How Orion is selling the return of history’s most excellent duo.
There are only a handful of examples of truly iconic pop culture duos. On that list has to be Theodore “Ted” Logan and William S. “Bill” Preston, Esq., better known as Bill (Alex Winter and Ted (Keanu Reeves).
Nearly 30 years after their last adventure, the pair – collectively known as the Wyld Stallions – are back in Bill & Ted Face the Music. Now middle-aged, the two find themselves still not having fulfilled their destiny, writing a song that would unite the world and usher in a utopian era of everyone being excellent to each other. When they’re contacted by Kelly (Kristen Schaal), the granddaughter of Rufus (the late George Carlin), and told the future is in jeopardy, they hop back in the time-traveling phone booth and try to set things back on track.
When problems develop with their own quest, help arrives in the form of Ted’s daughter Wilhelmina (Brigette Lundy-Paine) and Bill’s daughter Theodora (Samara Weaving), who have their own destiny to fulfill. Along the way there’s the return of Death (William Sadler), who has a grudge against the families.
Generally positive reviews have given the movie an 82 percent “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and it’s been sold as a rocking good time for audiences who want some pure escapism without the burden of a massive Marvel-esque mythology and franchise history.
The first poster (by marketing agency Art Machine) came out this past February and really tells the audience – at least those who are familiar with such things – all they need to know by showing the time machine phone booth lit up as if it’s just landed. It’s simple but effective, using a key bit of iconography from the first movies to promise more is coming in a new installment.
A similar picture of the phone booth is used on the second poster, released in June. This time, though, Bill and Ted are shown from behind walking toward it.
Finally, the theatrical poster from July has the two, along with their daughters, facing the camera. Behind them the supporting characters are packed into the phone booth, promising audiences that a lot of others will be along for the ride.
The first trailer (16 million views on YouTube)came out in early June, introducing us to the fact that Bill and Ted are still rocking after all these years, though their popularity and influence aren’t what they once were. That means they’re failing in their goal to unite the world through music. To fix this, they decide to travel to the future and steal the song they *will* write, encountering various problems – including Death himself – along the way.
A second trailer(26.7 million views on YouTube) came out in late July that offered a much more complete look at the story, including how and why Bill and Ted are recruited to play their one song that will save the world, the problems they get into along the way and how their daughters are absolutely following in their footsteps. There are some great moments here that show the spirit of the originals is still intact, even if the title characters are a bit older, and that there’s a lot of comedy still to be had with them.
Online and Social
The takeover of the official website’s landing page shows a grid filled with options for VOD viewing along with a link to buy tickets to the movie’s limited theatrical bookings.
Close that and you have a fun site, with an interactive pay phone that lets you dial a couple numbers to hear a brief audio clip from either Bill and Ted or Death himself. Also on the page are links to find out more about the movie’s sponsored Snapchat filter, listen to the soundtrack, get a downloadable background and lots more.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
After a long period of rumor and speculation, Reeves and Winter (kind of in character) announced the movie was officially happening in March of last year.
It may not have been part of the formal marketing campaign, but Bill – two versions, actually: one young and one old – appeared in a Walmart commercial that was part of a campaign from the retailer featuring vehicles and characters from many classic and recent sci-fi films.
A site was launched in April that encouraged fans to upload videos of themselves playing or air-playing along with select tracks, with the promise that some of them would wind up in the movie in some fashion.
Winter and Reeves made a video appearance in the graduation video for San Dimas High School.
A virtual panel for Comic-Con@Home, moderated by Kevin Smith and featuring Reeves, Winter and others, was announced in June. That panel wound up including Winter, Reeves and others from the cast and crew, all of whom shared a few details about the film and talked about how much they enjoyed returning to or entering the world of these characters.
The release date was pushed by two weeks so Paramount could avoid going head-to-head with Tenet, which Warner Bros. shifted the release date of in late June. A month later Orion announced the film would be released via premium VOD along with whatever theaters happen to be available instead of sticking to a traditional theatrical release pattern. The final release date came earlier in August.
Weezer released a video for “Beginning of The End,” that featured footage from the film and more.
TV advertising kicked off with spots that condensed the story down to its core attributes, showing people that Bill and Ted still have some adventure left in them. Those spots debuted at about the same time tickets went on sale, with bonus content available to those who pre-ordered the movie.
There was also a sponsored Snapchat lens.
The only promotional partner that was evident was Bazooka Bubble Gum, which offered a movie shirt and some gum as the prize for a sweepstakes.
Lionsgate put out a call in mid-August for people to join together to set a Guinness World Record for the most people air guitaring simultaneously. A compilation of some of the submissions received was put out earlier this week.
A 360-degree VR experience was released in late August that took people inside Bill and Ted’s world, from their garage rehearsal space to a trip through time in the phone booth.
The first clip came out around that same time showing Bill and Ted once more encountering Death, who is obsessed with simple games.
Reeves and Winter put out a “Thank You” video aimed at the fans who have spent decades longing for more time-traveling adventures.
Media and Publicity
The first still was released in December of last year showing adult Bill and Ted reuniting with an old friend, namely Death himself. A month or so later another photo, this time showing the leads with their daughters, came out.
Winter and Reeves were interviewed here about returning to these characters and their own friendship. That was just one of a series of articles and interviews with the two along with other stories that covered how the project finally turned from a dream into reality.
A series of technical-centric interviews came out in the last couple weeks that covered how the production design team worked to create the film’s look and feel, how the costume designers outfitted all the characters, how Steven Soderbergh played an integral role in making the sequel happen and how creator Ed Solomon approached getting back into the groove with these characters.
There were also additional interviews with Reeves and Winter about their return after so many years, including how music played a key role in creating a vibe on set, the process of getting the project approved and how the filmmakers assembled a band that would be suitably iconic.
That point was also touched on when the pair appeared on “The Late Show” to thank the fans for continuing to plead for a new installment.
This is just a fun campaign, one that seems like a much-needed antidote to the relatively dark times we seem to be living through at the moment. There are dozens of essays that could be written about the “Be excellent to each other” ethos espoused by the title characters, but it’s a message that comes through loud and clear in this campaign, which shows that two best friends supporting each other through thick and thin and following their passions can truly change the world.
Just a big, fun effort that works far more than it falters, especially in the moments where it lets the younger generation share equal screen time with the older one. Everything fans have loved about Bill & Ted for over 30 years is, based on this campaign, still there, and it’s nice that so much time has been devoted to acknowledging their commitment to making the film happen.