Rio/Rango: Seeing Double?

Two highly anticipated animated features. Both with one-word titles, starting with the letter “R”. And now, both with a strangely similar marketing campaign. At least this is what I thought when I spotted these posters displayed side-by-side at the Pacific Theatre in Glendale last night.

I’m not saying these are exact duplicates of each other, but is this the only way to sell an animated feature? Lead characters staring at the camera, zonked-out in the foreground, with the supporting cast behind them. I have high hopes for these two films. I know the stakes are high, and I know both are aiming for the same core audience – but please, Mr. Theater Manager, don’t post these posters next to each other. It looks a little silly.


  • Michael H

    I noticed this as well, when I saw the images on the iTunes trailer site. This poster of Gnomeo & Juliet, that was also on the same page, just added to the effect:

    http://www.imdb.com/media/rm1177192192/tt0377981

    • http://www.stringstornasunder.blogspot.com Chris Powell

      As least the Gnomeo poster is telling a little story. i rather like it. it is fun and I like the designs on the guys in the back

  • Ron

    Could it just be that there are certain stock layouts that poster artists use for movies? I’ve seen similar montages used for Star Wars and Indiana Jones. In face I think this composition is one that I studied in illustration school.

    • http://zeteos.blogspot.com/ mick

      ‘studied in illustration school’ ???

      my dark view of ‘art’ courses drops another hue

      My sympathies Ron

      • Ron

        I guess I should have said “studied in some illustration courses I took at a University that had an art school in it which offered a BFA in illustration, where one of the myriad techniques they taught us among many others, were several different stock compositions that are often used for montage imagery- the likes of which can often be found on movie posters, travel brochures and even restaurant menus”

        but I was trying not to be too long winded.

      • VGREER

        Actually in order for your dark vue to get any darker it would drop in Value, not Hue. Hue is a color’s place on the color wheel, Value is how light or dark it is (then there’s also Saturation, which measures how intense/greyed out the color is)

        yay art school :)

    • http://wallcollective.com/cogspa/wall/ joe micallef

      Since the advent of photoshop, entertainment agencies adhere to “stock ideas” to advertise films. You have about three categories: Main character with minor designs in the background, a collage of several portraits with a car explosion in the background, or two character facing each other or side-by-side (for romantic comedies).

      Occasionally, ad agencies break away with this and show elements of the story in a clever design. But this was more common before photoshop when illustrators used to create posters. (for example Saul Bass) or use one graphic element to represent the whole film.

      • Ryoku

        Theres also some Mount Rushmore looking one a few films used, like Star Trek.

    • Ryoku

      I bet there is, sometimes when I go to Blockbuster I’ll look at rows of DVDs and I’ll find 5 matching covers by different studios. Theres plenty of other stock fomats they use too, there were about 5 movies that copied the cover from the Fast and the Furious, and they weren’t its 3 sequels.

      Star Wars and Indiana Jones copying one another is no surprise, the same people work on those.

  • http://www.enigmation.de slowtiger

    This is the setup used for at least half of the movies starting in Germany. It’s as if a certain german law requires that one font, that one composition, for all movies – only that there’s no law, this time.

  • Steven M.

    Strange, but I’d say coincidence. Now what I really wish for was a more clever, or fun way of making a poster instead having the main character standing straight with everyone else behind him.

  • Kyle

    Chalk it up to marketers on auto-pilot and design by committee. Nothing innovative or creative here.

  • fbako

    Posters don’t really bother me actually. Sometimes you can be put off by a poster.
    In fact, when these 2 posters put together I thought “Man…another animated animals…”

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/VujadeEntertainment#p/u/0/3HaupcJwAdk Steve Schnier

    I’d call it lazy art direction. There are a few ad agency-type firms that specialize in creating movie poster art. They probably hire the same art directors back and forth.

    The clients think they’re paying for original designs. They don’t get to see the competing ad campaigns until its too late..

    • http://wallcollective.com/cogspa/wall/ joe micallef

      The clients know what they’re getting. Most entertainment ad agencies have to bid on the film (usually 2 or 3 agencies compete for one film) and alot of creative competition is put into that bidding process.

  • http://art-candy.blogspot.com/ Andrea
    • http://elblogderg.blogspot.com Roberto

      It’s esentially the same composition but I like that one (Toy Story 3) better.

      In fact I don’t really see a problem with the composition per se. Main character in the center and supporting cast in the background may not be super original but I think it’s ok and efficient.

      The problem to me is how cluttered and copy/pasted everything looks in Rango’s and, especially, Rio’s posters.

      Toy Story 3 looks like everything is in its place and it looks like something is happening in the scene. The others look like they had to paste all the characters there for no reason. I don’t think it’s necessary to see every character to decide you want to see that picture. Kids may like colourful and detailed posters, but this poster of Rio or most of Shrek ones are just plain ugly. The next Winnie The Pooh movie had all the main characters there and it looked beautiful.

