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.

A Quiet Place Part II – Marketing Recap

How Paramount is selling the aurally-fixated sequel.

We should have had this conversation a year ago.

I’m a walking’ down the street and I’m talkin’…

That’s when A Quiet Place Part II, the follow-up to 2018’s surprise hit starring Emily Blunt, John Krasinski and Millicent Simmonds, was originally scheduled for release. But thanks to delays resulting from coronavirus-related theater closures and an instance from all parties that this not debut on streaming or PVOD, it finally arrives on screens this week.

The story picks up right where the first left off, with Evelyn Abbott (Blunt) trying to keep her daughter Regan (Simmonds) and son Marcus (Noah Jupe) as well as her newborn baby safe and quiet in a world where aliens hunt based on the smallest sound someone might make. They are on the move after the destruction of their home and their quest brings them into contact with the disillusioned and paranoid Emmett (Cillian Murphy) and others who have become cynical and distrustful following the collapse of society.

Initial reactions are very positive, praising the tension and suspense of the story as well as how the world is expanded, with Rotten Tomatoes currently ranking the movie as 90% Fresh.

Additionally, Fandango has touted how ticket sales were, a week or so out from release, pacing ahead of where they were a year ago the first time we went through this. That’s made this movie a big part of the “people are ready to get back to theaters” narrative currently circulating through the industry and media, a narrative that’s been a big part of the movie’s marketing.

First Take: The 2019/2020 Campaign

The original release date for the film was March 20th, 2020, a date that wound up being roughly a week after many U.S. schools and businesses, including movie theaters, shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic that was at that point merely picking up speed. But it’s a date that was the focal point of the first half of the film’s campaign.

That was evident on the first poster (by marketing agency BLT Communications), released in December 2019. A sense of familiarity in the audience is established by using a photo of Evelyn, Regan and Marcus walking along one of the sandy paths laid down in the forest to aid in silent movement. The family are walking toward a more urban setting of power lines and highway overpasses, communicating how the story expands a bit.

A short :30 teaser was released online at the same time, though it was shown in theaters several days before that, the first indication of the theater-centric nature of the campaign.

A first look photo came out shortly after that teaser accompanied by comments from Blunt and others.

On New Year’s Day 2020 the first full trailer (30.2 million views on YouTube) came out, more clearly explaining the movie’s story. It starts with a flashback to the day the aliens invaded and the chaos they caused. We then catch up with the Abbotts immediately following the events of the first movie as they continue to move around silently to avoid the sound-hunting predators. When the family encounters another group of survivors they find their apparent saviors aren’t exactly the nicest, most understanding people but instead might be just as dangerous as the creatures who have taken over the planet.

Paid promotions began with a Super Bowl spot at the end of January that emphasizes the chase elements of the story, showing the family on the run as it seeks safety and continues, despite the insistence of others, that there are good people in the world worth saving.

A featurette was released at the same time as that commercial that had the stars and filmmakers talking about returning to the story and where their characters are as the sequel begins.

Blunt and Krasinski partnered with Omaze on a charitable campaign giving the selected winner the chance to go on a double date with the couple.

An “exclusive look” released in late February plays like an extended TV spot, showing the basic outline of the story as the remaining Abbotts seek safety as they keep moving.

In February Paramount announced a double feature of the first movie and an early screening of this sequel that was scheduled for March 18th, a couple days before general release.

Simmonds was interviewed about being a hearing-impaired actor in Hollywood and her role in these movies. Blunt and Krasinski were interviewed about their initial reluctance to extend the story with a sequel and how they changed their minds, finding ways to keep the characters going. In an interview of her own, Blunt talked about this role as well as how she’s carved out a career for herself over time.

The Abbots triggering a trap set by other survivors, a key moment of tension from the trailers, was shown off in the first clip released at the end of February. Another clip from March takes place during the first wave of the alien invasion, as the Abbots are just trying to survive the chaos around them.

TV commercials like this that continued emphasizing the movie’s drama as well as the action ran steadily beginning in mid-February and through the next few weeks.

A second poster released late in February shows the four surviving members of the Abbott family huddled in a storm sewer or other underground location, trying to remain silent to avoid the hunters.

At that point Paramount debuted a movie-themed survival room experience in New York City and Los Angeles where fans could come live in the movie’s world of being hunted for a short while.

