How Universal has sold the end of another dinosaur trilogy.
Jurassic World Dominion has an ambitious goal: Not only does it set out to conclude the trilogy of films begun in 2015 when director Colin Trevorrow brought us back to a world of genetically-resurrected dinosaurs but also put a cap on the sextology begun by director Steven Spielberg all the way back in 1993.
Picking up four years after the events of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, this one takes place in a world where
colons no longer exist dinosaurs have proliferated across the planet, upsetting the balance of nature.
Details of the story are relatively inconsequential, as the movie’s cast provides its major selling point. Not only do Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard return from the first two World films, but the core trio from the first films – Laura Dern, Sam Neill and Jeff Goldblum – all come back for the first time since the 1993 original. Oh, and of cours BD Wong once more reprises his role as Dr. Henry Wu, the scientist behind the mistakes made by so many other people.
Joining the cast are DeWanda Wise, Mamoudou Athie, Campbell Scott and others. But unfortunately Lauren Lapkus, Wayne Knight and Jake Johnson are nowhere to be found.
So, with all of that established, let’s take a look at the marketing campaign.
announcement and casting
While the movie was still a ways off from production, in September 2019 Universal released “Battle at Big Rock,” a short video directed by Trevorrow that showed what life in a dinosaur-filled country was like. The story was meant to fill in at least some gaps between Fallen Kingdom and the third film.
A short while later it was revealed this new movie would not only bring back Goldblum’s Ian Malcolm but also have Sam Neill and Laura Dern return to the franchise for the first time since Jurassic Park III.
In February of 2020, Trevorrow marked the first day of filming with a photo that also revealed the movie’s subtitle.
Pratt spent some of his time on the Onward press tour building anticipation for this film.
The movie was one of many to have its production put on hiatus because of the Covid-19 outbreak. A big deal was made when shooting restarted in July with safety precautions in place but the Malta-based production had to scale back in August due to another outbreak in that country. In October Universal moved the movie’s release date out an entire year because of continued production delays as well as the uncertainty still plaguing the U.S. theatrical market.
Neill made his return official with a post at the beginning of August.
In an interview in May, 2020, producer Frank Marshall clearly stated this was just the beginning for even more stories and not the end of a trilogy as some had suspected.
Reports came out in June that a fan-favorite character from the first Jurassic Park would be returning in this story.
Goldblum talked about not only making another appearance in the franchise but also reuniting with Neill and Dern when he was on “Late Night” in August. A bit later there were additional interviews with Goldblum on his own and with Neill.
In an interview with EW, Trevorrow talked about why he felt motivated to return for the series’ final installment and what he thought fans could look forward to.
Neill talked more about shooting the movie, including the Covid accommodations that had to be made, here.
The final day of filming was announced once again by Trevorrow, with details coming out later that over 40,000 Covid tests were used during production along with a raft of other safety protocols and challenges.
the marketing campaign phase one: we spared no expense
Universal announced in June 2021 that a special sneak preview of the movie would screen in from of IMAX showings of F9, giving it what was expected to be a massive platform. Trevorrow was interviewed about that footage, promising this movie would be the culmination of everything that had come in the five previous installments.
A commercial promoting that footage’s IMAX-only availability was released as F9 was hitting theaters.
Around the same time there were promotions of the new “VelociCoaster” ride at Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure theme park, including revelations there would be easter eggs from the new movie sprinkled around the ride that would hint at what fans could expect.
Universal gave CinemaCon attendees in August of last year a look at footage from this and other upcoming movies.
the marketing campaign phase two: it’s a unix system
Things got started again in November, 2021 when Universal released the five minute “prologue” footage that had earlier been shown in front of F9’s IMAX screenings. Trevorrow made it clear at that time that the footage had originally been intended to be this movie’s opening sequence but had been cut during the editing process.
There was also a poster to promote this video.
The director was interviewed about uniting the casts of the new and old trilogy while introducing some of the new dinosaurs in Total Film along with a couple of new photos. He also commented on the kind of story audiences could expect alongside another exclusive new photo.
In January U.S. ski racer Mikaela Shiffrin shared a Universal Pictures/Winter Olympics cross-promotional commercial showing her trying to outrun a velociraptor. Completing the corporate synergy trifecta, Shiffrin then talked about the commercial when she appeared on “Today.”
Another commercial featured Shaun White.
Marshall confirmed that, of course, this was not the end and that the franchise would continue after this trilogy finale.
the marketing campaign phase three: hold onto your butts
The campaign finally for real kicked off in February with the release of the first trailer (53.6m YouTube views). It starts off by showing how dinosaurs are now something people face in their everyday lives, though that has had disastrous consequences for them and the environment. After we see the reunion of Drs. Sattler and Grant we’re off to the races, with lots of running and escaping from various dinos until the end, when all the principles from the entire franchise are assembled in front of a T-rex.
The poster that came out at the same time puts the familiar franchise logo in a circle of amber while promising this is “The epic conclusion of the Jurassic era.”
