avatar: the way of water – marketing recap

How Disney/Fox has sold a return to land of the clear blue (people) waters

Avatar: The Way of Water movie poster from Disney/20th Century Studios
Avatar: The Way of Water movie poster from Disney/20th Century Studios

It wasn’t long after the 2009 release of Avatar before director James Cameron started talking about the myriad stories he had in mind for the sequels he was planning to make. Over the 13 subsequent years the number of sequels being developed varied from two to five or more, and the target release dates for those movies has slipped from the original 2014 to, roughly, now.

Avatar: The Way of Water arrives in theaters with more than a decade’s worth of anticipation, both from the audience and the movie industry, on its shoulders.

Picking up a decade after the first film, the story once again follows Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a human who now lives completely in the body of a Na’vi, the natives of the planet Pandora. He has married Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña) and together they have two children of their own along with Spider, a human boy born on Pandora who has taken on the customs of the Na’vi, and Kiri, a Na’vi avatar with the mind of human Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver).

Once again the story focuses on the attempted human exploitation of Pandora for its mineral resources. Another team of humans has crossed the stars, including Col. Quaritch (Stephen Lang), who has been resurrected into a Na’vi clone avatar. As they attempt to stop the invasion, Jake and Neytiri are forced to leave their own tribe and take refuge among one that lives in and around Pandora’s oceans, opening up a whole new part of the planet barely shown in the first movie.

Just as with the original, this one has been supported with a massive marketing campaign, so let’s get on with it.

prelude : 2017 & 2018

After years and years and dozens of false starts, announcements that production was about to commence followed by news that Cameron was delaying it for some reason, in September 2017 we got what amounts to a “proof of life” photo in the first official still of the new movie’s young cast.

In an interview that was otherwise about Titanic’s 20th anniversary, Cameron made it clear that the second and third Avatar movies would be a complete story but that if they were successful more installments could come. Other than that, few details were revealed as to the story. He did though confirm that Winslet had joined the cast.

Sony ran a substantial paid social media campaign in mid-2018 touting Cameron’s use of its new Alpha cameras on the film.

Producer Jon Landau offered a bit of an update on production during Fox’s CinemaCon 2018 presentation, basically assuring exhibition executives that the movie really for sure was totally happening. Landau and Cameron later took the same message to CineEurope.

prelude (continued): 2019 & 2020

While he was out promoting Alita: Battle Angel, Cameron confirmed that some of the titles floated for the various sequels were – or at least had been – accurate. It wasn’t much but it kept the conversation around the movie alive while production dragged on.

At the end of November 2019 the official Twitter account marked the end of principal photography by showing off one of the production’s massive sets.

That the sequels were still on track was confirmed by Cameron in late December 2019. Concept art showing some of the film’s locations was released a month later. Production was delayed for a short while because of the Covid-19 pandemic but was scheduled to resume in late May.

In late 2019 Cameron told his friend Arnold Schwarzenegger that filming on this installment was “100%” complete while production of the third was nearly done.

Mercedes Benz announced a partnership with the movie in early January 2020, just before it unveiled the VISION AVTR concept car at CES. The car featured no steering wheel but reportedly used intuitive navigation along with being carbon neutral and more.

In October 2020 Dark Horse announced a new comics mini-series set just after the events of the first film, the first continuation of that story as the sequels were still in production.

almost there: 2021 & 2022

In April 2021 Cameron appeared on “The Tonight Show” to talk about the sequels he was filming and express his hope that movie theaters survive long enough for them to show his new movies.

A batch of new stills was given to Empire in October of that year, with Landau offering brief tidbits on the story and characters. Cameron talked more later about the difficulties – largely of his own making – involved in production and how he and the cast adapted to those challenges. Landau was back in a later interview to praise Cameron’s approach to filming and set up what might be coming in additional sequels.

In an interview that was ostensibly about her movie The Adam Project, Saldana spoke about the emotional nature of the footage she’d seen from this film while also commenting on the challenges of filming such a technical project. Later on Worthington also talked about the long waiting period for the second installment and what it was like to come back to this world.