A Dolby Cinemas poster released at the end of February enigmatically shows what seems to be Evelyn walking across a bridge away from a cross left in the middle of the path as a memorial. It’s odd in that the kids aren’t seen, so you’re left to wonder why Evelyn is on her own.

IMAX’s poster, though, shows all four of them as they race across a field in front of an abandoned factory.

The dangerous loner played by Cillian Murphy, one the Abbots encounter on their journey, is the subject of a featurette released in early March as the filmmakers and cast explain who he is and what he represents.

Similar subject matter was covered by Krasinski at the movie’s premiere, one of the last major events held before the Covid-related shutdown, with Blunt adding how much she loves the character she plays.

Both Blunt and Krasinski made the rounds of various talk shows, appearing on “The Late Show,” “Kimmel” and elsewhere. Simmonds talked about the movie on “GMA.” Djimon Hounsou also appeared on “Live with Ryan and Kelly” and other shows to talk about his costarring role.

And a Pause

On March 12, 2020, just a week before the original release date, Krasinski and Paramount announced the movie was being pulled from the release schedule because theaters across the country were shutting down as the coronavirus pandemic worsened. That brought the marketing to a standstill, though there would continue to be semi-regular updates from various parties.

While the release was on hold Paramount became one of many studios and other companies releasing movie-themed virtual backgrounds for Zoom meetings, which were quickly becoming the new normal in the white collar business world.

A few weeks later a new September release date was announced, a date that reflected optimism — felt by many — that the pandemic would wane and fizzle out in the summer heat.

Other than a few comments from the cast and studio in the intervening months, things remained quiet until February of this year. There weren’t any updates to the movie’s official website or its social media profiles. That’s when the publicity around the rebranding of the CBS All Access streaming platform as Paramount+ included the news that this movie, among others, would be available on that service a scant 45 days after their theatrical debut.

The Paramount+ news in February came with the announcement this movie and others would come to the streaming service just 45 days after theatrical release. In May that announcement resulted in reports Krasinski and Blunt were seeking financial compensation from Paramount for the shortened theatrical window, which had what they claimed would be a negative effect on their back-end deals.

Let’s Try This Again: The 2021 Campaign

In early March of this year Krasinski announced a new Memorial Day Weekend release date that took into account the reopening of theaters across the country as well as the fact that a Covid vaccine had finally been introduced and more and more people were getting the jab.

A final trailer (10.6 million views on YouTube) — teased ahead of time, of course — came out in early May. With a few brief flashbacks, it shows how Evelyn and her kids are trying to keep surviving in the world as the sound-tracking aliens continue their reign of terror. There are lots of thrills and jumps and, at the end, a note about how this is the perfect movie to experience in theaters.

After the final trailer came out a short featurette/TV spot was released with Krasinski and Blunt talking about the expanded scope of the story as well as how excited they are that people will be able to experience it in theaters.

Another batch of TV spots came in mid-May that made a strong case for the movie as one audiences wouldn’t want to miss.

As release neared there were more interviews with Krasinski about the long wait he and the others have endured for release to finally happen and how there are already some ideas floating around for a potential third installment. Joint interviews with him and Blunt also covered similar ground as the press cycle for the first movie in how they almost said “No” to a sequel.

When Kraskinsk appeared on “The Late Show” he focused on how the movie was very specifically made to be experienced by people en masse in theaters. He also showed up on “Late Night” while Blunt talked about the movie on “Kimmel.” Murphy was also interviewed about joining the sequel and what his character’s story is.

The actor/director later surprised fans at a Cleveland screening of the movie and did likewise at a screening in New York City.

Dolby Cinemas released an exclusive Q&A with the cast. AMC Theaters also a brief chat with Krasinski. Cinemark hosted a live Q&A in select theaters with Krasinski being interviewed by superstar director/producer J.J. Abrams.

Overall

First off, you have to kind of hand it to Paramount for this Tweet that nicely references the “Friends” reunion special that landed on HBO Max earlier this week and which has been sucking up much of the oxygen in the entertainment press.

While it was present throughout the campaign, the second half that kicked off earlier this year prominently pointed out not only that the movie was “only in theaters” but more specifically and pointedly that it was “The movie experience theaters were made for.” That’s a none-too-subtle call to action for the audience that they’ll get something special out of seeing it on the big screen. And it’s a better message than what’s usually conveyed for format-specific options like IMAX or Dolby.

