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.

pinocchio (disney live action) – marketing recap

How Disney is selling another retelling of a classic fairy tale

Pinocchio movie poster from Disney Studios
Pinocchio movie poster from Disney Studios

Disney continues to hold on to its important intellectual property by remaking animated classics as “live action” films with this week’s Pinocchio. Robert Zemeckis directs the film, which has Benjamin Evan Ainsworth providing the voice of the wooden puppet who dreams of becoming a real boy. Frequent Zemeckis collaborator Tom Hanks stars (and actually acts on screen) as Geppetto, the kindly toymaker that brings Pinocchio into this world. Cynthia Erivo provides the voice of The Blue Fairy that grants Pinocchio’s wish while Joseph Gordon-Levitt does likewise for everyone’s favorite voice of reason, Jiminy Cricket.

Everyone knows the story, which is likely unchanged since 1940. But what makes this week’s release – which happens on Wednesday as the cornerstone of this year’s Disney+ Day – more interesting is that it’s one of two Pinocchio adaptations coming out this year, with Netflix releasing one from writer/director Guillermo del Toro in December.

So with all that in mind, let’s take a look at how it’s been sold.

announcements and casting

The project was announced with Zemeckis in the director’s chair in January of 2020, though the film had been in development with other directors for several years prior to that. Hanks, who had long been rumored for the movie when it was in various stages of development, finally made the deal official in August of that year. More, including Swinton, Blanchett and others, were announced later that month.

Disney announced in December 2020 during its investors presentation that the film would skip theaters and go straight to Disney+.

The cast was announced in November of last year.

the marketing campaign

A first look at Hanks as Geppetto as well as of the “live action” version of Pinocchio was released in early March, 2022.

Things really got underway in late May with the release of the first teaser trailer (5.2m YouTube views). It starts with Geppetto’s wish for a boy of his own and shows some of the action and adventure the story contains. But while we see Jiminy Cricket and some of the other characters, Pinocchio himself is kept mostly hidden.

He’s also only shown as a silhouette on the poster that came out at the same time.

A better look is provided on the next one-sheet, which came out at the end of August. It shows Pinocchio, still just in profile, sitting in front of Geppetto while some of the other well-known supporting characters hang out in the background.

That coincided with the second trailer (9.6m YouTube views). There’s not much to say about it since it shows the look of the film pretty effectively while assuring the audience it has all the expected story beats and will contain absolutely no surprises when they watch it.

A TV spot released at the same time cuts down the trailer into a much more lighthearted message without all the scares and thrills that are shown in the longer version.

Hanks, Erivo and others from the cast talk about why they got involved in this project and what the story means to them in a featurette.

A few more TV commercials and other promos were released that highlight different aspects of the story before the first clip showing Pinocchio being rescued by Jiminy was released at the beginning of September.

Tom Hanks lists Disney movies in another short video that is supposed to be him listing his favorites.

overall

And…that’s it.

With a few exceptions (cough…Dumbo…cough), Disney’s brand-retention content has been successful with audiences, even if some of the reviews haven’t been stellar. But they’ve done well enough that the studio already has quite a few more in the planning stages.

This one stars one of the biggest actors of the last 40 years and comes from a director responsible for some of pop culture’s most memorable films. And…that’s it. There’s been almost no press for the film, and the entire thing seems lackluster, like the studio is just counting on brand recognition alone to get people to tune in tomorrow.

More than anything, I hope the lackluster effort here is noticed by critics and commentators who are always criticizing Netflix for its lack of substantial marketing campaigns. That isn’t unique to Netflix but is a symptom of the different economics behind selling a streaming-only film compared to a theatrical release.

That being said, there’s nothing offensive or bad about the campaign. It’s just…there.

lightyear – marketing recap

You…are…a…prequel? Sequel? Something different?

Lightyear poster from Disney and Pixar
Lightyear poster from Disney and Pixar

DisneyPixar get extraordinarily meta with this week’s new film Lightyear, coming exclusively to theaters. The movie stars Chris Evans as Buzz Lightyear, who…well, this is where it gets a little tricky.

This Buzz is the real life astronaut who inspired the action figure audiences first met in 195’s Toy Story. The story takes place about 10 years before the events of that film and follows Buzz as he and other astronauts seek to escape the alien planet they’ve been marooned on and find their way back to Earth. That crew includes Uzo Aduba as Alisha Hawthorne and later, after a bit of wibbly-wobbly space-time craziness, Keke Palmer as Alisha’s grandaughter Izzy. Taika Waititi voices Mo Morrison and Dale Soules voices Darby Steel, both fellow recruits working with Buzz. James Brolin voices the real Emperor Zurg.

Put another way, this is the live action movie released within the Toy Story universe that told Buzz’s story, a movie that then was turned into a line of toys etc.

The movie is directed by Angus MacLure, who cowrote the script with Jason Headley. With all that established, let’s take a look at how the campaign was run.

announcements and casting

The movie was one of several announced by Disney during its December 2020 investors presentation, but had been in the works for a few years already after MacLure expressed interest in telling a more definitive story of Buzz’s origins than had been shared in a 2000 direct-to-video movie.

That announcement included news of Evans being cast as the voice of Buzz. Waititi joined a year later, with Brolin, Efren Ramirez and Isiah Whitlock Jr. reported to also be cast in early 2022.

the marketing campaign phase one: to infinity…

Things started off in October, 2021, with the release of a teaser poster that doesn’t show much beyond the familiar space suit of the titular astronaut.

The first teaser trailer (14m YouTube views) was also released at that time. It doesn’t explain a whole lot but does tease a great deal, showing Lightyear taking off on a mission, flying his ship through various locations and ultimately seeing what would become his well-known suit at the very end.

It wasn’t until February that the full trailer (18.8m YouTube views) came out. This one explains how Buzz is taking off on a mission after he and others have spent a long time marooned on a distant planet. From there on we see the kinds of dangers he’ll encounter as he comes across an army of killer robots and other threats, all while accompanied by Socks, his robotic cat companion.

Another poster came out at the same time, this one showing Buzz striding purposefully across a tarmac where we see all manner of ships parked, presumably ready for action.

In March the movie came to the center of a controversy that was rocking Disney at the time, namely the issue of LGBTQ+ representation and related matters. As Pixar employees were planning a walkout over the company’s failure to denounce (and even support) Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, the studio took a small step in the right direction by restoring a same-sex kiss between Hawthorne and her partner that had previously been cut.

The movie was among those touted by Disney during their CinemaCon presentation in April of this year, with attendees getting a look at 30 minutes of footage that included the queer sub-plot that had caused so much controversy.

Another trailer (17.1m YouTube views) came out around that same time. It starts with Buzz testing a rocket launch after he and his team have been marooned on a planet for a year. But when he returns after what feels like a short flight he finds he’s been gone for 62 years. New threats have emerged on the planet and it’s up to him to lead an inexperienced team to defeat the bad guys and finally make it back to Earth.