Because the Super Bowl was broadcast on NBC it provided Universal with another chance at cross-promotion, so Pratt narrated a video introduction to the game that used the movie’s music, text style and more. Goldblum also appeared in a bit at Universal Studios.
An exhibit that mixed movie promotion with a little actual science opened at the National Western Center in Denver. It featured animatronic dinosaurs, a recreation of the lab from the first movie and more Instagrammable moments.
Both Pratt and Howard participated in the launch of a competition encouraging young artists to design a new ratings card for the British Board of Film Classification.
A pair of Empire covers featured both casts for an issue that contained a handful of new images, comments from the cast and director and more.
A featurette released in mid-April explores the legacy of the six-part series, with the cast talking about how things have progressed to this point and how this is them throwing everything against the wall to finish the story off.
the marketing campaign phase three: must go faster
In late April the next trailer (29.1m YouTube views) came out. This one starts off with Owen meeting Blue’s baby raptor, a baby that’s soon grabbed by hunters. From there the chaos starts as the heroes have to evade a series of bigger, more feathery and more dangerous dinosaurs because somehow riding a motorcycle will somehow save the world from disaster.
The same tagline is used on the next poster, but this time all seven of the primary cast members are shown, the new cast at the top and the older trio at the bottom.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar starred in a commercial that aired on ESPN.
In the first of many such pieces, Neill, Dern and Goldberg were jointly interviewed about reuniting and how easy it was for them to fall back into step after so many years, largely because they’ve remained friends.
Traditional TV advertising began around this time, with spots that hit all the main selling points seen in previous trailers and other material.
Barbasol announced it would release movie-branded cans of shaving cream in the payoff to a joke that’s almost 30 years old.
Additional promotional partners included:
- Dr. Pepper, which offered movie tickets, a t-shirt and more to Rewards members who earned sufficient points.
- General Mills, which put dinosaurs and other movie branding on packages of cereal, snacks and more.
- Kinder, which did likewise.
- Ferrara, which partnered with Fandango to offer movie cash and a chance to win other prizes in a sweepstakes requiring purchase of certain candy products.
- Progressive, which used footage from the “Prologue” in a commercial assuring those having their cars destroyed that all the damage was covered.
- China Glaze, which launched a line of movie-inspired cosmetics.
- Carl’s Jr./Hardees, which offered a selection of items in movie-branded packaging for just $.93 to celebrate the 1993 release of the original film.
Howard and Goldblum appeared together at CinemaCon 2022 as part of Univeral’s presentation to exhibitors and other executives/press.
Pratt appeared on “Today” and “The Tonight Show” to start promoting the film around the time tickets went on sale. That “Today” spot included the unveiling of a giant LEGO T-rex statue.
He then introduced a featurette that explains the film’s premise, with Trevorrow and others weighing in as well.
The Dolby Cinemas poster features an image from the trailer of Owen motorcycling away from a pack of raptors.
A short behind-the-scenes video shows Pratt and Howard meeting and interacting with Neill and Dern for the first time on set.
the marketing campaign phase four: woman inherits the earth
Dern, Howard and Wise were interviewed about the importance of female characters to the franchise, a theme that would come up a number of times in the last bits of the campaign. Those three, along with Isabella Sermon, then appeared in a featurette all talking about the same thing and paying tribute to Dern’s original turn as Ellie Satler.
Around this time there was an interview with Dern and Neill that highlighted something that didn’t register with a lot of people back in the day, which is that she’s 20 years younger than Neill but that despite that the two were established as a romantic couple in the first film.
In late May the movie was featured on the cover of Total Film, with exclusive interviews and photos in the issue.
The two casts squared off in a trivia quiz testing their knowledge of the series.
NowThis debuted exclusive footage that showed more of the real world implications of having dinosaurs roaming around.
Jeep once again signed on as a promotional partner, sharing a TV commercial showing how versatile a Jeep can be in a world overrun by dinosaurs.
A TikTok filter let people put themselves in a situation where they’re being chased by virtual dinos.
Pratt, Goldblum and Neill were all interviewed about the importance of father figures to the story and how that’s reflected in their own families.
Finally everyone was out for the world premiere in Los Angeles earlier this week.
Tracking has the movie opening with about $50 million this weekend, which might be enough to finally dethrone Top Gun: Maverick from its impressive showing.
But the paltry 42% Rotten Tomatoes rating hints that this one may not have the legs of that other sequel and may fall quickly to both the highly mixed reviews to date and what might not be great word of mouth from opening weekend audiences.
Despite all that, the campaign has been some fun, especially in seeing the easy rapport of Dern, Goldblum and Neill. The problem is that it stands in marked contrast to the forced chemistry of the other stars.
So you have a campaign that leans heavily on nostalgia but doesn’t do much to alleviate the concerns of those who thought the second World movie was a mess. But it did give us this moment, and that’s not nothing.