hocus pocus 2 – marketing recap

How Disney has sold a long-awaited supernatural sequel

Hocus Pocus 2 poster from Disney Studios
Hocus Pocus 2 poster from Disney Studios

This week’s Hocus Pocus 2 arrives on Disney+ just shy of 30 years after the original was released in theaters. Directed by Anne Fletcher and written by Jen D’Angelo, the movie once again stars the trio of Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy and Sarah Jessica Parker as the Sanderson sisters, a family of witches from the 17th century who find themselves once again released from their imprisonment. As in the original, the three sisters seek to bring chaos to the town of Salem, MA and find a way to remain free.

Doug Jones also returns as the zombiefied Billy Butcherson. New to the cast are Hannah Waddingham as Mother Witch, who looks to help the Sanderson sisters, Sam Richardson as Gilbert, the owner of the town magic shop, Tony Hale as Salem mayor Jeffrey Traske and Lilia Buckingham as his daughter Cassie. Along with her estranged friends Becca (Whitney Peak) and Izzy (Belissa Escobedo), Cassie will try and put the Sandersons back where they belong.

The first movie wasn’t a critical or box-office success, but home video and cable turned it into a beloved classic. That fan love was enough to eventually manifest this sequel, so let’s take a look at how it’s been sold.

announcement and casting

After lots of speculation and other reports, Disney finally set a 2022 release timeframe for the movie on Disney+ as well as announcing Fletcher was taking over directing duties.

Richardson was added to the cast in late October of last year, with Waddingham, Hale and others joining a short while later.

A first look photo of the three witches was released on Disney+ Day in November.

The Halloween release date was announced by Shankman earlier this year.

the marketing campaign

The first trailer (5m YouTube views) came out at the end of June. It starts by introducing us to Cassie, Izzy and Becca as they make plans that include stopping by the magic shop. When Becca and Izzy conduct a little spell it releases the Sanderson sisters, who set out immediately to reclaim their powers and gain their freedom.

“We’re back, witches” is the extremely family-safe play on words used on the accompanying poster, which shows the trio backlit so just their outlines can be seen. It’s very much a teaser poster and does an adequate job of conveying the core message that a sequel is on its way.

The three stars appeared in a short video where they watch and react to that trailer.

Waddingham appeared on “Kimmel” and talked about this movie along with other projects she’s involved in.

We get a better look at the three sisters on the next poster from late August. On this one they are “Back and more glorious than ever” as they make their way down a street of houses.

The sisters swap places with the young heroes of the story on the second poster that came out a couple weeks later. The witches here are seen looming over the action at the top of the design while the kids cautiously walk down the street with their bikes. It’s a pretty standard layout for a movie like this, the antagonists looking down at the protagonists, but it’s well-executed and contines the visual style already established.

The second trailer (7.1m YouTube views) was released in early September, opening with a flashback to the 1600s where Mother Witch apparently gives a teenage Winifred her book of spells. After that it’s a lot of the same bits seen in the first spot, but with more looks at how the Sandersons react to being in the 21st century, how the young girls try and remain safe while also figuring out how to send the witches back where they came from and more.

Midler, Najimy and Parker all took part in an interview covering how Midler was, among the three leads, the one pushing most regularly for a sequel after the first one became so popular but that they all signed on enthusiastically once it was greenlit.

A clip shows more of the Sandersons having to make due with what’s available as they seek to fly back to their home.

The final poster returns to the real value proposition of the movie and simply shows the Sanderson sisters on their various flying instruments as they run amuck through the fog.

In a featurette the original cast shares how excited they were to return to their characters while the new additions along with Fletcher talk about the movie’s story and what it means to add something new to the story.

We get a bit of new footage in a TV spot that positions the movie as the ultimate fall accessory. Another later commercial hits a slightly different selection of footage.

A series of character posters highlight the Sandersons: Mary, Winifred and Sarah.

overall

I don’t think there was any expectation that this was going to be a groundbreaking or hugely innovative campaign. After all, it’s for a streaming original that happens to be a sequel to a movie that only took on a life of its own well after it was on cable.

But what comes through in most of the material is a sense of joy and fun from the people who made it, particularly Midler, Parker and Najimy. That’s apparent not only in the trailers but also comes through in the interviews and featurettes, where the affection they have for the characters and the enjoyment they experienced at being able to return to this world is clear.

All of that goes a long way in elevating the marketing from a cute little effort to one that’s a lot more attractive, even if a good portion of the audience – especially those who grew up with those regular cable or home video viewings every Halloween – doesn’t need to know much beyond the fact the film is happening.

The Glorias – Marketing Recap

How Amazon Studios sold a biopic about a key feminist leader.

