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This Week at the Movies

I was flipping through the paper today – the entertainment section – and came across a trio of the ugliest movie ads I’d ever seen. The fact that they were for animated features (or mostly animated features) didn’t help ease the pain. In fact, I found them downright embarrassing (Click thumbnails below to see larger images):

Regardless of these films entertainment value, or their effectiveness in generating box office bucks, the ads are atrocious. To the general public they represent the current, sad state of theatrical family fare and could (despite Pixar’s best efforts) perpetuate negative stereotypes on animated films. What happened to style? To appeal? To a sense of wonder? Call me old-fashioned, but the ugly anthropomorphic things staring at us in these ads are not cartoons – they are simply another bunch of freaky flickers.

  • startend

    Is there something wrong with the way they make these? The studios who produce these films aren’t responsible for the ads! The newspapers and their affiliates are! They’ve been like this for ages. This is old news to me.

  • speaking of things ugly, as part of GAC’s 5th anniversary:

  • Sylvain

    You don’t remember the ads of Bug’s Life ?

  • Professor Widebottom

    It’s not that they’re all that bad for newspaper promotion. It’s just that the formula is so pervasive and common that you don’t even have to see the movie to get what the film is all about.

  • Paul N

    So the public perception of films lies with newspaper ads? A bit hyperbolic, don’t you think? I thought newspapers were dying; apparently they’ve not only rejuvenated, but they now hold the power to mold public opinion through movie listings. The gray lady rises anew… ;0)

  • Startend and Paul N and anyone else unclear on the intent of this post:

    I’m not putting down ICE AGE 3 or ALIENS IN THE ATTIC or G-FORCE. You guys can do that. I haven’t seen any of them.

    I’m putting down the ugly newspaper ads created to promote them. As all three of these films are playing this weekend, it was particularly jarring to see these advertising images together on one page of my local paper. Not only are the images particularly unappealing, but the ads themselves have no creativity to them. I say this as a former film distribution executive and company owner. No, I do not think public perception of films lie with newspaper ads alone – but they are a significant part of a film ad campaign even today (or believe me, the studios wouldn’t use them).

  • Movie ads are like political discourse today. Loud, abrasive and ugly.

  • Kyle

    The first problem is where you saw these ads…the newspaper. Printed newspapers are almost as dead as the trees they’re printed on. I don’t know anyone who subscribes to a newspaper, and I’m talking about lots of people from 25 to 70 years old.

    And who would ever look at movie ads in the paper to decide what film to see?

  • They are pretty bland, but what do I expect. All movies ads have been like this since I can remember.

  • Karen

    The Bug’s Life campaign was mostly outstanding, and is copied by Pixar and virtually every other animtion studio today, It was basically the Toy Story campaign but with color backgrounds (no white), with individual large characters. Not the biggest fan of the film myself, but there are worse campaigns out there, and I remember it being very striking at the time.

    Jerry–the word APPEAL means many things to many people. But in the industry–sadly, it has taken on a virtually NEGATIVE connotation. As if the word “appeal” means “Disney,” “childish,” or “kiddie,” This, of course, couldn’t be further from the truth. But try telling that to the those who think games or films that attempt to look “realistic,” or worse, use the lack of taste as an excuse to claim their product is “more mature,” or “adult.” There ARE cool looking games and shorts and movies out there that are “appealing” and far more mature and adult without relying on ugliness or bad taste, or having to resort to the “we’re trying to not be Disney” b.s.

  • William

    Studios are part of the ingredient, Startend. How can they not be? They’re involved to some degree, somewhere along the line.

    It appears to me ad material, such as that, has resulted from the same “assembly line” mentality used to create the films they’re meant to promote. 99% of mainstream movies (animated or otherwise) haved lacked sincere style, appeal and wonderment for many years now. Why should corresponding ad material be any different?

  • I have to say, most animated feature ads make even the few interesting films out there look unattractive.

