Once someone embraces their destiny what comes next? Like after they decide to just be the best whatever they can be and stop fighting things what happens the day after that? When it comes to movies the sequel usually covers similar ground, finding some reason to bring the character back to a starting point of some sort so the filmmakers can have the character go through the same process, once again discovering their true path and coming to terms with who they’re meant to be.
Kung Fu Panda 2 seems to be doing just that. In the first movie from a couple years ago Po (Jack Black) finally realized his dream of learning Kung Fu, becoming part of a team and breaking out of the boring life he thought he was living. In this installment Po is still part of the Furious Five but now is told that there’s a threat to Kung Fu itself that only he can confront. This journey to discover who it is that is behind this challenge comes at the same time Po is looking to uncover the secrets of his own past and find his true parents.
The first movie was far better than it had any right to be – refreshingly devoid of the non-stop pop culture references that are usually sprinkled so liberally into Dreamworks’ movies and full of genuinely funny moments – so here’s hoping the sequel follows in that same path.
The first teaser poster just features Po coming toward the audience in mid-kick, with the “2” coming out of “skadoosh” so that we all know it’s a sequel. Like the teaser trailer below there’s not a whole lot going on here outside of simply setting up the movie’s existence for the audience. A second teaser was similarly simplistic, just showing Po looking very confused at the camera and picking up the “2” with a set of chopsticks.
A later poster also featured Po on his own, though this time he was standing balanced on the number “2” and looking more like he’s about to kick some kung-fu butt. Same basic visual treatment, though, so it’s continuing to give a consistent look and feel to the campaign. And still another showed him coming down with the Furious Five in full attack mode.
So there doesn’t seem to have been an actual final, theatrical poster for the movie for some reason. Maybe it just didn’t need one here since the audience is more than likely able to make the decision to see the movie or not based on the materials already available – or even just on basic awareness, which these posters more than achieve.
The first teaser trailer has Po sauntering up to the camera as if he’s going to be intimidating and ready for a fight. Then we get a stomach growling joke before he engages the audience in a “kung-fu staring contest.” It’s a simple teaser but serves to alert the audience that there’s a sequel coming and that it’s going to be filled with much of the same humor that was enjoyed in the first movie.
The second trailer gives us more of the story of the movie. It starts out with Po giving a demonstration of his prowess to the anxious onlookers before Shifu comes and tells him a new threat has emerged that he must battle in order to save kung-fu. So he and the rest of the Furious Five travel to confront these new enemies, which he dos in his usual clueless manner that nonetheless will likely let him win because his enemies aren’t expecting to do *THAT*.
Overall it’s a good second trailer but I think it works a little too hard to play up the new threat that Po and the team have to face. It makes the audience very aware that they’re going to be watching a sequel instead of a new and interesting story featuring the same characters. I know it *is* a sequel but the fact that that line 1) made it through the scripting process and 2) is included in the trailer negatively balances out much of the hope I have in this movie. It’s a minor gripe, sure, but it’s enough that it pulled me out of the experience of watching the trailer.
When the official website opens you have the option of watching the trailer or taking any of the other actions that you’re invited to at the bottom of the page. That includes playing some games, watching some videos or visiting and signing up for Kung Fu Panda World, a virtual world that allows you to do all the sorts of things virtual worlds let you do. It looks pretty similar to Webkinz and similar ventures.
The first thing you can do on the site is view profiles of each character that includes not only their biography but also information on their fighting style. You can scroll through all the characters and view whomever you want.
“Videos” has the Jack Black Epicness video (more on that below) as well as the Teaser and Theatrical Trailers and the Super Bowl commercial that aired.
There’s a one-paragraph synopsis of the plot in “Story” and “Downloads has Wallpapers, Create & Print crafts and email Signatures. There are games to play online as well as other stuff to do like “Games”
Part of the official site also let you connect with Facebook and add your face and those of your friends to a parade of virtual characters that also included the animals in the movie.
