Hype and excessive hype surrounds animated films these days. It’s an endless parade of marketing strategy and clever psychological tricks that leaves audiences constantly in a state of suspense. The good news is that we’ve finally reached a point where we can ignore it altogether.
It’s Not Like the Old Days
The image above might be a bit old, but it underscores my point. Major studios schedule their films and publicly announce them further in advance than ever before. Audiences are no longer in the dark about what to expect at the cinema or when to expect it. The process of marketing a film is getting longer and more complex to the point that franchises such as Marvel are never out of the public eye thanks to a multi-release schedule that sees their films in cinemas on a regular basis throughout the year.
There’s a more crowded field than ever, yet audiences are visiting movie theaters less. Blame a variety of factors such as cost, alternatives, and the actual film choices themselves. Studios counter such changes in a few ways (tentpole films being one of them) but another is to further their marketing efforts beyond simple advertising.
Marketing campaigns for films these days are not simple affairs. Oftentimes the goal is to simply push the film in front of audience’s eyeballs. In these modern times, attention is a very scare commodity and films must vie with some very non-traditional competition such as YouTube, Facebook, and video games.
Inevitably, films are hyped, and hyped excessively. Disney is one of the major producers of animated films, and one of the worst offenders (or the best player, depending on your viewpoint) at making sure the public is well aware of their films before release, or even before they get a name! Pixar’s film Coco is already appearing in press channels despite the fact that it doesn’t come out for well over a year, or for that matter, is even the next release from the studio; a title that goes to Cars 3.
Why is there hype surrounding these films then?
The average consumer (read: Joe and Jane Public) used to be generally ignorant until right before they became aware of an impending release via traditional advertising and promo campaigns. Times have changed though. First the internet, and then smartphones makes everyone connected and plugged in all the time. Nobody is ignorant of what’s happening any more. We’re spoiled for choice in terms of news about upcoming features.
Animated films used to be the preserve of families with kids, when the decision to see a particular film correlated very highly with whether it was playing that particular day or not. Parents did not ‘do their research’ so to speak, letting brands like Disney’s do the hard work for them.
Animated films in particular changed two-fold. Many more animated films get released these days. Audiences consequently actually have to decide which ones to see. Secondly, as animated films are no longer just for kids, their marketing campaigns must also appeal to childless adults and teen demographics.
Hence the shift in marketing strategy for these types of films, and again, there are two primary reasons for this. Teaser images of concept art drum up support amongst those old enough to use the internet and social media, not children. The other aspect is that each new snippet of news constitutes a newsworthy event, and in this day and age, if you’ve nothing to report, you’re not going to be missed by anyone.
This means that studios feel the need to constantly pump out tidbits to make sure that the general public is aware that something is coming down the pipeline. Many online outlets report such tidbits excessively and repeat the press release (often verbatim) as there’s really nothing of substance to report beyond what the studio wants to say.
Why it’s Time to Start Ignoring
There is really only one (OK, maybe two) reasons to start ignoring the hype surrounding animated films. The first is the quality of major studios’ films is known. Pixar does not need to remind you that it’s next movie is going to be good (or bad in the case of Cars 3.) The same goes for Disney, DreamWorks, or even Blue Sky and their next Ice Age movie. No amount of press will change your opinion formed early on except to spoil the film for you.
Another good reason is that major studios create an enormous amount of noise with their marketing campaigns, and the unfortunate downside is that their lust for your attention means that other smaller, independent features may not. Paradoxically, plentiful indie animated features abound, and given the known-entities from major studios, are actually more likely to be worthy of your time. The Little Prince certainly was a surprising find for myself.
This post is probably preaching to the choir since the people who need to hear this are unlikely to be reading such a niche blog. However, you can tell your friends. you know the ones, sitting on the edge of their seats waiting for a tiny morsel of detail about Brad Bird’s forthcoming sequel that it’s going to be exactly what they expect, so there’s no need to fret over how good or bad it’s going to be.
Ignoring the hype can and will free your mind to think and consider other aspects of feature animation, and in the increasingly-banal nature of mainstream entertainment, that’s not bad thing.