Laika Studios is known for its funny, emotional and moving animated features. It hopes to add to that reputation with this week’s Missing Link. Zach Galifianakis voices Mr. Link – also known as Susan – the last like him where he lives. One day he’s discovered by the explorer Sir Lionel Frost (Hugh Jackman), who wants to bring this fascinating and remarkably intelligent creature back to civilization.
Link also wants to find others like him, and so Frost, with the assistance of Adelina Fortnight (Zoe Saldana), works to transport him across dangerous territory to see if there’s a potential mate out there. The story allows for plenty of opportunities for adventure, laughs and heartfelt emotional journeys.
Mr. Link is introduced on the first poster, shown in a fancy suit and tie that contrasts with the fact that he’s a big furry creature, albeit one that walks upright and appears to have a bright and sunny disposition. The second poster presents Link sans all that clothing but still looking like he’s curious and optimistic while the copy tells us “Things are about to get hairy.”
All three main characters are arranged on the final poster, set against the backdrop of the locations the adventures take those characters to and the train and boat that help them get from one point to the other. It’s a nice design featuring a soft, almost watercolor look that is different from the harder look of the first two posters. This one encourages the audience to “Discover a comedy of epic proportions.”
The first trailer opens by setting up the notion we’re going to be encountering the long-lost connection between modern humans and our far-off ancestors, which happens after he writes to an explorer to come find him. Link is brought back to society to be shown off, but of course he just gets lots of stares and awkward looks. The two discover Link may have relatives on the other side of the world and so set out to find them, engaging in plenty of misadventures and hinkings along the way.
It’s a cute spot that definitely has that Aardman vibe happening, with lots of good natured humor and characters that look cute and act innocently and sweetly in whatever circumstances they find themselves in. That’s not a bad thing at all, it’s completely on-brand, which is the biggest message this trailer has to offer other than selling a neat little animated adventure.
The second trailer is more about the adventures taken by Link and Frost, including how Link convinces the explorer to help take him halfway across the world to find those he thinks are his long-lost cousins. There are a lot of the same jokes, but also a lot of the same humor and charm.
Online and Social
A rarity these days, the movie’s website has a lot of useful information. In addition to “Videos” with the trailers and a “Synopsis,” there are more opportunities to engage with the movie and learn more.
First, “Group Sales” gives you the opportunity to learn how to get tickets for bigger groups. There are dates for the “Meet & Greet” Laika organized that included photo ops with Mr. Link at select theaters across the country and information on the Alexa-enabled “Adventure.”
Outside of ticket sales prompts and links to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles there’s information on the movie’s promotional “Partners.”
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
The second trailer was used in Promoted Tweets in early February. Further promoted posts used short videos featuring tips on how to get along with Link and more. A number of TV spots were run that sold the fish out of water comedy of the story.
iMessage users could add movie-themed stickers to their messages.
Partners for the movie included:
- Amazon, which offered an Alexa skill that let users take an interactive adventure with the movie’s characters.
- Boost Mobile, which ran a sweepstakes for its Perks rewards members awarding a trip to Portland and more.
- California Pizza Kitchen, which partnered with Boys and Girls Clubs of America to donate 20% of their order to that organization.
- Clif Kid, but details on that promotion were hard to find.
- Color Me Mine, which held events at locations around the country with movie-themed items to paint.
- Frontier Airlines, which ran a sweepstakes awarding a group of winners a trip to see an an advance screening.
- Grand Canyon Railroad & Hotel, but again the details are scarce.
- Langers Juice, similarly mysterious.
- Lolli & Pops, which ran a sweepstakes giving the winner a trip to an advance screening and created movie-branded packaging.
- Menchie’s, which ran a sweepstakes offering a trip to the Grand Canyon.
- Sierra Club, which used the movie to inspire people to get outside and see what mysteries they could discover.
- Spring Free Trampolines, which ran a sweepstakes awarding a free trampoline and tickets to the movie.
- Nike, which created a new version of their Air Max shoe featuring movie-inspired designs.
Media and Publicity
Details about the movie, including some of the voice cast and a tentative release date, were released by Annapurna at Cannes along with a first still.
Closer to release there were features that focused on the technical aspects of production, including how Laika cracked the development of the title character and how it took advantage of new 3D printing technology to create an even wider variety of nuanced facial expressions for the characters.
Director Chris Butler and some of the movie’s artists appeared at WonderCon on a panel to talk about the movie, its animation and more.
A short featurette from Fandango focused on how Galifianakis brought Link to life. A number of clips came out in the first week of April to offer better looks at scenes shown in the trailers. Laika also offered a number of “Meet…” videos with the actors introducing the characters they voice and more.
Mr. Link showed up on the recent “Kids Choice Awards” to make sure that audience knew the movie was coming.
As is common, there were features like this that explored the behind the scenes process of creating the movie and its characters.
Galifianakis, Saldana and Jackman all made appearances on late night and early morning TV talk shows as well as elsewhere in the media to talk up the movie and reinforce what a good time it would be for audiences.
It’s not surprising to find that the campaign is filled with lighthearted charm and breezy, inoffensive but still exciting adventure. That’s very on-brand for Laika Studios and helps sell the film as an antidote to the constant grim, violent movies the bigger studios are putting out there as super hero and other franchise films.
The presence of the stars, at least from my perspective, doesn’t actually add much to the overall appeal of the film. They should be major factors, and their involvement certainly opened up more opportunities for press and media coverage, but in terms of the movie itself it doesn’t seem like they offer much value to the storytelling, at least not based on what’s seen here.
So we have a pleasant, seemingly inoffensive film coming out inbetween massive franchise blockbusters and my guess is it doesn’t make a huge impact on the box office. With tracking estimating a top-end opening weekend of $15 million, that would appear to bear out.
Picking Up the Spare
More on the technical aspects of the movie’s production here.