Today In Disney History ~ October 16th
USA Today released an article in May 2009 about the “Christmas Carol” train.
Disney stokes publicity engine with ‘Christmas Carol’ train
A Christmas Carol, Disney’s high-tech, 3-D version of Charles Dickens’ classic yuletide tale, isn’t due in theaters till Nov. 6. But the holidays will arrive early across the USA as the studio embarks on one of its most elaborate publicity stunts in decades, maybe ever.
“What brings a smile to me is that it harks back to the earliest promotional idea, now new again,” Zemeckis says. “When the circus would come to town, the train would park, and they’d have the circus parade through town and then set up the tents. This is the 21st-century version of that. You get to see all these wonders, it’s free, and then you hope they show up later.”
Other studios also are pushing non-traditional outreach. This season alone so far, Paramount conscripted an army of traveling green party girls to hype Star Trek, and Fox had towns across the country competing in a vote-off to host the X-Men Origins: Wolverine premiere, energizing whole communities to battle one another.
•A digital gallery of the film’s characters and their design evolution; each portrait will digitally change and show how they were created.
•Artifacts from the Charles Dickens Museum in London, including a first edition of the original novel and some of the author’s personal writing paraphernalia.
•A display of performance-capture technology, in which the real actors’ movements and expressions are recorded and digitized, then used for animated renderings.
•Interactive games, including a face-morphing photo booth that will blend the visitor’s visage with Scrooge’s.
The fantasy will extend beyond the train cars, with the holiday spirit re-created with decorations, local carolers and even artificial snow. And in the parking lot: a portable theater to show early footage.
While whistle-stop tours are most frequently associated with politicians from Abraham Lincoln to Barack Obama, those campaigns and the one for A Christmas Carol have a common foundation, says Disney studio chief Dick Cook.
Candidates can try to woo the populace through television, radio, print and the Internet, but shaking hands during a hometown visit is a much stronger connection.
“We’re going town by town, city by city,” Cook says. “Audiences will have a chance to feel it, touch it and know about it way before any television has run, or anything else. There’s a familiarity with it. And I think that will pay off.”
Disney used to achieve that direct contact with mall tours, but Cook says that now too few malls have large open spaces; they’re filled with kiosks. Instead of stepping out of the clutter, mall tours place the event in the thick of it.
A train tour is fitting for A Christmas Carol more than, say, some sci-fi extravaganza. There is something warm and nostalgic about trains, says Cook, who worked in the early 1970s as a steam locomotive and Monorail driver at Disneyland, and before that as a laborer for the Santa Fe Railway.
“I’ve always loved them, ever since I was a kid and had my own little track around the tree at holiday time,” says Cook, who counts 11 models just around his studio office. “To put it mildly, I have a strong affection for trains. There was no question, when (the special events team) presented it, it sounded pretty doggone good to me.”
It sounds good to Mario Pricken, author of the book Creative Advertising, too.
“Anything that deviates from the norm will draw the public’s attention,” he says. “Many of the most successful advertising campaigns are based on this simple principle. If all of the houses on your street are white, then the one that is bright red will capture the full attention of the passersby. From this point of view, the train will work well for a number of times, but then one should quickly seek a new idea.”
He also says the personal connection idea really can be effective. “People come into direct contact with the product and at the same time have a strong emotional experience.”
Paramount’s Star Trek parties also had a personal touch, albeit a less family-friendly one. Hipster photographer Mark “The Cobrasnake” Hunter was hired to throw underground parties in cities including Paris, Tokyo, Los Angeles and Berlin. While DJs kept the crowds dancing, graffiti artists created massive Spock-themed paintings, and models in silver bikinis and bright green full-body paint writhed seductively.
Hunter, who posts shots on photo blog TheCobrasnake.com, says he delivers “people who don’t want to listen to traditional advertising.”
The website, created five years ago, focuses “on some of the most exclusive nightlife and parties around the world, and it’s followed by these people who are hard to please and hard to persuade,” he says. “We added a little sprinkle of Star Trek, because part of our whole methodology, and it’s a pretty obvious thing, is you don’t want to shove things down people’s throats. There’s just a light salt of Star Trek at the events.”
Justice Laub, who helped Hunter organize the Star Trek bashes, says the parties were meant to inject Trek into the youth-culture bloodstream. They also pitched more elaborate stunts, such as staging an impromptu laser battle in the middle of some unsuspecting city.
“We wanted to go to a small town that had never had any special things happen and hire all these people to pretend they are like police officers with yellow tape and have smoke and lasers and look like crazy gunfight on top of roof. And having people calling the press and getting all scared,” Laub says.
“That didn’t work for everybody,” he adds.
Advertising expert Pricken cautions that promos should never become more interesting than the movie.
“That can misfire badly,” he says. “I suspect that many a good film has been robbed of success because of exaggerated expectations.”
Disney’s Cook is confident their version of A Christmas Carol is different enough to sustain the very elaborate promotional effort. “It’s a very groundbreaking movie,” he says, “and we felt we needed to do something wasn’t just a quick splash.”
TMSM Today in Graphic by Sherry Rinaldi DeHart; Article from USAToday.com
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