There are few people who had a bigger impact on American history in the 20th century than Gloria Steinem, and few actors who have a more stellar track record of outstanding performances than Julianne Moore. That makes it a natural fit for the latter to play the former, which is exactly what happens in the new film The Glorias.

It’s not just Moore, though. In the film, directed by Julie Taymor, that spans Steinem’s life from youth through her 40s, she’s also portrayed at various points by Alicia Vikander, Lulu Wilson, Ryan Kiera Armstrong and even Steinem herself. Based on her own memoir, the story follows the icon from her childhood through her career as a writer and into her role as a political and cultural activist fighting for women’s rights in the post-WWII era.

The movie has bounced around a few studios due to the coronavirus pandemic and the scheduling issues it’s created but comes to Amazon Prime today with a 72% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

The Posters

Just one poster (by marketing agency LA), which came out earlier this month. It shows two of the versions of Steinem featured in the film – those portrayed by Moore and Vikander – along with costar Janelle Monáe as Dorothy Pittman Hughes, who along with Steinem founded both Ms. Magazine and The Women’s Action Alliance. Her inclusion here seems highly intentional not just because of Monáe’s stardom but also because of the criticism often leveled at mainstream feminism, that it is primarily aimed at and designed for white women. Along with those individuals, the poster features a collage of key cultural artifacts such as the first Ms. Magazine cover, an Equal Rights Amendment button and some of Steinem’s media headlines.

The Trailers

The teaser trailer (430,000 views on YouTube), released at the beginning of September, offers a good first look at not only the story and how it uses multiple actors in the role of Steinem to span the eras depicted but also at how the movie has Taymor’s trademark visual panache. You get the basic high points and main messages here, especially about how Steinem used every opportunity to not take the safe path but instead break ground when necessary.

The official trailer (634,000 views on YouTube) only hit in the last two weeks and features even more of Taymor’s visuals and how she’s constructed the story. Steinem’s early years get a bit more attention as well, showing how she has to make compromises in order to get into the system she wants to change. It’s powerful and effective, especially at showing it to be a somewhat unusual or at least non-traditional biopic.

Online and Social

The movie’s official website opens with the trailer and has most of the usual marketing content. Along with that are a couple sections that are highly relevant to the subject matter.

First there’s “Get Involved,” which has information and links to When We All Vote and The United States of Women. The former is focused on turning out the vote while the latter is all about addressing issues specific to women across racial, ethnic and other lines.

Second is “Trailblazing Women,” where you can find information on some of the important women who influenced Steinem and her work, many of whom are featured in the film. Links to organizations associated with those women can also be found there.

Advertising and Promotions

The 2020 Sundance Film Festival served as the movie’s first public screening venue, earning positive reviews and buzz as a result. The cast and crew, along with Steinhem, were there to help promote the film.

LD Entertainment and Roadside Attractions partnered to acquire distribution rights after the festival ended.

In August the movie was officially removed from the theatrical calendar and a release directly on Amazon Prime scheduled for late September. At the end of the month a screening was held at Donna Karen’s home in The Hamptons.

Clips from the movie included Steinem and others fielding stupid questions at a press conference and more.

Media and Press

Taymor was interviewed during Sundance about the unusual format she applied to the movie instead of the usual biopic template and how she connected with Steinem, eventually getting her blessing to pursue the project. Steinhem was there herself and was just as opinionated on a number of topics, including the movie, as you’d hope she would be.

Other interviews with Taymor had her talking about adapting Steinem’s memoir and lots more, with some recent pieces touching on how the story relates to current events like the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Other media appearances included the cast talking on ExtraTV and Vikander chatting with Seth Meyers on “Late Night” and Moore on “The Tonight Show.”

Overall

There’s so much about this campaign that makes it fascinating, from the casting to the look and feel that comes with Taymor at the helm and more. It sells a movie that offers something unique and has a story to tell, one that should be more common than it currently is. The whole thing features a consistent brand, albeit one that is a whirlwind collage of imagery and visuals, all with Moore and the other stars at its center.

What jumps out most, though, is that the story doesn’t just feature a woman doing the unexpected for the period she lived in, but also clearly shows the misogyny and other attitudes that kept them out of certain jobs and environments for so long. Steinem is helped and encouraged by the other women around her, but there’s no “good guy” male figure here, one that wants to help breakdown boundaries. Instead they all want to keep her in her place, which is likely more realistic. For not shying away from that, it deserves kudos.

Picking Up The Spare

Costume designer Sandy Powell was interviewed about capturing the look of various periods in the story. 

Interesting roundtable here with Taymor and others about how the movie was made and the struggles the filmmakers had with securing financing.