The movie was among those touted by Disney during their CinemaCon presentation in April, with attendees getting a look at footage with producer Landau on stage to talk about Cameron’s plans for this and future installments. It was also announced the first trailer was going to debut in front of the Doctor Strange sequel about to come out.

the marketing campaign: teasers and LEGO sets

After all that the campaign proper finally kicked off when the first trailer (26m YouTube views) hit the internet in early May. There’s little to no story that’s revealed here, it’s mostly a collection of beauty shots of the film’s colorful world and characters, though you can skim some hints from what’s shown. There’s obviously a new level of cooperation between the Na’vi and humans on Pandora, and we see lots of the kids in Sully’s family.

The teaser poster released at the same time shows an extreme closeup of one of those characters.

In late June the movie was the subject of a feature cover story in Empire that included a batch of exclusive images, including the first look at the character played by Winslet, and comments from Cameron defending the film’s reported three-hour running time.

Landau and producer Josh Izzo made an appearance at LEGO Con in June to unveil the first Avatar-based LEGO set.

the marketing campaign: the first movie returns

In late-August Disney announced the first movie was returning to theaters in September to set the stage for the sequel. Trailers, posters and TV spots were all created to support that rerelease. There was even a featurette with Cameron and the cast talking about the movie’s cultural impact.

That release added an impressive $58 million to the movie’s total, an amount seen as a positive indicator there was audience demand for the upcoming sequel. That was aided in part by the fact the film was pulled from the Disney+ streaming service in advance of this engagement but then returned a few weeks ahead of the sequel hitting theaters.

Cameron appeared via camera while Weaver, Saldaña, Worthington and Lang were on stage at Disney’s D23 event, also in September. They all talked about the experience of making the movie and showed off footage to those in attendance as they worked to sell it as a massive blockbuster theater owners could count on to prop up the fall box office.

A wide-ranging profile of Cameron included him touting the theatrical experience that the first movie delivered and the second movie promises, specifically pointing to how young audiences are craving that sort of immersive communal viewing. He also recounted the battles he had with Fox over the making of the first film and how he was kind of glad it wound up being over a decade before the second movie was made and released.

Cameron hosts a featurette from mid-September that focuses on the impact the first movie had on the cast and others

Weaver talked about this movie when she appeared on “The Late Show” during her press rounds for The Good House back in September. She was also the subject of an NYT profile that covered not just this film but also The Good House and Call Jane, all of which were coming out over the span of a few months.

There were a couple features like this that openly questioned whether too much time had passed since the first movie and whether its cultural impact was strong enough to buoy a sequel. Along similar lines were the “was anyone really pining for an Avatar sequel” stories that puts this movie in the context of other franchises, where the concept of a “sequel” is somewhat antiquated, as well as asking whether or not there was a groundswell of fan demand for more stories from Pandora.

the marketing campaign: now we’re getting serious

After spending much of October promoting LEGO sets, high-end statues and more, the second trailer (43.6m YouTube views) was finally released in early November. It spends half its running time just showing off the visuals of the movie and making it clear there’s even more spectacle this time around. Only after all that do we get – for the first time in the campaign – to the conflict that is driving the story. But even that is brushed past quickly in favor of more talk about “the way of water” and lots of shots of massive creatures moving through the oceans.

The poster released at the same time shows Sully and Neytiri looking at their children as someone flies a winged animal over the surface of the water.

Footage from the film was shown at a massive event at Niagara Falls, which itself was illuminated in celebration of the trailer’s release.

Total Film published a cover story on the film that included another batch of stills.

Disney launched an initiative called Keep Our Oceans Amazing where the company promised to donate $5 to The Nature Conservancy for ocean preservation and clean-up for every piece of artwork submitted by fans showing off their own underwater creature creation.

Another profile of Cameron had him talking about how the characters have grown and evolved since the first story and how this one is even more personal for him given his work on ocean conservation.

The final trailer (13m YouTube views) debuted later in November, just as tickets were going on sale, during an ESPN broadcast of “Monday Night Football.” It starts off with Sully explaining to the chief of the ocean-dwelling clan he’s just trying to keep his family safe, but what it is he’s keeping them safe from is never explained and once again only shown briefly. More time is devoted to how the Na’vi teenagers have to adjust to the water clan’s ways and learn to ride the ocean creatures they rely on.

A series of posters gave all the main characters their own spotlight. There were also exclusive one-sheets released for Dolby and IMAX that continue the focus on the colorful imagery without much of the story explained or on display. IMAX also shared an exclusive featurette on the making of the movie. A little bit later there were additional posters for RealD3D, 4DX and ScreenX.

