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.

Welcome to Marwen – Marketing Recap

The marketing of WELCOME TO MARWEN.

welcome to marwen poster 9Steve Carell stars in this week’s Welcome to Marwen, the new movie from director Robert Zemeckis. Based on a true story, Carell plays Mark Hogancamp, an artist who one day experiences a violent attack by a bunch of ignorant rednecks in a bar and suffers injuries requiring surgery and later physical therapy.

The attack also leaves Mark with few memories of his pre-attack life. To try and regain those memories Mark channels his artistic tendencies into creating a miniature town named Marwen. Populating the town are figures representing himself as well as the various women in his life, including his new neighbor Nicol (Leslie Mann). The fantastic stories he concocts for these characters channel his feelings, which come to a climax when he’s asked to testify against those who beat him.

The Posters

Hoagie, Mark’s figurine alter-ego, is shown on the first poster but nothing else about the story is shared. Instead the main value proposition offered here is that the movie comes from the director of Forrest Gump and that he’s inviting you “to a most unexpected place.”

A series of posters uses the action figure incarnations of each character to introduce them to the audience, offering their name and their status in the story as as “The new recruit,” The leader” and so on.

The final theatrical poster puts Mark and Hoagie next to each other on adjoining seats, the audience being told that “You can’t put this hero in a box.”

The Trailers

The trailer gives us a good look at the fantastical world created by Mark. It follows him as we hear about who he is – a well-respected artist – and see him meet the lovely new neighbor from across the street. When he’s jumped by a gang of Nazis, his injuries limit how much he can do so he finds inspiration to go on from the characters in the art he makes, including the determination to testify against his attackers.

It shows a movie where reality and fantasy are going to bleed into one another but features what looks to be a strong performance from Carell and yet another tragic underuse of Mann.

The second trailer focuses more firmly on how Mark was attacked and how his injuries left him with no memories of his life before, meaning he lives out the stories in his head through the figures he’s created. He explains how every one of them represents someone from his life and are part of his healing process.

It’s a much stronger trailer because it’s more clearly about the story of Mark dealing with the repercussions of what’s happened to him, without getting too bogged down in the relationship with Nicol.

After introducing us to the main characters that live in Mark’s stories, the third and final trailer offers the same explanation of the story we’ve seen before, but with a slightly stronger emphasis on how he’s created this fantasy world to deal with being the victim of a hate crime.

Online and Social

It’s only the basic information about the movie offered on its official website, including prompts to buy tickets and links to profiles on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Short videos like this were used as Promoted Posts on Twitter starting in mid-November.

An augmented reality experience was promoted, offering users the chance to not only view 360-degree versions of a scene from the movie but put themselves in that scene and share pictures elsewhere online.

Media and Publicity

The movie was part of the CineEurope presentation from the studio. Carell was named as a host for a mid-November episode of “Saturday Night Live” to help promote the movie closer to release.

Things were pretty dark on the promotional front until the movie’s red carpet premiere a couple weeks prior to release, where the cast and crew talked about the true story and the process of creating the world of the film.

Mann stopped by “The Late Show” to talk about the movie and everything else, with Kruger appearing there a couple days later. Other members of the cast, including Janelle Monae, did their own media rounds, as did Zemeckis himself. Carell also did “The Late Show” to chat with his old buddy Colbert.

A short featurette released just before the movie came out included Zemeckis talking about the inspiring true story and more. A bunch of clips offered expanded looks at scenes glimpsed in the trailers.

The release of the movie also brought new attention to the documentary that tells Hogancamp’s story and which is available to stream or download on a few platforms.

Overall

For a movie that seems to be so focused on emotions there’s an odd coldness to the campaign. It’s so concerned with the idea of watching Mark’s figures act out his stories that it doesn’t offer audiences much in the way of empathy toward what he as a person is actually going through.

It makes sense as those sequences are interesting and, most importantly, part of Zemeckis’ brand that’s focused on innovative visual effects. But the campaign fails to connect those visuals to anything meaningful no matter how many times we see Carell struggling.

Picking Up the Spare

Kruger was interviewed about the movie and the roles she’s tired of taking.