As for the campaign outside of that, it’s successful in largely recreating the mystique of the original film despite the audience now knowing what the threat the Abbott family faces is, the mystery of which formed the crux of the first movie’s marketing. It does that by showing that while the blind, sound-sensitive aliens are still present the real problem now are the other humans the Abbotts encounter.

Mary Poppins Returns – Marketing Recap

Recapping Disney’s marketing campaign for Mary Poppins Returns.

mary poppins poster 2It’s hard to think of a more iconic marriage of role and actor than Julie Andrews’ performance as the title character in Disney’s adaptation of Mary Poppins. The story of that production, and the fierce guardianship over the characters by author P.L. Travers, was told in 2013’s Saving Mr. Banks. Travers was reportedly so unhappy with some details of that adaptation she ruled out any further movies with the character.

Now the managers of Travers’ estate have given their consent and Mary Poppins Returns is about to hit theaters. Estimated to bring in $40 million it opening weekend, the movie casts Emily Blunt as Poppins, who returns to the Banks household decades later. Jack Banks (Ben Wishaw) now has two children of his own but is living with his sister Jane (Emily Mortimer) following the death of his wife. Poppins’ arrival once more involves a kindly lamplighter, this time Jack (Lin Manuel-Miranda).

The Posters

It’s a very simple message on the first teaser poster, which just shows half of Poppins’ face looking slightly off-camera. That’s it: Mary Poppins has returned and we’ll find out more around Christmas. Simple but…simple.

A more artistic approach is taken on the second poster, which positions Poppins and Jack as the central elements in a collage of images that include different aspects of the story.

Character posters from mid-November provided simple looks at each of the main players in the story

The Trailers

The teaser trailer works super-hard to recreate the magic of the original film. It’s all about setting the stage, though, with wind blowing and kites being flown and more, all leading up to Poppins descending from the sky and being told by two people that it’s wonderful to see her again.

The story is finally laid out in the full trailer, which shows that the Banks children are now grown and living together after Michael’s wife passed away. His children come home one with Mary Poppins in tow as she announces she’s back to once more take care of the family. Immediately she’s showing off her incredible abilities, much to Michael’s occasional dismay. There’s a big animated musical number, Dick Van Dyke is shown reprising his role as an old banker and more and this looks delightful, a much-needed dose of whimsy in the world.

Online and Social

You’ll find only the very basic information about the movie on Disney’s official website, including a collection of videos and photos along with links to the promotional partners.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

There were a host of new editions of the original book as well as other material released both in conjunction with the movie and to draft off it.

The second trailer was boosted using a Promoted Tweet the same day it was released.

It plays like a TV spot, but was labeled a “Sneak Peek” when it was released in mid-November. Whatever the case, it shows the basic outlines of the story, ending with a big musical number to show the movie doesn’t lack ambition or fidelity to the original. An actual TV spot came out a bit later that showed how Poppins reenters the Banks family and what sort of possibilities for adventure she unlocks.

In terms of promotional partners:

  • HSN sponsored the livestream of the movie’s red carpet premiere in Los Angeles.
  • 1-800-FLOWERS created a special “magical” movie-themed bouquet.
  • Fiora offered those buying $15 or more of its paper products a free movie ticket.
  • Ivory made the same offer to those buying $8 of its products.
  • Subway also offered those buying a kids meal a free movie ticket.
  • Nissan released two commercials that focused on how both the movie and the company’s cars feature and implement the latest design and technology.
  • The Republic of Tea created a handful of movie-themed tea sets sporting cobranded packaging.
  • Trunk Club curated a movie-themed fashion line it showed off at a Chicago press event that included items from the film.

Media and Publicity

While there were certainly conversations and speculation about the movie, the first official publicity came in the form of first-look stills of Blunt as Poppins and Miranda as Jack.

Later on a big cover feature story in EW gave more looks both of the movie itself and the behind-the-scenes action, with the actors talking about stepping into such iconic roles, updates on the characters, what the actors drew on for inspiration and lots more. More photos came in EW’s San Diego Comic-Con issue. Those hit around the same time attendees of Disney’s D23 event got a first look at footage from the movie.