The poster this time around has Buzz staring out into space.

Disney released a video right after that of Evans, Palmer and Waititi reacting to the trailer.

At the beginning of May a “special look” came out that seemed like another trailer but at the very least added some more context to the story that had been shared to date.

Another new poster added Zurg and some of those helping Buzz, including Sox, to the mix, the base the heroes operate from shown in the foreground. That same team is shown on a second one-sheet from mid-May, this time running into action.

Blue Apron introduced movie-themed meal kits at this point to attract parents of kids who may be interested in the film and want to have a meal inspired by it.

the marketing campaign phase two: go sox

TV spots began running in early June with commercials that focused on the heroic space adventures, the fuzzy cuteness of Sox and more.

Of course the first clip from the film was one showing Buzz unboxing Sox for the first time. Another, this one exclusively given to Fandango, has Buzz and his ad hoc team being briefed on their mission.

All this (and more) was part of a shift in focus by the campaign away from the core story and onto the characters, especially Sox. That was seen in some of the clips and other assets that made sure audiences knew that not only was Sox unbelievably adorable but that there was a diverse and interesting team supporting the title character on his adventures.

The main three stars then were featured unboxing some of the toys people can buy.

While the movie was being released theatrically, Disney+ got a documentary on the history of the character and how he was developed for the first Toy Story movies. There was also a featurette with MacLure, Evans and others talking about the origins of the story, including looks at the voice recording and introductions to the rest of Buzz’s team.

An exclusive poster from RealD 3D shows Buzz taking on Zurg.

Evans appeared on “Kimmel” to talk about the film and what it was like to add his own take to a well-known character, something he also spoke about a few days earlier at the movie’s premiere. He also weighed in on the same-sex kiss conversation while attending the Annecy Film Festival where the premiere was happening.

The next featurette shows the cast praising Evans’ performance as Buzz, something that was well-timed since this was about when various parties started calling out Disney for not casting Tim Allen in the film, the presumption being that his more conservative politics were no longer welcome at Woke Disney. Another offers a better introduction to the supporting characters by the actors who voice them.

overall

There are two stories being sold here:

First is the story of the movie itself, which given no other information is communicated to the audience as the story of the real Buzz Lightyear and how he gained a reputation as a legendary Space Ranger beloved by the masses.

Second is the backstory/context that’s been explained by MacLure and others to make sure nerds understand where this story fits in with the adventures of Toy Buzz after Andy unwraps him as a birthday present.

That second one isn’t found in the campaign proper but has been covered extensively in various interviews with the director and others, but it seems to be completely unnecessary to understand and enjoy the film itself, so only go as deep into those waters as you feel comfortable.

What’s on display here is good enough and will likely be more attractive to those with young kids who are looking for something to do with those kids now that summer vacation is fully underway. The mixed reviews that have given the movie an 82% on Rotten Tomatoes probably won’t dissuade them, especially if they themselves have fond memories of seeing Toy Story in theaters, contributing to what’s expected to be an opening weekend box-office take of $100 million, give or take.

chip ‘n’ dale: rescue rangers – marketing recap

How Disney has sold a feature take on a popular animated series.

Chip 'n' Dale: Rescue Rangers movie poster from Disney+
Chip ‘n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers movie poster from Disney+

Chip ‘n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers hits Disney+ today as a meta follow-up to the series of the same name from the late 1980s. In this version, Chip (voiced by John Mulaney) and Dale (voiced by Andy Samberg), meet and become friends in school before going on to star in the “Rescue Ranger” series. When professional ambitions pull Dale into a solo career, he and Chip part ways. 30 years later they are forced to reunite and put aside their differences to help their old friend Monterey Jack (voiced by Eric Bana), who was kidnapped as part of a toon bootlegging operation.

The movie also features cameos – either live action or in voice form – from Seth Rogen, Will Arnett, Rachel Bloom and a host of others. It’s directed by Samberg’s fellow Lonely Island member Akiva Schaffer, who convinced Disney to include animated characters from Warner Bros. Nickelodeon, Sony and other companies and then convinced those others to lend their characters for the film.

announcements and casting

The movie was one of several announced by Disney during its 2020 investors presentation, though it had been in development for six years or so at that point. In 2019 Schaffer was brought on as the film’s director with Dan Gregor and Doug Mand writing the script.

That December 2020 announcement included the casting of Samberg and Mulaney, though it was later confirmed Tress MacNeille and Corey Burton, who voiced Chip and Dale (respectively) in the original series, would also return.

the marketing campaign

Things kicked off in mid-February with the release of a teaser trailer (3.2m YouTube views) that immediately communicates what kind of story the audience can expect. Presented as an “E! True Hollywood Story” type show, we see Chip and Dale rise in popularity thanks to their show before it all comes crashing down. 30 years later they have to put their differences aside to help their friend, with lots of hijinks along the way. It manages to explain why they two are animated in different styles and show off some of the animated cameos that will provide much of the appeal.

The partners are back-to-back on the poster released at the same time, which promises “It’s not a reboot. It’s a comeback.”

The full trailer (3.6m YouTube views) then came out in late April. It offers more of the same, with a few more cameos, a bit more explanation of the story and so on, but the message to the audience hasn’t changed here.

Similarly the next poster shows the two chipmunks striding toward the camera with an explosion behind them but otherwise is sending the same message as the first one-sheet.

The first TV spot, also used for pre- and post-roll online, is just a cutdown version of that second trailer. Additional commercials varied slightly.

A half-dozen character posters came out earlier this month with the same messaging as the other one-sheets, just featuring closer looks at some of the key people and animated characters.

A clip was released a week before the movie debuted that offers an extended look at Dale explaining the CGI surgery he had to revitalize his look for the modern age.

The cast and crew came out for the red carpet premiere in Hollywood earlier this week.

Two more posters were released that poke fun at the kinds of designs frequently featured on the one-sheets for action movies.

Both Samberg and Mulaney filled in for Jimmy Kimmel when he had Covid (again), interviewing each other about this movie and generally goofing around.

Chip and Dale narrate a tongue-in-cheek making-of featurette that has a few more cameos but is basically a way to continue the self-aware nature of the movie. Another video offers a look at some of the voice cast recording their lines alongside the finished footage.

Banner ads like this drove people to the Disney+ site to find out more about how they could watch the film. Audio ads on Spotify in the last week have also promoted the film’s streaming debut.

Chip ‘n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers online banner ad

overall

First off, I kind of called this back in 2016.

That out of the way, the largely positive reviews – it currently has a 79% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes – have compared it favorably to Who Framed Roger Rabbit for its self-aware story and ability to bring together a number of different animated franchises.