Once again the release of a trailer was accompanied by a massive event, this time an “Avatar Day” display of footage in New York City’s Times Square. Later on the center of Venice would be lit up with a massive “A” to celebrate the movie’s upcoming release.

Along with the beginning of paid advertising – including TV spots, online banner ads and more – late November brought the beginning of the non-Cameron part of the publicity campaign. The younger members of the cast appeared on the “Disney Holiday Celebration” special while Saldana appeared on “GMA” and other shows, including the online “Hot Ones” taste test/interview series. Closer to release Weaver appeared on “Kimmel

Avatar: The Way of Water online ad

The in-person events started when the cast assembled at Brazil Comic-Con at the beginning of December. They then turned out for the world premiere in London. Later stops on the world press tour included Seoul, South Korea and Tokyo before ending with the blue carpet event in Los Angeles, which Cameron had to skip after he was diagnosed with Covid-19 but where the rest of the cast talked about shooting the movie, especially the technically difficult underwater shoots and more.

It was announced shortly after that the original song “Nothing is Lost” from The Weeknd would appear on the soundtrack.

Two more character posters came out focusing on a couple of the younger characters.

Saldana and Worthington asked each other softball questions in an official video. Worthington was the subject of a feature profile that delved into the personal and professional struggles he’s faced and largely overcome in the 13 years since the first movie should have catapulted him to the stratosphere.

overall

First off, the $150-175 million opening weekend predicted by tracking estimates is alright, but let’s keep in mind Black Panther: Wakanda Forever just opened to about $180 million in its first weekend, so it wouldn’t be earth-shattering, especially given Cameron’s comments about how it kind of needs to be a top-five all-time total just to make its production budget back.

This while media companies of all kinds are laying off staff, pulling content from streaming services to save money on residuals, canceling other expensive productions and so on. I mean…good for Cameron et al but also, the question of whether or not the first movie has any sort of cultural traction remains a valid one.

While the marketing campaign here is certainly massive and seems to have done its job in generating awareness and interest, there’s little here that answers the question above in an affirmative manner. That stems primarily from how the marketing keeps insisting on not showing the audience what the story of the movie is. It’s *all* about the sweeping camera shots and the beautiful shots of the alien planet but there’s nearly nothing here, not even in the press and publicity interviews, about the conflict that threatens Pandora. That has to be a choice (not one I necessarily agree with) based on how the pretty pictures are going to do more to sell LEGO sets than scenes of bombs and missles raining down on a peaceful people.

amsterdam – marketing recap

How 20th Century Studios is selling a star-studded period piece

Amsterdam movie poster from 20th Century Studios
Amsterdam movie poster from 20th Century Studios

Writer/director David O. Russell is back with Amsterdam, out this week in theaters. The movie revolves around actual events from 1933 where a group of businessmen and other powerful individuals sought to overthrow the U.S. government and install a fascist regime.

Christian Bale, Margot Robbie and John David Washington star as Burt Berendsen, Valerie Voze and Harold Woodsman, respectively, a trio that uncovers the plot and seeks to disrupt it but who become the prime suspects in that scheme and have to prove their innocence.

The movie also stars a diverse cast including Chris Rock, Ed Begley Jr., Mike Meyers, Zoe Saldaña, Robert De Niro, Timothy Olyphant, Taylor Swift and others as the people the main characters interact with over the course of the story.

Let’s dive in and see how 20th Century Studios has sold such a unique film to audiences.

announcements and casting

The project was announced in early 2020 as Russell’s next project, though the name of the movie remained unknown at that time. Robbie was the first to join a month or so later along with Michael B. Jordan, who soon dropped out. Bale, Washington and others signed on toward the end of that year.

A title was finally announced in late April of 2022 as part of 20th Century Studios’ presentation at CinemaCon. A first look still of Swift and Bale came out at that time as well.

the marketing campaign

Things started off in June with the release of the first trailer (6.8m YouTube views). After first seeing there’s been a murder we flashback to how Burt, Valerie and Harold first met and became inseparable friends during and after World War I. That friendship is tested as they have to find out who actually killed a U.S. senator, a goal that involves making lots of deals, needing to trust each other like they never have before and plenty of running away from the cops.

The poster that came out at the same time doesn’t offer much of anything in the way of story hints or anything else, just the names of the impressive cast Russell assembled.

