Friday, September 26, 2014

One Film At a Time

Next year will come a first for Pixar…

Up until now, Pixar had planned to release two films in a calendar year before, but those plans had fallen through. For instance, at one time, Newt and Brave were going to share 2011. At another time, Monsters University and The Good Dinosaur were set to open in 2013.

So now here we are, fall 2014. It's certain that Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur will both open in 2015, the former being the summer release and the latter being the fall/holiday offering. We also know that Pixar has a marketing strategy that often differs from the one used for Walt Disney Animation Studios' films.

Usually, a teaser for a Pixar film lands nearly a full year before the film comes out. It usually debuts before the newest Pixar film. One exception to this rule was Up, the teaser for that didn't show up before WALL-E in theaters. We had to wait a little while for that one. I believe starting with Finding Nemo, you usually got the first teaser for the next Pixar film in theaters. By the time Nemo came out, Pixar was slowly edging into the one-a-year schedule.

This wasn't the case back when you had to wait longer for Pixar films. I'm talking the Toy Story 2/Monsters, Inc./Finding Nemo days. Monsters, Inc.'s first trailer showed up in fall 2000, which was nearly a year after Toy Story 2 hit theaters. I bet the story, characters and designs were significantly different for good ol' MI when Toy Story 2 was first released, Thanksgiving 1999. I believe the first place the MI teaser showed up was on the home video release of the Pixar sequel, and then it was attached to December 2000's Emperor's New Groove. As for Finding Nemo, the teaser must've debuted around fall 2002. It was on the Monsters, Inc. DVD and VHS, which were released in September of that year. The proper teaser showed up, I believe, in October.

But then Finding Nemo came out, with The Incredibles set to follow a year and a half later. The teaser with Mr. Incredible trying to put on a belt was attached to it, and the audience howled with laughter. I just remember seeing the release date and thinking, "That's gonna be a looooong time from now!" The Incredibles had the Cars teaser, though to be fair Cars was originally set to open a year after that film. Then with the release of Cars, Pixar had finally eased into the one-a-year routine so seeing a Pixar teaser before the latest Pixar film was something to look forward to.

Pixar went against that for Cars 2, for the teaser didn't show up before Toy Story 3 in summer 2010. We had to wait till fall for that one, as it showed up on YouTube first in October, then on the Toy Story 3 Blu-ray/DVD in early November, with the full trailer ready in time for Tangled in late November. But then with they went back to the teaser tradition with the next film: Brave's teaser showed up before Cars 2, Monsters University's teaser showed up before Brave. When The Good Dinosaur's teaser wasn't shown before Monsters University, we were puzzled… But then the director change and subsequent delay happened, mystery solved.

So now the question is this: How will Disney Marketing and Pixar tackle the two films from the Emeryville house that are set to open next year?

I think Disney marketing/Pixar will pool all their efforts into Inside Out from now on until that Pete Docter film comes out. Inside Out is set to open June 19, 2015. A first look has been unveiled, among other things. Pixar hasn’t even rolled out a teaser for the film yet, though it’s highly assumed that one will debut when Disney Animation’s Big Hero 6 hits theaters in less than two months.

Then I think a teaser for The Good Dinosaur will debut the week Inside Out comes out, giving Disney the whole summer to market the movie. Disney did the same for three Disney Animation films, all were successful on opening weekend and beyond: Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph, and Frozen. They are also using this strategy for Big Hero 6: Start the campaign in the summer, release the film in the fall. I can’t see why they can’t apply that strategy to Pixar’s first US autumn release since 2004's The Incredibles.

Ever since Bob Peterson was removed from the director’s chair, we have heard very little about the film. Disney and Pixar had announced that the film had been pushed back from its original summer 2014 release date to November 25, 2015. Pixar president Ed Catmull also mentioned a few times that the project had been completely restarted, John Lithgow - voice of the father apatosaurus - also mentioned this recently, adding that the story had been “completely re-imagined”. It’s also possible that Pete Sohn, Peterson’s co-director on the project, has taken over the project, if we are to consider a tweet sent to him by a former Pixar technical director.

Perhaps Disney and Pixar haven’t felt the need to announce the new director or anything else, and are waiting for the right moment to unveil information on the revised film. We live in a day and age where we hear little tidbits about the productions of big Hollywood films and such many years before they come out. Even with Pixar, we hear more and more perhaps because of social media and how the game is today. There was a time when Pixar films were really, really secretive. I remember those days very well. Ratatouille's not-so-actual plot synopsis was mentioned back in 2004-ish, but not much else until the unveiling of the teaser two years later. Same applies to other films. Sometimes we'd hear titles, vague plot descriptions, and a few other things… But that was about it.

I can imagine Pixar rolling out the marketing for this film the week Inside Out debuts, with its all-new synopsis, the new director and crew revealed, and a few other details. In this scenario, the teaser then premieres before Inside Out. Two months later, a presentation of the film headlines the Pixar panel at D23, then the full trailer debuts in September, with a possible second one following in October. Then when that film opens, Disney and Pixar can then begin the marketing campaign for Finding Dory, slated for summer 2016.

Now we can extend that question to Walt Disney Animation Studios, as that studio is intending to release two films in 2016: One in March, and the second one in November. So what will Disney's 2016 strategy be? It'll probably be no different from their usual when it comes to the autumn 2016 release, but for the March film… Hmmmm…

The March 2016 release is most likely Zootopia, so let's just go by that. I can imagine Zootopia's teaser showing up as early as September 2015, as it would be attached to Sony's Hotel Transylvania 2. This would be a little after a Zootopia presentation at the 2015 D23, so the timing seems right.

Or if Disney is feeling nice, they'll actually re-release Aladdin in September 2015, and have the Zootopia teaser premiere before that. Now that would be awesome! Then the full trailer arrives just in time for the Thanksgiving release of The Good Dinosaur.

Or if the teaser debuts before The Good Dinosaur, we get the full trailer in December or January. Then as for the fall 2016 release, whether it's Giants or Moana or whatever, the trailer will simply debut in the summer before Finding Dory.

I think that could work. It would mean waiting, but Disney and all of us saw that you can start the marketing whenever (well, as long as it's not too close to the final release date), as long as the film in question looks good to the public, you'll score well on opening weekend…

What are your predictions regarding this?

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