Two weeks ago the film and entertainment press gasped and clutched its collective pearls when a strange teaser video appeared out of the blue. As the camera pans across a lush landscape, captions tell us “This summer…a legend returns home.” Eventually we settle on actor Danny McBride, standing on a cliff and decked out as if he’s ready to explore the Outback, who goes on to give us his own version of the “That’s not a knife” scene from the 1986 classic Crocodile Dundee.
What was this? The video was posted to a YouTube account named “Dundee Movie” there was an accompanying Twitter account, leading to speculation original star Paul Hogan had finally found a way to continue the story of Mick Dundee, the Australian outdoorsman we first met over 30 years ago and haven’t seen since 2001’s Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles.
A few days later it seemed more clues were filled in with another teaser that shows McBride – this time identified as Brian Dundee – getting off a bus in the middle of nowhere. He’s greeted by an unnamed someone played by Thor star Chris Hemsworth, who kind of can’t believe he is who he says he is. In a third, the two of them are driving through the jungle, where Brian encounters a water buffalo blocking their way and tries to move it with his “mind energy,” recreating a scene from the original.
Questions continued to circulate. To what extent was Hogan involved? Why had no one caught wind of this movie being shot if it was already on the release calendar for this summer? Was Taika Waititi, who had just directed Hemsworth in Thor: Ragnarok, behind this?
It was only then that we found out no, this wasn’t the beginnings of a campaign for a movie where McBride would play the adopted son of Mick Dundee and Sue Charlton (Linda Kozlowski), returning to his father’s homeland after losing all his money and hoping to trade on the family legend by leading ill-informed guided tours of the Outback. This wasn’t yet another example of Hollywood reviving long-dormant intellectual property in a way that both continues the original story and reboots it with new characters going on their own journey.
Instead these were the opening salvos in a new campaign for Tourism Australia that will culminate with a new commercial during this weekend’s Super Bowl.
Teasing Super Bowl spots isn’t anything new. It’s a tactic that’s been used since at least 2006/7 to varying results both in terms of creativity and effectiveness. Too many companies didn’t catch the phrase “leak short previews” and instead heard “post the entire commercial a week before the game,” raising legitimate questions over whether the price of an in-game spot was worth it if half the potential audience has already shared it on their Facebook feed.
What Tourism Australia did is take a much more immersive and interesting approach. It’s probably safe to guess we haven’t seen anything in the teasers that will be in the final commercial. So these aren’t preview snippets. Instead they’re a narrative build-up to whatever that commercial will entail. This has been done before too, but what’s notable here is how committed the whole campaign to date has been to maintain the illusion. Consider the following:
- That @DundeeMovie Twitter account has videos, GIFs pulled from those videos, behind the scenes shots, Retweets of updates from the cast and more. You’ll also notice that in addition to Hemsworth, Australian actors Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Margot Robbie all seem to be involved as well.
- Rimfire Films, credited in the teaser, is the name of the production company behind the first two Dundee movies. The company’s website has been updated to facilitate inquiries about the new film.
- If you search for “dundee” or “rimfire films” on Google you’ll see paid ads at the top of the results that point you to an official website for Dundee that has the teaser videos, a gallery and more.
If you pay attention to film campaigns like I do you’ll agree all of this just *feels* like an official movie marketing effort. Everything being done is just…right. It fits. The cast has, on social media, played it completely straight and done everything they would usually do to help promote the film.
While we still don’t know what the actual Super Bowl spot is going to look like, the release of the full trailer showed that yes, this totally seems real. We see some of the same footage that’s been teased already but there’s an actual story here that would…make a fairly entertaining movie. In addition to the famous Aussies already revealed, Isla Fisher, Ruby Rose, one of the other Hemsworths and others show up to and we get the idea that Mick has gone missing, with Brian Dundee being called in to help find him. That’s…yeah, that sounds just as plausible as what I offered above.
Whatever comes next, Tourism Australia has done a remarkable job on two fronts: First, for marketing a film that doesn’t exist but which seems totally plausible given Hollywood’s penchant for strip-mining nostalgia. Second, for really getting people’s attention by engaging in tactics that, again, don’t seem at all far-fetched and fully committing to the concept.
Dundee may be all the more memorable because the great marketing campaign wasn’t marred by a movie that didn’t wind up being nearly as funny as the trailers. It gets to live in our memories as a great gag that had us all wondering what was happening and made us remember that cultural moment in the 1980s where Australia was the hot thing, with Mick Dundee in theaters and INXS and Midnight Oil in our tape decks.
Of course there is still the slim chance this turns into something more. It’s not hard to imagine someone at Paramount, which released the first movies, seeing the buzz that’s built up around the fake movie and deciding to capitalize on it by making a real sequel happen. Stranger things have happened. In the meantime let’s take this opportunity to enjoy having been fooled a bit, as well as remember that Chris Hemsworth really needs to do more straight comedies.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.