“Let the love, murder and conspiracy begin” we’re told on the next poster released at the end of August. This one still has everyone’s name at the top but also features the core trio arranged in the middle around the sunburst symbol we’ve already seen with the New York City skyline at the bottom of the image.

An interview with costar Alessandro Nivola had him talking about Russell’s unique filming style, reuniting with Bale and other aspects of making the movie.

An extended TV spot came out in early September that offers a better look at the coup conspiracy the main characters find themselves in the middle of. Because of that it works a little better than the earlier trailer while still showing off both the dramatic and more humorous elements of the story.

Russell and Bale took part in a Q&A following a very private screening in Los Angeles that was just for select friends and others.

The dynamics of the trio’s friendship are on display in the first TV spot that was also used as an online pre-roll and promo.

A series of character posters pulls out many of the biggest names from the cast and puts them against the same sunburst design background we’ve previously seen. Another one-sheet with just the main cast came out a little bit after that.

Those were followed in mid-September by more TV spots, these featuring a better look at Taylor Swift in the film in an attempt to get her fanbase activated.

A green-carpet premiere was held in New York City at that point with a screening followed by a cast and crew Q&A moderated by Ben Stiller and introduced by Drake, who’s a producer on the film. While there everyone praised Russell and shared how they bonded on set and developed their chemistry. Robbie also appeared on “The Tonight Show” while she was in New York.

Everyone is rearranged slightly within the same general motif on the IMAX-exclusive poster. An IMAX Live Experience featuring the cast and a screening of the movie was scheduled for later in September, about a week out from wide release.

Burt is looking for his eye in a clip given exclusively to Fandango while everyone is trying to figure out what’s going on.

Another premiere event was held, this time in London, with the cast and crew once again coming out to get fans excited.

The new song “Time” by Giveon was featured in another TV commercial at the same time the full song was released digitally and elsewhere.

More clips came out that offered better looks at the characters played by Chris Rock, Mike Meyers and Zoe Saldaña while also offering small additional details about the story.

Along those lines, an interview with Bale had him sharing how hard it was to work with Rock because Rock was so funny during all their scenes. In another interview Bale talked about his first foray into producing and the opportunity to sing with Swift.

A short featurette was released that had the cast and Russell talking about the story and characters along with how much fun they all had on set. Another featurette focused on the production design, costumes and other trades behind making the movie.

overall

Reviews haven’t been especially positive so far and tracking estimates a relatively paltry $10-12 million opening weekend.

But the marketing campaign here conveys a solid sense of fun about the story, one that’s helped by the actors involved constantly talking about the great experiences they had during filming. It looks like an old-fashioned caper movie involving mistaken identities, corrupt politicians and other tropes that on paper add up to a good time with a movie, especially with a cast as charismatic as this one.

It also looks like one released as counter-programming to some of the movies coming out on streaming services recently as well as an offering to anyone who’s not excited for whatever the next super hero or wizards movie might be. In fact it may be aimed directly at those who aren’t invested in a high-profile cable series about dragons etc.

the adam project – marketing recap

How Netflix has sold a time-traveling character drama

The Adam Project movie poster
The Adam Project movie poster

After getting such critical and commercial acclaim for their collaboration on Free Guy a few months ago, director Shawn Levy and star Ryan Reynolds team up once again for The Adam Project, arriving on Netflix this week.

Reynolds plays Adam Reed, a fighter pilot who travels decades back in time and crash lands in 2022 while on a mission to save the world of the future. Stuck in his past, Adam has to work with his much-younger self (Walker Scobell), who is living with his mom Ellie (Jennifer Garner) after his dad Louis (Mark Ruffalo) passed away.

So the movie is a family drama within the trappings of a sci-fi adventure. As such there’s been lots of referencing of classic Spielberg/Amblin movies from the 1980s. So let’s take a look at how it’s been sold.

announcements and casting

It’s been a solid 10 years since the movie first went into development, at one point having Tom Cruise attached to play the lead. But it wasn’t until Netflix acquired the project in 2020 that production actually began.

Various big names, including Ruffalo, Garner, Keener and others, were added to the cast in the months following the June, 2020 announcement by Netflix. Reynolds shared some photos from the film in late November.

When she was promoting Yes Day last year, Garner commented on the film briefly, specifically calling out it being a reunion of her and 13 Going On 30 co-star Ruffalo.

the marketing campaign

Things really kicked off this past January when Netflix shared a handful of stills from the movie. A release date was announced that same day.

