Saturday, March 7, 2015
Elicit Excitement: Thoughts on the 'Tomorrowland' Marketing
We are a mere two days away from the debut of the full trailer for Brad Bird's next film...
We Disney fans and films fans know it exists, it's called Tomorrowland. It was first announced back in early 2012, around the time Rich Ross was departing as Chairman of the film division. Disney has been taking a mystery box approach to the marketing so far, not dissimilar to how something like Cloverfield or Interstellar was marketed...
However, sometimes when you show too little, you don't always get the audiences thinking, "I'm going to see that in theaters!"
I honestly think the secrecy thing was what held Interstellar back from opening with more than $50 million at the domestic box office, because with Nolan's name and whatnot, it should've opened higher. Much higher. If I weren't a sci-fi fan, a Christopher Nolan fan, and a big movie fan in general, I probably wouldn't have bothered with the film on opening weekend. Cloverfield on the other hand had excellent marketing, showing the impact of the giant monster attack without showing you the monster or anything else. The chaos, the mystery, what is that? "Some thing has found us..." That got us all hyped, it opened with a then record-breaking amount for a January release. More than one could imagine.
Tomorrowland, unfortunately, doesn't seem to be drawing much enthusiasm outside of the film fan world. Its teaser was met with "What is it even about?" reactions, but no interest whatsoever. It didn't show enough, and many people complained that it wasn't intriguing them. I noticed back when the Super Bowl spot debuted, people still weren't really excited. I reckon it looked like a generic action film to most folks, despite the name of the film being the name of a beloved theme park. The new poster got similar reactions, I saw people saying the film looked bland, generic, run-of-the-mill, etc. When people are saying a Brad Bird film "looks" bland, generic, or run-of-the-mill, that is certainly NOT very good.
This same disinterest was what hurt John Carter of Mars and The Lone Ranger, too. That disinterest was created by bad trailers and marketing materials that didn't give people who aren't in the know an incentive to hit the theaters on opening weekend.
The problem is, they're showing way too little (coin takes girl to fantasy world, they gotta save it and the world, not much else) and it's reminding me of Interstellar's marketing. Of course, I was sold on that film because... Christopher Nolan and sci-fi. But if I wasn't a fan of those two things, I'd probably look at Interstellar's commercials and think "The future is rough, they go into space... Okay, what else?" Nothing in those commercials or trailers was anything special, nothing really suggested it could be worth seeing. No rush to the theaters reaction. Cloverfield's marketing on the other hand had a vibe to it: Mystery, chaos, it was also a found footage film, before found footage was really beaten into the ground. So it was Godzilla meets Blair Witch, and we saw all these shots of horrible things happening. We wanted to see more, we wanted to know more. Something like Interstellar was more of a "wait for someone else to see it" kind of thing. People apparently don't read reviews, either, because a lot badly marketed films with good reviews still fail to open well. (Disney's got quite a few of those.)
I'm concerned because Disney's live-action studio has, in my opinion, been stifled by the higher ups. The only big tentpole-like movies in development outside of Pirates of the Caribbean 5 are remakes of Disney's own takes on classic stories: Cinderella, The Jungle Book, Pete's Dragon, Beauty and the Beast. A Maleficent-style Cruella origin story and Dumbo are also in development and they can go disappear. No movement on Guillermo's del Toro Haunted Mansion it seems, or The Stuff of Legend, or TRON 3, or Terra Incognita, or Matched, or even stuff they just got the rights to like Goblins and Floors. A Wrinkle in Time seems to be happening, but I'll believe it when I see it. (As in, it gets a release date, a cast, etc.)
This newfound love of rehashing classics is so anti-creativity, and it all seems to stem from the box office performances of films like Prince of Persia, TRON: Legacy, John Carter of Mars, and The Lone Ranger. Disney suits seem to be afraid of doing movies like that, even though experimenting gave them hits and even massive franchises, like Pirates of the Caribbean, National Treasure, and The Chronicles of Narnia. (Had they not poured too much into Narnia number two, the series still would've been going at the company.) TRON: Legacy would've been a moneymaker had they not spent so much on the marketing thinking it would be the "next Avatar". Dropping those kinds of films altogether is not the way to go about things...
So I see Tomorrowland as the ultimate decider of the fate of these kinds of Disney films: Do more experimental/creative/cool/different live-action blockbusters stay within the Mouse House? Or will they be out on their ear?
Of course, we all want the former, right?
This film need to be profitable. It needs to be a hit!
The trailer that's debuting on Monday needs to really work some magic. It needs to get causal moviegoers thinking, "I'm seeing that in theaters!" "Can't wait!" "Looks awesome!" "I gotta see that!" Since it's a full trailer and not a teaser, it's got some work to do. What is the story? Why should we care about the main characters? What's at stake here and why should we care? It's just be-bopulation, I got street savior-faire.
Also, major points off for leaving Britt Robertson's character, THE LEAD, off of the new poster...
It is a nice poster, though...
But please, whoever is okaying the marketing materials for this film, even if it's the awesome Mr. Bird himself, I hope you have made a great trailer that will get everyone interested. Us film fans and aficionados can only do so much, and we want Disney to keep making films with concepts like this. We don't want the future to just be remake after remake after remake. Some are fine (Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, I can excuse, because it's at least unique in a way), but there's more than enough room for this kind of stuff too. Show more of this film, but not too much. Show enough stuff to get people hyped without spoiling some really cool stuff.
Raise your mug for Brad Bird's new film, and a successful trailer that'll get the crowds a-comin'! We need this to be successful!