Friday, September 21, 2012

Disney's Promotion Machine Might Be Broken...

                                            (Once Upon a Time stars Ginnifer Goodwin
                                                           and Josh Dallas at Disneyland)    

 At this point in time I am utterly and completely confused when it comes to the Disney Company. My puzzlement does not come from a lack of understanding about who the company is or what they stand for, my confusion with Disney is rooted in the mixed signals they continue to send. Like most women, Disney is hot on one day and cold the next; happy with you on Monday, and upset with you on Tuesday. I mean, they ask you to fold the laundry, and you do it; just not the way they wanted you to do it. Mixed signals, confusion, and a long night of sleeping on the couch. This is the typical routine with women Disney. (Hate mail goes to One of the things that makes me confused what we thought of as Disney’s unmatched ability to present and tie in one single property across the many different divisions in the company. It goes far beyond Disney putting their movie characters inside of the theme parks. For the longest time, for better or for worse, Disney has had the uncanny ability to, for better or worse, take one of its movies or tv shows and trot it around the entire company for full exposure and, of course, to maximize profit. Usually this tactic goes over well. Sometimes it can backfire. Like the on going and headache inducing Disney Channel Rocks street show at Disney Hollywood Studios. But like I said, for the most part, Disney does a great job at exposing its intellectual properties across all parts of the company. Phineas and Ferb is a great example. You can find the two Disney Chanel characters all over the Disney theme parks, on toy store shelves, on iTunes, and coming next July, on the big screen in a full length feature film. Some might call this over exposure, but you cannot deny the success of the program. Phineas and Ferb has become one of the most successful franchises in the Disney catalog, and a lot of that success can be contributed to the way Disney pimps them out across the company. There are, however, some instances when Disney has been less than hesitant to trot some of it bigger and more powerful properties around the company. Lets take a look at some of the opportunities I think Disney has missed, and particularly in the theme parks.         

John Carter of Mars:

Yes we know the story of this film and why it failed right? Months before this 2012 would be blockbuster was to hit theaters we were already hearing of trouble for the project. When the early trailer for the film was shown at the 2011 D23 convention people began to warn of the impending doom of the film. When the film debuted and subsequently bombed in the spring of 2012 many people blamed the lackluster promotional campaign that accompanied the film. People began to wonder why the advertising program for the project wasn’t well targeted and as focused as it should have been. This, along with the lack of any sort of presence in the theme parks had a lot of people confused, and not surprised when the film all but failed when it hit the box office. So why didn’t Disney bother to put anything in the parks in advance of this major budget blockbuster film? There were talks before the film premiered, that if it were enough of a hit, that Disney was going to have some sort of John carter stage show. That is, after the film debuted and if it were a success. So the Disney was of thinking was, lets promote it, after it’s a big hit, and probably wont need promoting. Yup, that’s the new Disney era we live in. As to what the stage show would have been? Chances are it would be a far cry from the former Stitch’s Supersonic Celebration Dance party. Talks were to have a mix of live characters, projectors, and music. Think almost like what ElecTRONica was and Disney California Adventure’s Mad Tea Party is. This John Carter stage show never happened though because the movie itself was flawed. Perhaps this stage show, or anything inside of the parks may have helped propel the movie to some higher level of success. I just don’t understand. The main problem with the movie was the lack of promotion, and some sort of theme park element would have been just what the doctor ordered. But what happens when Disney does produce a massively successful movie and still hesitates to cross promote it in the parks? 


Now Disney do a lot more to promote this movie inside of the theme parks much then they did for John Carter. With that being said, that promotion began and ended with the Avengerail at Walt Disney World. To be fair we all know that Disney is limited with what they can do with the Marvel Characters in Florida because of a previous agreement between Marvel and Universal Studios Florida. But why did Disney fail to put anything in any of their other parks to capitalize on what is literally the third largest grossing film in history? Again, to be fair, by the time the Avengers was approved and put into production at Paramount  Pictures I do not think the Avengers was on Disney’s radar. Paramount produced the film but when the decision was made by Disney to distribute and market the film there should have been some immediate work on a theme park element. It already almost common knowledge that The Avengers was going to be the 2012 summer blockbuster must see film. Did Disney even have anything in the works? In a June 2012 Reuters article Disney VP of theme park operations Tom Staggs confirms that there in fact were plans to put the Avengers in the parks. “"We were hard at work on attractions using Marvel characters previously.” But because of the massive $1.3 billion investment Disney made in their West Coast parks, execs were feeling a little bit nervous about putting in another major, e ticket, multi-million dollar attraction. This combined with the usual board room, creative constipation that plagues Disney today led to the lack of any type of promotion or attraction of the Avengers inside of the parks. All hope is not lost. With an Avengers sequel on the way, conventional wisdom says, that if Disney executives can work together long enough and communicate well enough, there might be something inside of the theme parks in tome for the sequel. 

Once Upon a Time

This is probably on the most successful and popular programs to come from ABC television since Desperate Housewives. With the show being watched by over 12.9 million viewers and receiving 3 2012 Primetime Emmy nominations you would think that Disney would want to capitalize on the new ABC fan fiction drama. Especially since the second season of the show is going full force right now. Currently, there is nothing inside any of the Disney Parks to help promote this show. You would think that a show that is so entrenched and loved by hardcore Disney fans would have some sort of presence inside of the parks. We have seen a few couple of instances where the stars of Once Upon a Time have visited Disneyland. Now I realize that it would be very difficult to find a story thread where the characters that all live Storybrooke, Maine happen to find themselves all the way in California. And whats more, in the midst of all the usual chaos that happens on the show each week, it would be difficult to imagine the characters taking time to visit the park. We all remember the adventures of the Tanner family, and more recently, the cast from Modern Family, around Disneyland with ABC and Disney cameras in tow. That being said, it would be interesting to see exactly what Disney could do to fold in and cross promote this hugely successful tv show into its theme parks.

The list of Disney properties that could be cross promoted and folded into the Disney parks could go on and on. As a Disney fan, let me be the first to say that I get a bit annoyed when Disney tries to fold in almost every tv show and movie already. The lack of original stories and characters in Disney attractions is nothing short of frustrating, but from a strict business standpoint I am confused as to why Disney has failed to fold in some of these hit movies and tv shows. In a company that is infamous for pimping out their intellectual property across all of its business divisions it looks like they have missed the boat on a few projects. Be it the creative constipation that blocks great ideas on the doorstep of one of the many Disney vice presidents, or the arrogance of the company thinking that these movies and tv shows can stand on their own merit, Disney is sending mixed signals across the board to it fans, and more importantly, its shareholders.                

                                                             (Photo by: Sara Bennett)

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