The movie’s Facebook page opens with a prompt to enter a sweepstakes and also links to many of the features that are on the official site. Of course there are photos and videos and updates on the Wall about what the cast is doing on the publicity front and what new marketing materials have been released.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
TV advertising began before 2010 was over, with brief spots that didn’t show much outside of Po and the rest of the Furious Five descending into battle, with Po of course not being quite as on top of it as the others.
The advertising continued with a spot that aired during Super Bowl XLV that was all about showing Po and the rest of the Furious Five in various fights but without any context around them. There’s one or two gags in there about Po’s stomach being his primary motivation in life but there’s nothing about what the movie’s story might be or what the plot is. A later TV spot would take a more comedic tack and mostly show more scenes involving Po’s love of food with only a little hint of the whole “must save kung-fu” plot.
Future commercials would more or less jettison this hook and just sell the comedy of Po and his girth, which is still in stark contrast to his teammates. There’s still very little plot being put on display in these spots but that’s alright since their goal is just to make kids laugh at the big panda and not bore them with a story.
Some pretty epic advertising was done on YouTube (AdAge, 5/12/11). A teaser video showed Black rehearsing the “skadoosh” line eventually leaving and a prompt appearing that promised more if you clicked on it. Once you did an ad unit showing Po came back along with a list of videos that you were encouraged to drag over to Po. Doing that the played that clip, followed by the trailer on a page that also displayed all sorts of other assets. That’s multiple levels of interactivity that couldn’t have come cheap but which garnered a lot of press and some great video viewing numbers.
Sun-Maid raisins put Po and the movie’s title on some of its packaging (MediaPost, 5/6/11) and included a QR code that took people to a mobile site where they could view exclusive content and enter a sweepstakes to win a trip to the Giant Panda Conservation Center in Atlanta along with other secondary prizes. The brand’s Facebook page was also put into service to promote the contest and the movie tie-in in general.
Airheads, General Mills and bottled water company Hint also released co-branded packaging for some of their kids-targeted products. There was even a partnership with tofu maker House Foods America that put the movie’s imagery on packages, an unusual deal that raised some eyebrows.
Hewlett Packard and Intel were partners as well as they always are with Dreamworks movies since those companies power the studio’s technology. And McDonald’s put KFP toys in their Happy Meals.
In addition to the stand-alone Kung Fu Panda World mentioned above there was an integration of the movie into Zynga’s popular CityVille game (AdAge, 5/20/11) that allowed players to insert a movie-themed drive-in theater into their cities and collect points for completing various quests.
Media and Publicity
At the same time the first batch of teaser marketing materials were released it was also announced Po would be participating in the 2010 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with the character taking the form of a huge inflatable balloon floating down the street (Washington Post, 11/25/10).
Toward the end of 2010 the studio also sent some swag packages out to various movie sites that declared 2011 to the Year of Awesomeness along with some movie-themed goodies for celebrating New Year’s Eve.
The tie-in toys and other products for the movie were also among those debuting or otherwise making a big show at the annual Toy Fair convention (Hollywood Reporter, 2/10/11).
The producers got out to the press at one point to talk about how the movie’s story would force Po – and presumably then the audience – to deal with some bigger issues (THR 2/27/11)than were presented in the first movie.
The movie was one of a handful that was brought by Paramount to the annual exhibitor trade show CinemaCon (THR, 3/30/11), where Jack Black entertained the crowd in his usual manic manner. The movie would make another industry/promotional appearance when it had an out-of-competition screening (LAT, 4/14/11) at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival.
As I said at the outset, the big thing I’m hoping for here is that this movie continues the first one’s ability to dodge “hip” jokes in favor of genuinely heartfelt humor and emotions. The campaign for this one has me hopeful that’s true for this installment as well. The trailers certainly show that to be the case. Once again we’re relying on the charm and humor of Jack Black to carry the day and recently he seems to be doing his best work in the voiceover world so this should be pretty good.
The appeal here to kids is obvious and appropriate and should work to bring in the kids that may be too young for movies like Thor and other superhero adventures. Everything about the movie is so outrageous and filled with epicness that those kids should be really excited for this to hit theaters.