The teaser trailer (6.3m YouTube views), released in early February, sets up the premise well and, in particular, shows off Reynolds’ comic stylings. We see that Adam is having trouble after his dad passed away, soon meeting his future self after that self crash lands in the woods near Adam’s house. This teaser is all about setting things up, with few details shared, but it does its job effectively.

“Past meets future” we’re told on the first poster, which came out at the same time. It shows the present and future Adam meeting in the woods, the older one’s ship looming and glowing in the background above the trees. Like the teaser trailer, it works well in setting up the premise without offering much in the way of detail.

Some of the footage from that teaser formed the centerpiece of a Super Bowl commercial from Netflix that touted the company’s 2022 feature film lineup, promising new movies every week of the year.

Reynolds and Scobell, who makes his big-screen debut in the movie, talked about working together and the importance of original stories at a special London West Hollywood screening. They were also both interviewed about the throwback nature of the story and more.

The first clip came out about a week later, offering an extended look at the scene of Old Adam working to patch himself up in his childhood home as Young Adam follows him around trying to figure out what’s going on and who this stranger is.

The cast and Levy all appeared at the red carpet premiere of the movie at the end of February. While there they talked not only about the movie but the war that was at the time just beginning to heat up in Ukraine.

In early March the full trailer (4m YouTube views) was released. As it opens the two Adams and Laura (Zoe Saldaña) are escaping from whoever it is that’s after them. From there on out we get more of the story, that in order to save the future they have to stop time travel from being invented. That leads them to go back and recruit their late father, who contributed to that invention. With lots of hugging and talk about growing up, it’s clear this is an emotional movie as much as it is an action-packed one. Adding to that are all the pull quotes from early reviews that compare it to E.T. and other classic Spielberg films.

Before that trailer came out, Netflix shared a short video that starts with Scobell and Reynolds teasing it before *another* Reynolds appears and warns them not to release it because it’s so good it sets off a series of unintended consequences. It’s funny and contains the requisite ribbing of Reynolds while also singing the praises of Ruffalo and Garner.

A *very* Struzan-inspired poster was released along with the trailer. It has all the earmarks of that artist, most notably an awareness of design and composition basics that is all but lacking in most modern one-sheets, especially those for blockbusters and franchise entries.

A short promo/commercial boiled the trailer down to its essential action/humor elements.

Ruffalo and Garner appeared together in an installment of Netflix’s “Screen Test” series, talking about their favorite movies and generally being charming together, showing they have tons of chemistry.

In a very self-aware move, Reynolds’ ad production shop created a Kraft Mac & Cheese commercial tying into the movie that has Scobell as the spokesperson who can’t stick to the script because he’s been tainted by the experience of playing a younger version of Reynolds.

Reynolds and Garner shared some of the personal connections they have to the story in an interview that also included comments from Levy.

overall

I don’t put much stock in all the reviews and other coverage that compare this to 80s Spielberg and similar movies. Those comparisons are made about many films that mix in family drama with sci-fi or other genre elements to the point that I’m beginning to worry people’s reference points are the ripoffs laying claim to that heritage instead of the actual originals.

That being said, there’s a lot to like about the campaign, but your reception to it will likely vary based on your tolerance for Reynolds and his fast-talking antics. That’s why it’s nice that Netflix included generous helpings of Ruffalo and Garner and their reunion, especially at the end, to show there is more to the movie than a constant string of quips and Star Wars references.

picking up the spare

Netflix ran banner ads like the one below on Spotify in the week or so on either side of the movie’s release. 

The Adam Project Spotify banner ad
The Adam Project Spotify banner ad

Reynolds and Levy were interviewed about the movie’s premise and what they wanted to accomplish with the story. Those two and others also talked about the movie at the premiere, including joking about a reteaming of Reynolds and Hugh Jackman. 

There’s been lots of attention paid to the process of casting Scobell as a young Reynolds, including this featurette from Netflix and lots more videos that include Scobell reciting R-rated dialogue from Deadpool and other movies. 

Netflix also released a number of additional behind-the-scenes and making-of videos like this along with a blooper reel. 

Missing Link – Marketing Recap

missing link poster 3Laika 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.

The Posters

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 Trailers

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.

Overall

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.