Roger Rabbit Dancing GIF by Disney+ - Find & Share on GIPHY

But the key is likely going to be whether people enjoy the kind of riffing Samberg and Mulaney are known for. That’s a big part of the campaign and will either make people definitely seek it out or avoid it at all cost.

cheaper by the dozen – marketing recap

How Disney has sold the latest adaptation of a famous efficiency study.

Cheaper By The Dozen movie poster
Cheaper By The Dozen movie poster

That Cheaper By The Dozen – and the two previous film versions from 1950 and 2003 – is an adaptation of what amounts to a slightly fictionalized version of a real-time study in productivity and efficiency is probably lost on most modern audiences. The original 1948 novel was based on the true experiences of Frank Bunker Gilbreth and Lillian Moller Gilbreth and their brood of 12 children, the latter studied by their parents for how to run a tight, efficient household with so much going on.

Gabrielle Union and Zach Braff step into the roles of Zoe and Paul Baker. After the pair were married they merged their existing families and added to it, resulting in the 12 kids running roughshod over their house, schedules and lives, all while trying to run their own business.

Where the 1950 film with Clifton Webb and Myrna Loy remained somewhat loyal to the source novel, the 2003 version with Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt played as a much broader comedy, a trend this iteration seems to continue. With the movie about to arrive on Disney+, let’s take a look at how it’s been marketed.

announcements and casting

The project first got started in 2016 when Kenya Barris said he was producing a new version of the story for, at the time, 20th Century Fox. It became a Disney+ original film in 2019 when Disney acquired Fox.

Disney made news of the movie being in the works officially during its presentation to investors in late, 2020. Union’s casting was revealed at that time, with Braff joining early in 2021.

Union and Braff shared a brief video update announcing a March 2022 release on Disney+ Day in November of last year.

the marketing campaign

The trailer (1.1m YouTube views) was released in early February. It opens by showing the size of Zoe and Paul’s family and the logistics necessary to keep everything moving as well as how their unusual family structure is sometimes viewed as odd by those on the outside. The focus here is largely on the antics the kids get into, especially the younger ones, and the often flummoxed reaction of Paul and Zoe to the mayhem unfolding around them, signalling this a “family friendly” comedy being sold.

The poster that came out at the same time sells precisely the premise and little else, showing Zoe and Paul’s faces mashed into a pileup of their kids and pets.

The Bakers arrive at a pool party and in a short commercial released a week or two later.

In early March the advertising portion of the campaign kicked into higher gear with spots that introduced the Bakers, showed how they support each other in public and more.

Disney also released a series of character posters with Zoe, Paul and their kids each getting their own one-sheet, though a couple pairs of twins do share. Even the dogs got their own posters.

The cast tried to explain the story in a dozen words in a little featurette. Union, who also served as producer, is featured in another video talking about how she has approached a blended family in real life and what she’s brought from that to the screen.

Another poster has the whole family lounging in Paul and Zoe’s bed to once again show off how crowded their life and house are.

Both Union and Braff recently appeared on “GMA” to talk about the movie.

overall

As I mentioned above, everything here is “family friendly” in the most widely understood use of the term. It’s being sold as a movie that anyone from three to 89 years old can watch and generally enjoy without fear of being offended at all, unless of course you’re still in the nine percent or so who feel interracial marriage is a bad thing for society.

You can take issue with some of the details, and I know that people’s tolerance for Zach Braff sometimes varies wildly, but this is a generally pleasant campaign for what looks like a generally pleasant movie.

What stands out, if you’re familiar with the source material, is that (at least based on the marketing materials), this new adaptation seems to have jettisoned completely the idea of family/organizational efficiency or any ties to the Gilbreth legacy. Even the 2003 movie had Hunt’s character play an author who had written about the family. Now it’s just a premise and familiar brand.

random thoughts on: “hawkeye”

I’ve got some things to say about The Avenging Archer’s streaming series.

As has likely been previously stated on multiple occasions, I’m a long-standing old-school fan of Hawkeye, having made my comic-collecting bones with the original West Coast Avengers series.

So, despite never really loving Jeremy Renner’s take on the character in the MCU (outside of a handful of small moments), I was still excited when Marvel Studios announced Hawkeye would get a streaming series on Disney+. And I was even more excited when it came out Hailee Steinfeld would play Kate Bishop, who in the comics adopted the Hawkeye name when Clint Barton was killed during the “Avengers Disassembled” storyline.

As such I have a number of thoughts now that the series finale has aired. Spoilers after the all-time great cover art.

Still with me? OK, let’s dive in.

It’s a very enjoyable show. I still have my issues with Renner’s performance, especially since he spends half the show apologizing to someone, largely for things that were outside of his control. But Steinfeld’s exuberance, Florence Pugh’s return as Yelena Belova and more make up for it in a lot of ways. It’s a nice mash-up of elements from the Matt Fraction/David Aja Hawkeye comics series that essentially rebooted the character as well as the previous MCU films. There are plenty of surprises, lots of action and some great dialogue. And hey, we get to see Pizza Dog on screen, so it can’t be all bad.

Golden Retriever Pizza GIF by Marvel Studios - Find & Share on GIPHY

My main issue with the show is that it is premised around Avengers: Endgame existing, which isn’t a great place to start.

Renner finally has someone to play off, which improves things dramatically. In the movies to date he’s usually relegated to group scenes, which means he gets lost in the clutter because he’s not as dynamic a personality as some of his costars. If the show had doubled down on putting Clint and Kate into something even more Running Scared-esque it would have been even better.

Hailee Steinfeld Hawkeye GIF by Marvel Studios - Find & Share on GIPHY

On the topic of some supporting characters:

  • Knowing the comics history, I’m surprised we didn’t get a bigger payoff for Tony Dalton’s Jack Duquesne. As the series went on I imagined two or three different ways that could go but it just kind of fizzled out.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, thank the maker Linda Cardellini’s Laura Barton finally got some backstory and character development. The underuse of Cardellini to date has been criminally negligent, and if she is who I (and many others online) think she is, I couldn’t be happier.

Florence Pugh for the win in all of her scenes. Give me a six-part series of her and Steinfeld just talking about places to visit in New York City.

Excited Mac And Cheese GIF by Marvel Studios - Find & Share on GIPHY

We still haven’t seen Clint’s MCU origin story. Every other Avenger has had one, often in their own standalone movie. Even Natasha’s beginnings have been shown via flashback in a handful of movies. But we still don’t know how Clint got to the point where we meet him in Thor or The Avengers.

Now you can say that watching someone learn how to shoot an arrow really well isn’t that interesting, but in the comics his story is much more complex than that (and involves a character from the show). And without it we don’t know what his motivations are. Why did he join SHIELD? Where did he hone his skills?

The lack of backstory is one of the reasons I’ve never been fully on board with MCU Clint Barton. Comics Clint is not only a bit of a hothead but also kind of a flim-flam man, scamming himself out of as many situations as he shoots himself out of.

