Originally meant for theaters, Disney’s holiday feature becomes the latest release to get shunted to streaming.
The idea of Santa Claus being a title passed through a family isn’t exactly new. Fred Claus, Arthur Christmas and other movies have used variations on the conceit to various degrees of success.
Now Disney revisits the premise with Noelle. Anna Kendrick stars as the titular Noelle, Santa’s daughter. With the title of Santa about to be bequeathed to her brother Nick (Bill Hader), she’s in full support mode, ready to help Nick get ready for his big debut. The problem is that Nick doesn’t seem very enthusiastic about the position and Noelle has to do a lot of propping up.
When Nick disappears just days before Christmas things get even more complicated. With the success of the holiday on the line, Noelle has to head down south to find her wayward brother.
Despite the top-line cast – which includes Julie Haggerty, Billy Eichner and others – the movie is coming not to theaters but as one of the launch titles for Disney+, the company’s subscription streaming service launching tomorrow. That lack of confidence in the prospects of the film may be behind some of the choices made in the campaign that’s been run.
“Saving Christmas together? Oh joy.”
That’s the tagline used on the only one-sheet (by marketing agency LA) for the film, which shows Noelle and Nick looking at the camera slightly befuddled and less than enthusiastic about where they are. While the sentiment may be one familiar to anyone who’s not thrilled about the social requirements of the holiday season, it’s not one that’s supported by the rest of the campaign. Not only that, it seems directly counter to the story shown in the trailer. There seems to be little thought given to the design, which includes the promotional graphic for Disney+ showing all the brand logos under the company’s umbrella.
We meet Noelle Kringle in the first trailer (3.6 million views on YouTube), released in August at the same time as D23. Her brother Nick is about to assume the mantle of Santa Claus, despite being not that enthused for the job. She tries to help him and encourages him to get away, which he does just before Christmas. It’s her job to find him, then, and sets out to save Christmas but has some very “fish out of water” moments while venturing outside the North Pole. It’s the charm of Kendrick and Hader that make what looks like a cheesy story appear to be somewhat intriguing.
Online and Social
There doesn’t seem to be any official web presence for the film, not even a social profile of its own. Disney+ has given it support on its social channels, but that’s it.
Advertising and Publicity
The start of production, along with an apparent name change, was announced by Kendrick in 2017 on, of course, her Instagram feed. While it was originally meant for theatrical release the movie was pulled by Disney from its schedule and shifted over to what at the time was its unlaunched OTT streaming service, the first feature film to be designated for that platform. It’s inclusion in the catalog of what was eventually known as Disney+ was later confirmed.
Costumes from the movie were on display at D23 in August, where the trailer debuted.
Yahoo! debuted the first clip from the film in early November, showing Noelle trying to get the new Santa ready for his first night out.
An early screening for readers of the Disney Parks Blog was held last week.
Media and Press
There were a few interviews with Kendrick, including an appearance on “Good Morning America” but there doesn’t seem to have been a great deal of effort put into a press push.
Based on what’s shown of the movie, it absolutely seems like the kind of film that would have received a significant theatrical release 20 years ago. It has a well-liked cast with plenty of name recognition, a charming concept and a sense of familiarity that would have helped attract a decent audience. It would have made $90 million dollars at the box office and been considered a success.
While being part of launch day is a big deal, that the title finds itself on Disney+ is telling not just of how the theatrical marketplace has changed but how much confidence Disney has in anything that’s not part of a franchise brand. The marketing has a distinct lack of enthusiasm feel about it, like the company knew it had to do something with it but didn’t want to divert resources from the meta take on “High School Musical” or the big-budget “The Mandalorian.”
Picking Up the Spare
Kendrick was interviewed by Trevor Noah when she appeared on “The Daily Show” just as the movie was becoming available.
I’ve noticed a handful of online ads like this that lead back to the Disney+ site.