Blunt was promoting A Quiet Place but also spoke while on publicity circuit about this movie, including how vaguely creepy the character of Mary Poppins was, whether or not she had been in contact with Andrews, how Miranda “came alive” during the filming of the big musical numbers and more.

The movie was among those Disney teased to distribution execs and press at CinemaCon. The movie was also part of the later CineEurope presentation from the studio. In mid-October it was shown off to exhibitors at the NATO industry conference.

Another new photo came up in EW in mid-August.

A “Special Look” released in late-October offered a glimpse at some of the movie’s animated musical numbers. Another featurette from mid-October had the cast and crew talking about how they decided to get involved with a sequel to the beloved classic film and how they went about making it.

Marshall and Blunt were interviewed together about how they wanted to make a joyful, fun movie for the whole family. Around the same time Miranda was interviewed about getting involved in the project and movie musicals as a genre. EW offered a cover story in early November that contained all sorts of new interviews and details about the movie.

Blunt made the TV rounds closer to release to talk about how her family reacted to her in the role and more. Miranda did likewise, talking about how much fun he had making the movie as did Mortimer in early December.

The first clip from late November featured Poppins’ return to the Banks household while a featurette released shortly thereafter made the connections between this movie and the original.

THR offered profiles of the costume design as well as how the production team recreated the London of the past and how Marshall felt responsible for guarding a precious part of Disney’s cinematic legacy.

The second reunion of Streep and Blunt was something both talked about while Miranda commented on the burden and responsibility he felt in taking on such an iconic story. Meanwhile Marshall was talking about how he convinced Blunt to take on a role with such significant (clears throat) baggage as this. The pressures of living up to the legacy of the original film were also mentioned by the cast and crew at the movie’s premiere.

A short featurette had Blunt talking about the unpredictable joy Poppins brings to the characters and story. Another clip showed how Poppins takes the kids into the magical animated world of singing and dancing. Further clips showed Poppins’ arrival and more musical numbers.

Character introduction featurettes began last week with one that focused on Topsy, played by Meryl Streep.

Interviews here and here with Miranda allowed him to talk about how he got involved with the movie, his inspiration for playing the character and his astounding career to date.

There were other TV features interviewing Blunt, focusing on the behind the scenes details and even profiling the nanny training school that inspired Poppins in the first place.

Overall

There are two options that occur to me based on how superficial the campaign appears to be: A) The movie is much deeper but Disney wants to keep things light and fluffy, or B) The movie as a whole is this superficial and offers the cinematic equivalent of marzipan.

Whatever the case, Disney is relying solely on nostalgia for the original here, without offering much of anything that’s new or unique. It promises to continue the story but doesn’t go to any lengths to explain how or in what way. New characters are shown, but the don’t bring much beyond what you could find by rewatching the original movie. That’s not the fault of the charming cast, it’s a choice that’s been made in how it’s being sold to the public.

Picking Up the Spare

Miranda continued making the television rounds with an appearance on “The Tonight Show” that included lots of singing and dancing. He was also interviewed on just about everything here and talked with Seth Meyers later on. He also kept singing the praises of his costar Blunt in appearances like this.

Google shared the story of a coding event they held for young girls that included a screening of the film.

Vanity Fair profiled Whishaw about his career to date and how this movie fits into that. Van Dyke was also interviewed about the story behind his decision to join the sequel and got a feature profile all of his own.

A “Now playing” TV spot focused on the magical nature of the story and characters. The animation team was interviewed about the core musical sequence as well.

Blunt continued sharing what it was that attracted her to the project, including her lifelong love of the character and stories.

A Quiet Place – Marketing Recap

a quiet place posterSome sort of invasion of Earth has taken place in the new movie A Quiet Place. The creatures have wiped out vast swaths of the human population and the survivors have learned the only way to stay alive is to remain absolutely quiet because, as the marketing tagline goes, if they hear you, they hunt you.

Providing our viewpoint on this terrifying and largely silent world is a family of four headed by Evelyn (Emily Blunt) and Lee (John Krasinski) and which includes their kids Marcus (Noah Jupe) and Regan (Millicent Simmonds). The family has to keep moving to find safety, but movement produces sound, so the dangers are around them at all times. The sci-fi-tinged thriller was directed by Krasinski as well.

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