  • Avengers West Coast Epic Collection: How The West Was Won – Get the original mini-series, the start of the ongoing and more in a collection of stories that are as much about overcoming self-doubt and imposter syndrome as they are about super heroics. Roger Stern and Steve Engleheart write some fantastic comics here.
  • Avengers: Hawkeye – This edition collects Hawkeye’s first solo series, a mini from 1983, that includes the story of how he met the SHIELD agent known as Mockingbird and how he lost partial hearing, something that’s finally integrated into the on-screen character.
  • West Coast Avengers Vol. 1: Best Coast – Kelly Thompson’s 2018 WCA series is lots of fun, paying homage to the original while featuring the Kate/Clint dynamic that’s introduced by Fraction/Aja. Speaking of which…
  • Hawkeye by Fraction & Aja: The Saga of Barton and Bishop – This edition collects the whole of that series, which sets up much of what comes later and heavily influenced the style of the show.
  • Mockingbird Vol. 1: I Can Explain – You can’t understand Clint Barton without also understanding Bobbi Morse, so pick up Chelsea Cain’s excellent Mockingbird solo book while you’re at it.

Of course if you want to be a completist, don’t miss out on the additional volumes that come after what’s listed below. There are also a number of other great Hawkeye – either Clint or Kate – collections of other mini-series and solo outings, but the list here should give you a good starting point.

free guy – marketing recap

how Fox Disney has sold an action-comedy about life inside a video game

Ryan Reynolds and Jodie Comer star in this week’s Free Guy, directed by Shawn Levy. Reynolds plays Guy, an NPC (non-playable character, i.e. background cannon fodder) in an open-world video game created by Antwan (Taika Waititi). When two of Antwan’s developers insert new code into the game, Guy becomes self-aware, realizing he lives in a video game. Millie (Comer), one of those developers, uses her avatar to explore the game and help Guy save the game before Antwan, who doesn’t care for the updates or the attention Guy’s self-directed actions has attracted.

The movie, which has a solid 86% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, was one of the last developed by 20th Century Fox before it was acquired by Disney a couple years ago. It finally hits theaters this week after a number of delays and a marketing campaign that has acknowledged those delays with winking humor.

announcement and casting

The movie had been in various stages of development at Fox for a few years, with Levy and Reynolds signing on in 2018/19, finally moving things forward. Comer joined in 2019, leading to production getting fully underway.

comic-con and the first marketing attempts

As the movie had its official coming out with a well-received panel at New York Comic-Con in October, Fox released a “Meet the Cast” video that had everyone talking about how excited they were to work with the others. It included Reynolds and Waititi claiming they have never worked together before, while Comer and Keery try to correct the record, a nice bit of fun that’s in line with the public personas of both actors.

Unfinished footage from the film was also shown off to NYCC attendees, while a sizzle reel of the panel and press activities from the convention was released shortly after it ended.

Guy takes on a traditional super hero pose on the first poster (by marketing agency LA), standing with his shirt opened to show what’s underneath, which in this case is just another shirt and tie. It’s meant to communicate his ordinary nature, that he’s not a hero and doesn’t have hidden abilities and thanks to Reynolds’ expression that comes off as genuine.

Reynolds and others traveled to Brazil in December to appear at CCXP, where they showed off the trailer and other footage while working to get the audience there excited for the film.

December 2019’s first trailer (14.4m views on YouTube) starts off very dramatically, identifying the film as coming from the same studio that brought audiences Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King (twice) before showing someone skydiving into an epic action sequence. It’s then that we meet Guy, a normal guy who takes all the violence and chaos around him in stride until he starts wondering if there’s more to life than constantly being held up at the bank where he works and being shot at all the time. Putting on a pair of glasses shows him the reality of the world around him and leads him to the realization he’s in a video game, but has the freedom to be the hero his world needs.

There’s more going on the second poster, released in December, as we see Guy strolling blindly down a city street that’s filled with the chaos of bombs being dropped, cars exploding and more. It conveys nicely the idea that he’s a character incapable of recognizing, much less impacting the events happening around him.

Another entry in the self-deprecating part of the campaign came in January with a video of Reynolds and Comer talking about the craft of acting, with Reynolds increasingly frustrated by how Comer is consistently referred to in the context of the awards she’s won.

Disney used the social media app Weibo to release a special poster designed in the style of Chinese tapestries to celebrate Lunar New Year.

delays, delays and more delays

Originally scheduled for summer of 2020, it was among the titles Disney delayed in a big announcement last April as the severity of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. and elsewhere was becoming clear.

When that announcement was made, Reynolds and others took it upon themselves to release an unfinished, watermarked clip of Guy in his apartment watching the news, all of which is horrible. The clip was meant to be both relatable given reality at the moment and to just keep the movie in everyone’s mind and includes the new date followed by a 🤞, which is a nice touch.

While there was a Total Film feature story on the film that included comments from Levy, Comer and Reynolds and a steady stream of new photos and other minor updates, things were quiet until October of last year.

That’s when the second trailer (2.6 million views on YouTube) came out, teased ahead of time in a video with the cast covering their bases by throwing out a number of potential release dates. It differs from the first trailer in a couple areas. First, it frames Guy’s epiphany that he and everyone he knows is living in a video game as a result of his crush on Milly. Second, it shows the chaos a free-range Guy has within the game and how it affects the real world, especially on the company that makes the game.

That second trailer gained more headlines for racking up over 55 million views in the first 24 hours following its release.

Another poster, this one showing Guy standing on a rooftop above the chaos of the city, came out at the same time.

At that point Disney was aiming for a mid-December release date, hopeful the pandemic would be receding into the background by then. The studio’s optimism was short-lived, though, and in November the movie was taken off the 2020 release calendar, with no new date announced until a month later.

ok for real this time

Fast forward to March 2021, when another video came out with Reynolds announcing a new (and eventually final) release date, though still in a way that played into the ridiculousness that had come before.

In May Disney CEO Bob Chapek confirmed the movie would receive an exclusive 45-day theatrical run instead of going to streaming simultaneously or shortly after that theatrical run.

There’s a bit more of the non-video game world that is impacting Guy’s existence in the next trailer (4.8m views on YouTube, released in early June. Other than that it hits many of the same beats as previous spots.

The whole cast shows up in a very typical action ensemble design on the poster released at that time. Differentiating it from something like an MCU entry is the upbeat and naive look on Guy’s face as he stands over everyone in the hero spot.

An interview with Comer in June had her talking about entering the world of action movies, working with Reynolds and more.

Lil Rey Howery, who plays Guy’s best friend in the game world, appeared at Essence Fest to promote the movie.

News came in late June that the movie would screen at the Locarno International Film Festival in August.

In mid-July Reynolds released a video that has Deadpool and Korg from the MCU reacting to the latest trailer. The mashup makes sense given Disney and Fox are now a single entity and that the movie stars both Reynolds and Waititi, who plays Korg.

