Movie Marketing Madness: Winnie the Pooh

There’s so much noise in the world these days that it can be difficult to convince your brain, which is now wired to always be looking for the latest status update from friends or whatever, that it’s alright to sit in the backyard and enjoy a summer afternoon’s breeze without any technological or other distractions. We don’t always need to be doing something, we can just enjoy the simple things in life and give our over-addled minds a break every now and again.

Cinematically we suffer from much the same problem. We are so used to something – multiple things – always happening on screen that whenever there isn’t a cacophony of action assaulting our senses we almost begin to become uncomfortable. But just as in real life it can be good to to take a timeout and enjoy something that doesn’t move at 97 miles per hour just so our senses have a chance to actually take in what we’re viewing.

Filling that need this week is Winnie the Pooh. The first big-screen outings for this cuddly character and his friends from the Hundred Acre Wood in decades (apparently we’re not counting things like The Tigger Movie), it also seems to be the first time in a while that the focus is squarely on the title character and not spread out quite as much to his supporting characters. The story is, appropriately, simple: What starts out as a simple search for more honey Pooh Bear and friends wind up believing they need to rescue Christopher Robin.

The Posters

The first – and it turns out only – poster was simple and wonderful, showing the whole 100 Acre Woods crew afloat on a sea of honey like the explorers they are. It immediately tells the audience that this is a return to the simple, classy and charming roots of the characters.

The Trailers

The first trailer is every bit as charming and gentle as you would expect it to be. It’s just an introduction to the characters and an alert that there’s a new movie coming out. So we get brief glimpses of all the characters in very familiar situations. Pooh wants some honey, Eeyore mopes around, Tigger is overly energetic and Owl tries to issue plans. All of that is wrapped in and presented as coming from the same kind of storybook as the original film, with pictures being presented as if on pages and Piglet bumping into words on the page. It’s all great, even if it doesn’t get into the story but instead rests on the strength of promising the return of some old friends.

Online

After you get past the trailer that plays when the official website loads there’s a lot of good stuff. Some material is presented in a nice flip-book kind of feature in the middle of the page but we’ll focus on the main navigation schemes.

That starts with the menu off to the left where the first section is “Movie.” That houses much of what you’d regularly expect on movie sites, with sub-sections devoted to the Trailer, the Music of the movie, a Story synopsis, a gallery of Photo stills, the Posters that were created and Cast biographies.

“Characters” is next and lets you learn more about the personalities that are in the story in case you’re not already familiar with them. Each character section also has games, activities and more that are related to that character. “Fun Facts” gives you a map of the Hundred Acre Wood that you can click various parts of to learn more about the characters and the world they inhabit.

There are lots of things to play in the “Games” section. “Videos” has the Trailer, some Featurettes and character profiles and “Printables” has activities you can download and print out.

A handful of the site’s features are replicated below in big graphics that will attract young eyes.

The movie’s Facebook page opens with the Personality Quiz that was on the main site and also has photos, a bit of video and other updates, including a regular countdown to the film’s release. There were also Facebook pages setup for Tigger, Piglet, Eeyore and the other characters from the movie.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

A good amount of TV advertising was done that played up the adventure of the story as well as the gentle humor and good natured antics of the characters. A couple of spots were created and released that started off like they were commercials for Harry Potter, with dark clouds and warnings about final battles before giving way to the nice, gentle footage from this movie. This is similar to what Disney has been doing for The Muppets, which hits theaters later this year, but doesn’t work quite as well because it doesn’t commit fully to the joke.

Media and Publicity

The movie got some industry promotion when footage was shown at CinemaCon 2011 (Hollywood Reporter, 3/29/11) to exhibitors as part of Disney’s larger presentation at that event.

Other than that much of the conversations have come about as a result of the release of marketing material, including clips and so on.

Overall

There’s a lot to like here in how Disney has, with one particular exception, decided to sell the movie based on what it appears to be, which is a brief chance to enjoy something that allows you to catch your breath in a summer of sensory bombardment. The poster and trailer are both simple efforts that play up the gentle nature of the story and that’s carried over into the website, which is certainly friendly for the under four-foot tall crowd.

The one exception are the TV spots that include the Harry Potter-esque openings. I get that they’re done with tongue in cheek and that they’re actually meant to acknowledge the fact that this movie is going up against that 800 pound gorilla (the audiences probably overlap more than I’m comfortable pondering) but they just don’t work in the context of the rest of the campaign. Unlike The Muppets, Winnie the Pooh has never been meta or otherwise referential of the outside world and so to introduce that just comes off as dissonant with the rest of the campaign, which is very nice.