Stranger Things” where she can’t discuss plot details or get too casual lest something be spoiled. And as much as Cavill was sidetracked by discussion of his returning as Superman in Black Adam recently, he’s infinitely more engaging here (and elsewhere) when not constrained by the demands of the DC Universe.

all quiet on the western front – marketing recap

How Netflix has sold another adaptation of a stirring war story

All Quiet on the Western Front, out this week from Netflix, is at least the third adaptation of the original 1929 novel. As the campaign will note, though, despite the novel coming from a German author as the story focusing on a young German soldier during World War I, this is the first adaptation to actually be filmed in German.

This version stars Felix Kammerer as Paul, the aforementioned young soldier who, like his other new recruits, is filled with the belief war is a romantic, idealistic pursuit. It isn’t long before that belief is shattered as the realities of battle become clear and Paul and the others find it’s nearly impossible simply to stay alive. Daniel Brühl also stars as German finance minister Matthias Erzberger, a leading figure in the country’s war trajectory.

Let’s recap the marketing campaign Netflix has run for what it’s hoping could be an awards contender when that season comes around.

announcements and casting

The movie was announced with director Edward Berger and most of the primary cast already on board. Netflix was reported to be on the verge of acquiring the film in December, 2020, ultimately successful in that purchase.

the marketing campaign

Netflix offered a first look at the movie in July along with comments from director Berger about offering a German perspective to the story and more.

The horrors of warfare – particularly the trench warfare of WWI – are fully on display in the teaser trailer (5.2m YouTube views) released in September. We watch as Paul goes from a green soldier full of enthusiasm to go be a hero for his country to a terrified veteran frequently caked in mud, dirt, blood and other materials as he tries to stay alive amidst the constant cannon fire, doomed infantry advances and other obstacles.

Paul is turning to look toward the camera on the poster that came out at the same time. He’s in the middle of a throng of other soldiers, all marching toward some kind of inferno as ash falls down on them to make sure the audience understands just how hellish their situation really is.

Director Edward Berger was interviewed as the film was screening at the Toronto Film Festival about why a new adaptation was needed and how important it was to finally have a filmed version in German.

Germany announced in mid-October this movie would be its official selection for Best International Picture at the upcoming Academy Awards.

Another trailer (7m YouTube views) was released just a week or so ago. The same basic message is conveyed, but this time the scenes more regularly cut between Paul’s traumatic experiences on the front lines of battle and Erzberger’s efforts to broker a ceasefire between the warring nations.

overall

And…that appears to be the entirety of the marketing, which is a little surprising given the source material’s prestige and the fact this is clearly a major release for Netflix, especially when it comes time for awards consideration.

The latter point may actually explain why this seems a bit lackluster. While the marketing itself is very effective, the paucity of publicity and other efforts may be strategic as Netflix keeps that in its pocket until the months and weeks before Oscar etc nominations are announced. In short, I wouldn’t be surprised to see more press activity after the beginning of the new year.

the good nurse – marketing recap

How Netflix has sold a true life serial killer drama

True crime stories are all the rage at the moment. Not that they haven’t been for a long while now, but the current resurgence seems driven by the popularity of podcasts like “Serial” and the endless subsequent knockoffs that dive deep into certain stories. Of late Netflix, Hulu and others have worked hard to keep up a steady stream of documentaries, feature films, series and other content based on famous cases.

Joining that sub-genre is this week’s new Netflix release The Good Nurse. Based on author Charles Graeber’s 2013 book, the story revolves around Amy Loughren (Jessica Chastain), an ICU nurse with a life-threatening heart condition, and Charles Cullen (Eddie Redmayne), another nurse who also happens to be a serial killer. When the hospital the two work at experiences a string of unexplained patient deaths, Amy begins to suspect her coworker may have something to do with them.

Tobias Lindholm directs the film, with a screenplay by Krysty Wilson-Cairns. Let’s dive into the marketing campaign Netflix has mounted.

announcements and casting

Lionsgate was originally developing the movie, including in mid-2018 when Chastain and Redmayne were cast.

Then in early 2020 Netflix acquired the project and officially moved it into production. Noah Emmerich, Nnamdi Asomugha and others were added to the supporting cast in early 2021 in advance of filming.

Footage from the film was included in Netflix’s 2022 feature film preview.

Redmayne, Lindholm and Chastain were interviewed in July about how they approached the project and how they all worked together. First look stills accompanied that interview.

A set of first look stills came out around the same time.

the marketing campaign

As the trailer (2.4m YouTube views), released in September, opens, Amy and Charles are catching up after he’s been away from work for a while, an absence he’s not keen to discuss. We then flashback to see the two of them working together as well as establishing Amy is a single mom. When police begin questioning a handful of patient deaths that seem to form a pattern she starts to investigate his background herself. Only then do we go back to the opening scene, which is now presented as Amy trying to get Charles to confess on tape.

The only poster for the film came out at the same time. It simply shows the faces of Amy and Charles blending into one another, which doesn’t necessarily offer anything creepy or explain much about the story. The only hints are in the copy reading “Based on the unthinkable true story,” but what makes the story unthinkable is unclear here.

Later in September the movie screened at the Zurich Film Festival where Redmayne talked about how he was intrigued by the script and excited at working with both Chastain and Lindholm. It also went on to screen at the BFI London Film Festival.

Chastain promoted the film when she appeared on “Kimmel.” Redmayne did likewise a couple weeks later when he appeared on “The Late Show.”

An extended spot released in the middle of October takes a slightly different approach from the trailer. It features a lot of footage already seen, but arranges it in a way to heighten the tension of Amy’s staged diner conversation with Charles.

Both stars took part in a featurette conversation about working together, the process they go through while acting and more.

At the film’s New York City premiere Chastain talked about the nerve-wracking experience of performing as the real life Amy Loughren looked on from behind the cameras. An interview with Redmayne had him pointing out Lindholm cast him against type for this role and what an exciting challenge that turned out to be.

The two stars also were on the red carpet at the recent Academy Museum Gala in Los Angeles.

Netflix put out a clip just as the movie was available showing more of a look at the confrontation between Amy and Charles.

overall

As stated above, this campaign isn’t all that creepy save for a few key moments of Redmayne looking menacing.

Instead the focus is more on the performances of the two leads and the fact that this is based on a true story. On that front it hits pretty well but also doesn’t contain much that sets it apart.

That’s particularly so when you consider Netflix has had a lot of publicity recently for their series about Jeffrey Dahmer. So the company has a true-crime dramatization that’s made headlines and maybe didn’t have the bandwidth for another big promotional push on a similar topic.