Traditional 30-second spots began airing in mid-July that recapped the story and its visuals. Longer commercials obviously had more room to breathe but stuck to the same basic message.

Later spots expanded on what had come before while also pulling primarily from footage the audience has already seen. Of note, it was being positioned as the movie event of the summer, which may be a bit hyperbolic but what else are you going to do…

The first clip shows Guy and Millie pulling off a big fight in a nightclub. That clip really shows off the interplay between the two leads as well as the basic level of humor audiences can expect. Another has Guy being confronted by the police for breaking many of the game’s rules.

All the main characters got posters of their own (by marketing agency BLT Communications).

Guy and Millie have a meet cute over a Mariah Carey song in another clip. How important that song is to the movie and its story (it’s featured in nearly all the trailers and TV spots) was shared by Reynolds in an interview at the movie’s premiere.

Just how much Waititi riffed while on set was covered in a short featurette that had Levy, Comer and others praising his performance.

the comer and reynolds show

While it had been part of the campaign since the very beginning, the last few weeks featured a focus on Comer and Reynolds’ chemistry with a series of videos that had them playing off each other, often at Reynolds’ expense.

First, the two appeared in a promo video debating whether or not this qualified as a “date movie” especially in light of the social distancing of the last year and a half.

They then squared off in a test of their Canadian knowledge, the joke being that Comer is British.

These were fun largely because this is Reynolds’ brand in particular. For the last several years he’s consistently broken the fourth wall in his movie campaigns, so this makes a lot of sense and delivers what audiences have come to expect when he has a new movie coming out.

Individual videos had Comer and then Reynolds introducing their respective characters and having some fun with international translations of the movie’s title.

wrapping up the campaign

In early August Reynolds shared a video that had him showing off the massively bulked up physique he achieved in just a week, one that means he can no longer fit into the Deadpool suit but which allows him to appear as Dude in the movie.

A TV spot released just after that video came out showed off Dude and how he’s used by the game’s designers to try and reign in Guy.

Dolby and IMAX posters offered slightly different takes on what had come before, but they both still communicate how Guy is the lone calm in the center of endless chaos.

The movie’s premiere was held in Los Angeles last week, with Reynolds, Comer, Levy and others in attendance. At that premiere the cast and crew spoke about the unique approach they took to construct the world of the movie and more.

Comer made an appearance at the London premiere event as well.

Levy was the subject of a much-shared profile that dove into how he’s one of the most successful and hard-working comedy directors in Hollywood but has at the same time flown largely under the radar in terms of outsized press and attention. Many of the cast and crew praise Levy and his work ethic in that piece.

Overall

There have been so many campaigns over the last few months that have tried to be the end-all-be-all in jumpstarting theatrical moviegoing. Some have been more effective than others depending on where in the latest sub-cycle of the Covid-19 pandemic we are and what the audience’s appetite for breaking out of their new view-from-home norm might be.

The Free Guy campaign doesn’t make that kind of statement as explicit as the push for, say F9, but it’s still there lurking beneath the surface.

What may set this apart from what’s come before is that most of those earlier releases have been either thrillers or franchise action films while this one is clearly a comedy. That’s a different kind of communicable experience than just watching super heroes beat up bad guys or cars be pulled around by giant magnets. The campaign has played into that with its frequent tweaking of Reynolds’ and the focus on Waititi’s improv antics.

While the $15-18 million that’s predicted for the film’s opening weekend box-office may not be all that impressive compared to some other recent movies, it may actually represent a much more accurate look at how people are feeling about theaters since this one isn’t available for streaming simultaneously.

jungle cruise – marketing recap

How Disney has sold an action-comedy brand extension.

Jungle Cruise, based on the Disney Parks attraction of the same name, has been in development for nearly two decades. Finally hitting theaters – and Disney+ Premier Access – the movie stars Emily Blunt as Dr. Lily Houghton, a scientist in the first decades of the 20th century who’s determined to find the Tree of Life somewhere in the Amazon rainforest. With German competition on the same trail, Houghton enlists the aid of Frank “Skipper” Wolff (Dwayne Johnson). Wolff captains a steamboat selling naive tourists an embellished adventure down the river. Along the way the two have to survive not only their German competitors but all the dangers the Amazon has to offer on its own.

With a story that meshes the Disney ride with a bit of both Heart of Darkness and The African Queen, Disney has mounted a campaign that sells the movie – projected to earn $25-30 million at the box office – as an adventure comedy with two charming stars. Initial reviews have been middling, earning the film a 64% on Rotten Tomatoes. Let’s take a look at the details.

The Posters

The first poster (by marketing agency BLT Communications), released in October 2019, shows what the movie is all about, with Lily and Frank standing at the front of his rickety boat as it travels up the river and through the jungle setting. Arrows sticking out of the hull show how dangerous the trip is, as do the skulls floating in the water and piranha leaping out to try and get a bite.

Disney used the social media app Weibo to release a special poster designed in the style of Chinese tapestries to celebrate Lunar New Year.

There’s a definite The Mummy-esque vibe on the next poster, released in March 2020. Houghton and Wolff are shown in the center swinging on a vine, the boat that is carrying them below as it makes its way up the river. Surrounding the pair in a vine-covered frame are some of the supporting characters as well as the other threats they’ll face along the way.

Same goes for the next poster from May of this year as the campaign ramped back up after a year off. Both this and the previous one-sheet look like someone aiming for a Drew Struzan style, though not quite hitting the mark.

A series of character posters featuring a fun design reminiscent of promotions for an expedition came out at the end of June.

Similar approaches were taken on the posters for IMAX, Dolby and RealD 3D, all of which try to evoke a feeling of nostalgia with their painted approaches and designs that are filled with all kinds of story detail.

The final theatrical poster was released just a couple weeks ago, accompanied by two more character posters for Houghton and Wolff.

The Trailers

The first trailer (5.3m views on YouTube), released in early October 2019, immediately presents Lily as a take charge explorer on the trail of a hidden plant rumored to have incredible healing properties. To help she enlists the services of Frank, a tour boat captain who engages in a bit of showmanship to keep his customers entertained on their travels. This trip is going to bring both of them into contact with threats that are much more real, we see.

The same basic premise is laid out in the second trailer (7.2m views on YouTube) from March 2020. Frank is skeptical of Lily’s claims since he’s been on the same hunt for the great healing power in the jungle. They’re going to face a number of threats on their journey, whether it’s from the animals around them, mysterious submarines tracking their movements, or supernatural forces that protect what they’re seeking. It’s all positioned as a big adventure.

Lots of CGI-heavy action and adventure is on display in the trailer (2.4m views on YouTube released over a year after the last one in May 2021. We get the same message of how Frank and Lily are somewhat reluctant partners who have to protect each other when the jungle turns dangerous and more threats present themselves. It’s fun and silly and works.

