Friday, May 26, 2006
I've been musing on why Over the Hedge didn't quite blow the doors off the theaters last weekend, and I don't think it can all be blamed on the massive success of The Da Vinci Code. . . I worked on Hedge, and knew it was one of the best films DW has produced. Funny, well executed, with a story that pays off. Even the critics, biased as they seem to be towards DreamWorks' animated films, gave it good reviews. Yet, before it opened, I didn't have a good feeling in my gut about the film's prospects. And it just dawned on me why I felt that way. Here you have a film with a playfully anti-consumerist theme, and yet the vast majority of the television marketing I saw portrayed the Hedge characters happily shilling for the world's biggest retailer, Wal-Mart! We're all accustomed to some marketing tie-ins. We've also gotten used to seeing our favorite characters selling crap. But I don't recall ever seeing this happening before the movie is released, at least not to this extent. Maybe my TV viewing habits are atypical, but I saw at least three or four Wal-Mart/Hedge spots for every vanilla ad selling the movie itself. As I think about it, I don't think I saw more than a couple of regular TV spots for Hedge. I know I've already seen far more ads for Cars. My impression (and I'll be happy to post info to the contrary) is that the studio made a strategic decision to save some of the massive marketing costs (I believe a typical marketing budget for a theatrical release is now around $50 million) by having Wal-Mart carry a big part of the marketing load. But then they're ads for Wal-Mart, not ads for the film, and that's not the same thing at all. Some might say any publicity is good publicity, but those Wal-Mart ads made me nauseous. Having the public's first associations of those characters as pimps for a corporate behemoth, in ads that aren't particularly entertaining, can't have helped at the box office. I said to a friend before the film opened that, based on the advertising, I wouldn't have wanted to see the film. And I was put in the place of trying to convince skeptical friends that it was worth a look. I know we in the animation biz love to blame the marketing departments of our studios when are films aren't presented well, but this time the problem's been racheted up to a whole new level. After thinking about this, I did a web search to see if anyone else had the same thoughts. I found this posting (from which I stole my title), from before the film's opening, that touches on some of the problem. I also see that some of the critics, despite liking the film, noted the disconnect between the film's theme and the marketing. Maybe I'm wrong -- maybe the Wal-Mart marketing of the film was only a tiny part of the whole, but it didn't seem that way to me, and I can't help but wonder that it hurt the film.
Posted by Kevin Koch at 11:53 AM