How Disney is selling its streaming original about a precocious young detective.
Based on the book of the same name by Stephan Pastis, this week’s Disney+ original feature Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made seems, on paper, to be a weird mashup of elements.
On the one hand, the story of Timmy (Winslow Fegley) seems similar to many Disney theatrical or made-for-TV movies of the past. Timmy lives with his single mother Patty (Ophelia Lovibond) and fancies himself a bit of an amateur detective. His partner in his agency is a massive polar bear only he can see, and they both have their work cut out for them when Patty’s car is stolen, leading them on all sorts of adventures.
On the other hand, the movie was cowritten and directed by Tom McCarthy, whose credits include Spotlight and The Station Agent.
Disney’s campaign for the movie has sold it as a quirky comedy geared toward kids, with broad comedy and imagination at the forefront.
Timmy is introduced on the first poster (by marketing agency BLT Communications) with the copy at the top reading “Small detective. Big imagination.” To emphasize that he’s shown riding down the street on his scooter, his polar bear partner right behind him. It’s a simple image with just a single photo used, but it works to make the essential point.
It was early January, just a month out from release, when the first trailer (384,000 views on YouTube) was dropped. As it opens, Timmy is in the principal’s office, the result of an incident that got everyone’s attention. We then jump to the backstory, including the fact that Timmy fancies himself a detective, running his own agency and with a polar bear as his assistant. That’s just one aspect of Timmy’s active imagination, which he uses as he searches for his mother’s stolen car and gets into a ton of hijinks and other adventures while doing so.
Online and Social
There’s no standalone website for the movie but it was promoted on the social profiles of Disney Studios, with the Disney+ accounts amplifying those posts.
Advertising and Promotions
A clip released around the time of Sundance has Timmy introducing himself and his detective agency – including his partner – to the audience.
Short videos like this were used not only as promotional tools on social media but as pre-roll ads online and as commercials elsewhere.
Just as the movie was about to become available, online ads that used a cropped version of the key art drove people to the Disney+ site where they could sign up.
Media and Press
During Sundance McCarthy was interviewed about taking a notable turn with this movie compared to his previous films. He engaged in a handful of other interviews as well to promote the film. News also came out a while ago that Disney was so happy with the movie it had already started developing a sequel.
There’s nothing revolutionary here, other than the fact that most movies like this don’t get screened at the Sundance Film Festival. Still, most all of the campaign hits the same marks you find in the advertising and promotions of any movie from Disney (or other studios) that featured plot points like Paul Giamati being painted blue and other such craziness.
But it’s charming in its way, and is just the kind of non-event content Disney+ will be stocking itself with to keep subscribers moderately engaged, the same strategy Netflix and others have used.