Two trailers – one featuring Frank’s perspective and the other featuring Lily’s – came out in late June. Each has an introduction from the appropriate star, with Lily’s coming out second so Blunt can label her’s as the “real trailer” unlike the fake one Johnson put out earlier.

Online and Social

Not much to the movie’s official website, just information how to buy tickets or sign up for Disney+ and basic marketing content.

Advertising, Publicity and Promotions

Fun little set videos were shared at the beginning and wrap of production in 2018, immediately establishing that the campaign would be centered on the interplay between Blunt and Johnson.

Attendees of Disney’s D23 Fan Expo in August 2019 were treated to an appearance by Blunt and Johnson along with other details revealed at the event.

Like many movies, its release date was pushed – in this case by a whole year – as a result of theater closures in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak. Eventually, in May of this year, Disney announced the film would receive a joint theatrical/Disney+ Premier Access release, with it becoming available to other streaming subscribers later on.

Disney announced in June it was reviving the “Behind The Attraction” series on Disney+ that would take viewers behind the scenes of popular rides and other locations at its parks, including Jungle Cruise.

Johnson made an appearance at Essence Fest in June, bringing with him exclusive footage from the movie.

TV spots like this began airing at that time, once more highlighting not only the adventure but also the chemistry between the two stars.

A featurette from early July has the stars talking about the story and its origins in the Disney World attraction. Another short featurette has the stars and director talking about the stunts and action of the movie.

At this point Blunt and Johnson began making TV appearances, either together or solo, including on “GMA,” “The Late Show,” “The Tonight Show,” NPR’s “Morning Edition” and elsewhere.

Speaking of that attraction, it got a makeover in early July that removed some of the more dated elements, many of which were much more overtly offensive than they were when the ride was first introduced.

Ramirez talked about shooting the film when he appeared on “The Tonight Show.” Johnson did likewise when he appeared on “Kimmel.” Both he and Blunt talked about working together on “Access Hollywood.”

One of Lily’s daring escapes was featured in the first clip, given exclusively to Fandango MovieClips. Other clips showed more of the supernatural and very natural threats they face as they make their way along the Amazon.

Additional videos showed off the fun the cast, including costar Jack Whitehall, had during the production, playing a game of “mystery crate” with props from the movie,

A recent THR cover story focused on the pairing of Johnson and Blunt, including how he worked to overcome her reluctance to sign on to the project because he wanted to work with her and thought she’d be brilliant. It also covered some of the initial screening reactions, which led Disney to emphasize the dynamic between the leads.

Director Jaume Collet-Serra was also interviewed about why he signed on to the project, how it fits into his career so far and more. Whitehall also spoke about his character being openly gay.

The world premiere event was held at Disneyland (natch) earlier this week with the cast and crew in attendance and talking about how much fun the film is.

A few additional clips like this showing another harrowing escape of Houghton’s came out in the last few days.

Promotional partners:

  • Applebee’s, which offered a free movie ticket for those spending $25 on food. The promotion was supported by online and other ads.
  • Echelon, which gave members a look at exclusive behind the scenes footage during scheduled themed exercise sessions.
  • GetMyBoat, which ran a sweepstakes awarding either a grand prize of a boat outing for six or tickets to see the movie.

Overall

This moment, seen in many of the trailers, TV spots and other videos, perfectly sums up Disney’s marketing of the movie.

Sorry The Rock GIF by Regal - Find & Share on GIPHY

Instead of selling it *just* as an adventure comedy, the campaign has sold the movie as a buddy adventure comedy, with Blunt and Johnson offering clear point/counterpoint dynamics that are emphasized by their very different characters and statures. That’s why they’ve frequently appeared together in TV and other interviews and why there were two or three instances of them being on opposite sides as they introduced trailers, announced production was starting and so on.

It’s a common tactic used for many movies with Johnson but it’s great to see Blunt able to show off her comedic chops a bit and have some fun, with Johnson acting as a perfectly earnest if exaggerated foil.

Now we just have to see if it’s enough to bring people to theaters.

black widow – marketing recap

How Marvel Studios has sold a long-awaited – on multiple levels – super hero solo film.

Over a decade after being first introduced in Iron Man 2 and following several supporting appearances in other MCU movies, Scarlett Johansson strikes out on her own in this week’s Black Widow.

Set in the aftermath of Captain America: Civil War, which gets around the fact that Natasha Romanoff sacrificed herself in Avengers: Endgame, the story follows Natasha as she’s on the run from the authorities. A series of events lead her to reunite with Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), a fellow agent of Russia’s Red Room who shares a sister-like bond with Natasha, as well as former Black Widow Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz) and Alexei Shostakov / Red Guardian (David Harbour), the Russian equivalent of Captain America. All four, a surrogate family of sorts, face off against Taskmaster (Olga Kurylenko), a villain who can copy anyone’s movements and who is after the same MacGuffin sought by Natasha and Yelena.

Originally scheduled for May of last year but delayed multiple times because of Covid, the movie hits both theaters and Disney+ Premier Access this week. It’s notable for a number of reasons:

  • It is, of course, the first solo movie Marvel Studios has released with a female lead character, the only founding Avenger other than Hawkeye to not get a standalone story (and his turn is coming via a Disney+ series later this year).
  • It’s the first MCU release in two years, the longest the franchise has been absent from audiences since the gap between the first two Iron Man movies.
  • It’s the first MCU feature film to be released on Disney+ day-and-date with theatrical, a circumstance brought on because plans made during the worst of the pandemic were hard to adjust on short notice.

First reactions have been largely positive, with critics calling out the movie’s spy genre heritage as well as the strong performances, particularly Pugh’s. That’s resulted in an 81% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes for a film that’s received a full court press campaign from Disney that’s focused on Johansson finally getting her own turn in the spotlight. This confluence of events has led to speculation the movie could score a pandemic-high opening weekend box office of $80 million or more.

The Posters

In November 2019 the first teaser poster (by artist Andy Park) came out offering a look at Natasha as she stands at the forefront of an arrangement of the other characters, the red “X” that will dominate the film’s branding from here on out in the background.

The second poster (by marketing agency LA) from December of that year brings that branding even more to the surface as the solid red “X” dominates the design, Natasha shown at the bottom walking toward the camera ready for action. It’s inspired by a cover from the character’s 2016 comics series.

An exclusive poster handed out at CCXP in early December 2019 features an artistic drawing of Natasha’s face looking weary and tired, as if she’s come through a difficult battle.

Disney used the social media app Weibo to release a special poster designed in the style of Chinese tapestries to celebrate Lunar New Year.

The four major heroes received character posters released in February 2020, each standing in front of a background made up of heavily-redacted documents, the kind a bunch of spies would be very interested in.

Everyone’s brought together on the initial theatrical poster, which came out in March of last year, including a handful of faceless women at the bottom who look very much Black Widow and are walking away from the Kremlin, establishing them as part of the same program that trained Natasha.