    With Coraline, one of the ads feature the title heroine giving an “attitude” expression. It neither fits the character’s personality or the context of the film, and makes it look like something that it isn’t. Same thing with BOLT; Mittens wasn’t exactly a smart-alec.

    Hows about some sincerity for a change?

  • For some reason, the first two remind me of tabloid covers. The Aliens In The Attic ad looks like many a bad comedy poster from the last 5 years- all the characters squeezed together under the (invariably red) title in that same old bold font and a corny line for the release date at the bottom.

  • Chris Sobieniak

    > And who would ever look at movie ads in the paper to decide what film to see?

    I do!

    In this case, ads that are just the kids looking squarely at your with their ‘tude expressions bug me! Nobody wants to do the movie poster that catches your attention anymore with whatever scene or action DOES take place in the film (or close to it), when all they do is stick the one or two characters there and have them act like face recognition is all there is.

  • Ty

    This look pretty appropriate for a newspaper movie ad. Its not like they’ve ever been glamorous. Ever.

  • Sylvain

    Karen: I don’t remember the marketing campaign, I remember just that the local newspaper ad was as bad as usual for any other animated films : all the anthropomorphic insects with large cartoon eyes staring at the camera with a stupid smile.

  • Sylvain

    We are not the target of newspaper ads. At ComicCon, Fantastic Mr Fox had an original campaign, they gave away ties with a fox fur texture. While for How To Train Your Dragon, they had lithographs of a new concept art.

    These are the things that get the attention of a specific group, the animation fans. Which I am included in. The newspaper ads are still working fine targeting other groups (if we look at the Box Office revenues of ice age). Obviously I don’t like them, but they do manage to reach a specific group.

  • Thank you for commenting on this topic!
    There are brilliant artists working on these films only to be represented by a hideous ad for the film.
    Sadly, the beautiful, creative movie ads do not grab attention like a loud, busy, buy-this-toy ad will. These ads are focus grouped to death. And the art form is lost.
    Thankfully, titles are still artistic and sometimes more beautiful than the films themselves.

  • Hideous ads or not, I’m thankful that there are actually three (or more) family films our there in wide circulation. I remember growing up when a family film was a bad word and virtually non-existent except for the occasional Disney re-release.

    Getting back to the topic at hand, the first thing I thought of when I saw the previews of G-Force is that the character designs were quite terrible. I know they are supposed to look like real hamsters but still, there was little to differentiate the characters. The same goes for Aliens in the Attic. Having to stare at these unappealing characters in newspaper ads doesn’t really help.

    On the flip side, I’m sure that market research shows that these kinds of “in your face” ads work very well to grab your eyes when scanning the movie ads.


  • ‘funny’ – Mark S Allen … if that doesn’t recommend the film to you then you must be beyond encouraging

    is it me or is that just crazy?

    Like they could have written
    ‘A Film’ – Bernard Kint

  • messy

    Having seen them all, I would say that Aliens in the Attic is actually a good film. Its original in concept, and all the characters are intelligent. I’m not sure about the character design, but there’s nothing wrong with Mixed Media filmmaking.

    What’s wrong with G-Force is that it’s idiot plotting, i.e., utter stupidity is what’s driving the plot. The Story is BAD.

    AS to Ice Age 3 the damn thing is just tired, and everyone’s just making it for the money (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

  • Annonymous

    “What’s wrong with G-Force is that it’s idiot plotting, i.e., utter stupidity is what’s driving the plot. The Story is BAD. ”

    Actually, I thought the animation was the worst aspect of that film. The characters moved and walked like people in hamster suits. It’s like they didn’t bother to do any caricature of actual guniea pig or hamster movements (which might have actually made the film funnier) and instead they went for broad stereotyping. It was completely unimaginative. I could have excused the silly plot, but this time I think the animation destroyed what could have been a really fun film.

  • messy

    a bad script cannot be saved by great animation.

  • The television ads are worse, because they are on every channel; you must flip back and forth to avoid them, rather than just turn a single page.

    And the ones for G-Force are particularly abrasive. ugh.