Another poster came out in March of this year that shows Natasha in her white uniform.

More character posters, including ones for Taskmaster and the agent played by O-T Fagbenle, came out in May.

A similar approach from the character posters is taken on the final one-sheet, with Natasha at the center of her surrogate family, with other supporting characters scattered around as well.

Additional posters for RealD 3D, Dolby Cinemas, ScreenxUSA and IMAX offered their own takes on the character and settings.

The Trailers

The first trailer, released in early December 2019, opens with Natasha’s lines from Endgame about how the Avengers gave her a home and a family. At this point she’s ready to confront her past and so heads home, leading to an interesting reunion with her sister. The two set out to investigate the organization that made them what they are, but why is unclear. What is shown are brief looks at Taskmaster and his goons along with an extended introduction to Natasha’s father, who can still fit into his Red Guardian costume.

One thing that’s not clear is the movie’s time period. Natasha’s comments and narration are vague, so you have to have some foreknowledge that the story takes place before the events of Infinity War.

A “Special Look” trailer came out in mid-January 2020 that introduced a key premise of the film, that there is a new generation of Widows being trained that Natasha and her family must confront before they’re loosed upon the world.

The bond between Natasha and her chosen family is the focus of the next trailer, released in early March. It starts with her and her sister reconnecting and sharing the lies they’ve told and ends with everyone gathered around the table as we see the same kind of dynamic that might be found in any family. In between we’re shown Natasha has found some of the mistakes she made before becoming an Avenger have caught up with her. The Taskmaster is introduced as the new head of the Russian training facility she came out of, but he’s more cruel and so she sets out to stop him and free the girls that have been sent to kill her.

The final trailer, released in early April, is all about secrets and dealing with the sins of the past. It’s the same basic message being sold here about family and such, but with a few new shots and the promise of a lot of action and a lot of drama.

Online and Social

Marvel’s page for the film featured some videos, posters and other background information, but not much details on other aspects of the marketing campaign. There were also social profiles that offered a bit more.

Advertising, Press and Publicity

After years of speculation, rumors, comments by Marvel Studios execs about how they’d “love to” make a Black Widow movie (as if they were subject to someone else’s whims), it finally moved into the realm of reality when Cate Shortland was hired to direct the feature. Many people pointed out as the synopsis was released that the story sounded more or less just like 2018’s Jennifer Lawrence-starring Red Sparrow about a female Russian agent trained to seduce and spy at all costs in the service of the Motherland.

The topic of the movie’s existence came up during the Avengers: Endgame press tour, but Johansson remained mum on whether it was happening or not, part of Marvel’s strategy of not officially announcing any future projects.

Plans became much more official when the movie was part of Marvel’s Hall H panel at San Diego Comic-Con 2019. That event featured revelations about the cast, characters and story, including Johansson commenting on her desire to keep playing Natasha over the last decade. Marvel put out a video of footage from the panel that included insights from the cast.

There were more comments from Johansson about the timing of the project and what it means for her and the character. She kept teasing the movie while promoting other projects in 2019.

In addition to the trailer shown, attendees of Disney’s D23 Fan Expo in August of 2019 were able to see costumes from the movie on the show floor.

The first paid promotion came via a commercial aired during the College Football Playoffs on ESPN in January, 2020, when the movie was still expected to be just a few months away.

A featurette released in mid-January 2020 had Johansson talking about the potential for future stories the character has while also reflecting on the fact she’s been playing Natasha for 10 years now, with this movie offering audiences something new as well.

Marvel had three Black Widow comics already on the schedule for May, all of them focusing on characters that would be seen in the movie, when it announced in January the launch – also in May – of a new ongoing series for the character. Later on the publisher showed off movie-themed variant covers for some issues of those titles.

Widow has unfinished family business in the Super Bowl commercial that shows the drama and action of the story, including some of the threats she’ll face off against.

An explanation of who Red Guardian is was the subject of a video released by Marvel in mid-February.

The movie was a major part of Marvel’s promotional presence at two major conventions earlier this year. Toys based on the film were shown off at ToyFair in February, while C2E2 in March included Black Widow merchandise for sale.

A profile of Johansson had her talking about her long history with the character and what it means to finally have her stand on her own in a film. Another piece had her sharing what she felt were the character’s best scenes from over the years.

An Omaze campaign was launched in March with a video featuring Johansson telling people they could win a trip to the movie’s premiere. That was followed by an International Women’s Day greeting from Johansson and Pugh.

At that point – early April 2020, about a month after Disney pulled it from the schedule – the first date change happened as the movie was pushed to November, when we thought things would be back to normal again.

Harbor spoke about his character of Red Guardian and what it means in the context of the story.

In an interview from last July, Shortland revealed the film essentially puts a cap on Johansson’s time in the MCU and lets Pough’s character pick up the baton going forward. Another feature package in Empire came out in September that had more comments from Johansson and others along with exclusive new images. Shortland also commented on how the story, which mixes super heroics and family drama, evolved during development and production.

Another interview with Johansson and Pugh had the two talking about production of this movie, the pandemic-related delays and what future plans there might be for both of their characters.

In November Black Widow, sporting the same white uniform she’s wearing in many of the trailers, was added to Fortnite.

The question of release seemed to be settled in December of last year, when Disney made it clear during its investors presentation that the movie was still planned as a theatrical-only title. It reiterated that commitment in February during the company’s earnings announcement, which also included the news Disney+ had grown to 94 million subscribers.

A few months later, in March, that commitment was (unsurprisingly) called into question when Disney announced A) one last date shift – from May to July – as well as B) that the movie would get a simultaneous theatrical and Disney+ Premier Access release.

Johannson presented the movie as being a chance for audiences to finally get to know Natasha’s true story in a video released on National Super Hero Day in early May.

Additional footage was included in the “Marvel Studios Celebrates The Movies” video also from early May. It’s not a lot, but it puts this film in the context of the previous MCU entries while also playing up the communal experience of theatrical viewing.

The first clip came in mid-May during the “MTV Movie & TV Awards” broadcast, where Johansson accepted the “Generation Award.”. It shows Natasha and Yelena bickering like the sisters they are while trying to get away from a bad guy.

A “special look” came out in early June telling fans the wait is over, though technically there was still another month or so to wait.

Weisz talked about the movie when she appeared on “Kimmel” in June, as did Pugh when she appeared a week or so later.

Tickets going on sale in early June unlocked a host of content, almost like a tide that’s been held back for a year and was suddenly unleashed. That included:

Around that same time, Shortland was interviewed about what movies and other stories she drew inspiration from.

Harbour talked more about the movie when he appeared on “The Tonight Show” in June of last year

In a much-shared interview, Johansson talked about how her character has evolved since being introduced in 2010’s Iron Man 2 where, she said, Natasha was overly-sexualized and objectified, underestimated because of that by almost all the other characters at some point or another.

Harbour had some fun speculating on his character’s backstory and what potential there might be in that unexplored territory while the rest of the cast talked about working with Shortland.

In a video released on Father’s Day Harbour read some corny “dad jokes” much to the embarrassment of his costars.

Johansson appeared on “The Tonight Show” to hype the movie, convince people to see it in theaters and tease some revelations.

A ton of commercials and other promo spots started running in early June, each taking a slightly different take on the story but all selling the movie as a fast-paced action romp with the Romanov family.

Weisz answered a handful of questions about the production like the person most likely to pull a prank on set in a video from mid-June. Later on Johansson, Harbour and Pugh answered their own sets of fan questions.

A joint interview with Johansson and Pugh had the two of them sharing anecdotes over how they bonded on set, particularly over the ridiculousness of some of the fighting poses they were expected to perform and more.

A fan screening event was held in Los Angeles recently with some of the cast in attendance and some appearing virtually. Similar events, each with some subset of the cast and crew, were held in major cities around the world.

Another interview with Shortland had her talking about the multiple times she declined taking on the project, only to eventually be worn down/won over by the persistence of her agent and Marvel.

Regal Cinemas shared an exclusive video interview with the cast.

More background on Taskmaster was shared by Marvel in a featurette released just a week or so ago. There was also a recap of Widow’s character journey through the 10+ years since her introduction to the MCU.

The last wave of commercials like this explicitly called out this being Marvel’s return to theater screens after a two year absence.

Natasha and Yelena are breaking Alexei out of prison in the last official clip released before the movie was made available.

One last featurette had the cast talking about the makeshift family the characters have formed.

Additional interviews with Shortland like this had her talking about the opportunity that exists for more female directors to be brought into the MCU. Meanwhile Feige talked about how this story takes place during the third phase of the MCU arc but sets the stage for things that will happen moving forward.

Disney+ released a movie-themed episode of the “Legends” series, offering more background on the character and her history.

Promotional partners for the movie included:

  • Geico, which has the company’s spokesgecko imagining what it would be like to ride along with Natasha and Yelena.
  • BMW, which released exclusive interviews with the cast in support of a campaign that shows the company’s cars executing some of the movie’s big driving stunts.
  • Synchrony Bank, which launched a campaign encouraging people to learn about its savings tools.

Overall

This is probably the biggest campaign in terms of sheer volume of elements in quite a while, even bigger than F9 and other recent releases. As such it’s hard to judge on an objective level. But what’s impressive is how Marvel Studios has maintained a sense of brand consistency despite the unexpectedly long period of time the marketing has been forced to stretch over. Add to that a very professionally enthusiastic push from Johansson and a focus on Pugh that sets her up as the future of this part of the franchise’s future and you have a solid campaign that hopes audiences are ready for more of the series after a prolonged break.

Now we just see if it can stick the landing.

Scarlett Johansson GIF by Marvel Studios - Find & Share on GIPHY

Luca – Marketing Recap

How DisneyPixar has sold a coming-of-age story with an underwater twist.

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Luca, directed by Enrico Casarosa, stars Jacob Tremblay as the voice of Luca Paguro, a pre-teen sea creature who dreams of exploring the world above. His best friend Alberto (voiced by Jack Dylan Grazer) helps him do just that, coming out to visit the small Italian village near their underwater home. They befriend a young girl named Giulia (voiced by Emma Berman), who joins the two — who can take human form when out of the water — in all sorts of adventures in her hometown.

The movie is the latest Pixar release coming to Disney+ as the result of the coronavirus pandemic, arriving with mostly positive reviews that have earned the film a 91% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and after a campaign that has emphasized the setting even more than the story.

The Posters

You get a sense of Luca’s dual nature on the first poster (by Legion Creative Group), released in February. Above the water he looks human but very different in the part that’s still submerged.

The same message is conveyed on April’s second poster, but this time Luca is joined by Alberto and Giulia as they sit on the coast of the Italian village where the action takes place, many of the supporting characters in the background. It sells a bright, fun adventure with a cast of young characters on a design that looks like a travel poster.

Three more character posters came out earlier in June that put all three of the kids in the position of being half-submerged, but only Giulia needs a snorkel and looks the same underwater.

The Trailers

Luca and his friends are having a great time on the Italian Riviera when the trailer (6.9 million views on YouTube), released in February, opens. But as they engage in the kind of hijinks not uncommon for kids their age, they are hiding a secret that’s only visible when they are in the water. The trailer sets up the premise succinctly, if somewhat incompletely, but still makes it look quite charming.

More of the story is on display in the first full-length trailer (11.7 million views on YouTube) from late April. We see how Luca explores the surface world with Alberto and how the two of them first get into some trouble but then are rescued by Giulia. She and Luca become friends, getting into adventures all their own together as Luca and his brother try to avoid revealing their true nature to the townspeople.

Online and Social

Only a barebones website for the movie but there were social media profiles that shared regular updates and assets.

Advertising, Press and Promotions

Pixar announced the movie in July of last year.

In March of this year Disney announced the movie would skip theaters entirely and be available on Disney+ on its planned release date.

Casarosa was interviewed about the movie’s story as well as its unique visuals and approach to animation.

TV spots like this began running in May that sells the vibrant colors of the movie along with the adventures the characters have throughout the story.

A “Friendship” featurette had Gaffigan, Rudolph, Casarosa and others talking about the magical nature of friendships at a certain age and how the movie captures that magic.

The movie’s production designer Daniela Strijleva was interviewed about drawing inspiration from her own experiences in Italy to create the movie’s look and feel.

Another featurette included comments from Casarosa, Gaffigan and Rudolph about the research that went into creating an authentic Italian coastal town.

The first clip, released in early June, shows the moment Guilia brings Luca and Alberto home to meet her father and have dinner, an event that doesn’t go very well.

Casarosa was part of a publicity tour event in Italy.

Just days before the movie’s release a “blue carpet” premiere was held at the El Capitan theater in Los Angeles.

The official website lists a number of companies as promotional partners for the movie, but many of the links from that site don’t work and additional details on most of those weren’t readily accessible. The list includes:

  • Blue Apron (details unavailable)
  • Annie’s (details unavailable)
  • Baubles and Sole (details unavailable but the company did frequently promote the movie on Instagram)
  • McDonald’s, which put movie toys in Happy Meal boxes and offered downloadable activities online
  • The Watermelon Board, which created a campaign encouraging people to enjoy their summer with some cool refreshing watermelon

Overall

There’s less of an emphasis on the story here than there is on the setting. That’s understandable since it’s an unusual and beautiful location but it means that the actual stakes of the movie and the characters we’re asked to care about are moved to the background.

But it is an enjoyable marketing push, one that positions the movie as a simpler, gentler Pixar release, one that may not reach the emotional heights of other titles but which does promise a good time in a gorgeous location.