      Both of these Rango and Rio posters would look better with less characters, but Rango can get a pass since there is at least some hierarchy and it looks like a more believable “scene” (Rango is next to us and the town people looking at him). In Rio everybody is posing for the poster and most of them are interfering in other character’s space. It looks extremely artificial.

  • Tory

    Regardless of animation or live action, they do not seem to allow, use or respect good movie poster design, it is the same with live action and often DVDs of older films, sometimes go for images like this instead of superior movie posters of yesteryear. Even some comic book covers look like this.

  • JuJu

    Why does every animated movie poster now have to feature characters doing the “eyebrow raised with confident smirk” expression? Speaking of expression, look at Rio’s face, the at Rango’s. Notice something similar?

    • http://wallcollective.com/cogspa/wall/ joe micallef

      Good point! Why do the majority of Hollywood CG animated films feature a sometimes bumbling, well intentioned (but often conflicted & confused) male character? So many examples from Shrek to Wall-E…

      • Ryoku

        Why do so many think that the only good way to develope a character is to make another Buzz Lightyear?

        Just read the info on Rango at wikipedia, you’ll see what I mean.

  • http://trentanimation.blogspot.com Trent

    hahaha, well said.

  • Donald C

    It’s really not an uncommon pose.
    Especially for an animated film.

    • http://mrscriblam.tumblr.com mrscriblam

      that’s the problem

  • http://wallcollective.com/cogspa/wall/ joe micallef

    I don’t think the whole marketing campaign of a film should be boiled down to the One Sheet (the advertising term for a movie poster). If you look at the campaigns as a whole they are quite different. Rango has been using a number of One Sheets posting individual characters on a plain background. In that manner, Rango is more similar too Two Story 3 (or the Hang Over). Rio has been playing off of the main characters long scarf – making the Rio campaign stand out a little more on buses, benches and billboards. As for the posters – I think the design is quite common for any comedy featuring a bumbling main character. (like “The Jerk”,”Pet Detective”, “Elf”, etc…). Movie poster design as a whole has been in the creative doldrums. Studios are trying to brand the main character more than anything – rather depicting the story arc in one image.

  • Chris

    For that matter have you seen the posters for Cowboys Vs Aliens + Thor?
    http://trailers.apple.com/trailers/universal/cowboysandaliens/images/poster.jpg
    http://trailers.apple.com/trailers/paramount/thor/images/poster.jpg
    And then compare to the posters for Hellboy + Jonah Hex:
    http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/jonah-hex-poster.jpg
    http://getmovielink.com/images/covers/Hellboy.jpg

    Not too much creativity in poster design these days.
    (Just to disclose: I worked on Rio, but had nothing to do with the posters)

    • http://wallcollective.com/cogspa/wall/ joe micallef

      My point (from earlier) exactly. Because of heightened competition these days, the lack of creative expression in movie poster design boils down to two aspects of branding:

      1. Reeling in the customer because they recognize (and are most likely addicted to) the established brand. You save money that way. Put Thor smack-dab in the middle of the poster… the consumer doesn’t have to second guess and you bring your demographic into the seats immediately.

      2. Establishing a new brand (which in animation always involves a central marketable character), so the studio can leverage that character on a variety products in order to bring in greater profits.

      In my opinion, animation studios use the central character design for reason number 2 since all of the studios are looking for their “Mickey Mouse” – that one magical character that will be loved by all for generations to come. That character will also bring in profits for years to come, well after the movies featuring him or her have been made.

      • dbenson

        I find myself recalling the state-of-the-art branding that came with the James Bond films. The 007 icon (the one with the 7 becoming a pistol) went on every product, and the slightly unnatural crossed-arm pose was incorporated into every poster. Even an illiterate would recognize Bond stuff.

    • Ryoku

      Whoever made that Hellboy poster must’ve been a Matrix fan.

  • pheslaki

    I just don’t see it. The expressions, colors, poses, props, everything is different.

  • http://jourdyn.tumblr.com/ Jody

    This seems to me that it’s more people working a tight deadline so they revert to basic graphic design techniques.

    • http://wallcollective.com/cogspa/wall/ joe micallef

      Not only that, but the studios want the entertainment agencies to create several concepts (which usually get narrowed down to 3 final choices) before that deadline.

  • PeteR

    Why would you make a film with a parrot who has a strong profile and then make a poster with the bird facing straight on so you can’t tell what it is? And i’ve seen Rango.

    The poster is more entertaining.

    • La Pulga

      It’s supposed to be a parrot?

    • Ryoku

      Good point, though what more did you think of Rango?
      And it being an ILM feature worries me, some of their CGI is a bit jellow-ish, mostly in the Star Wars prequels (none of those or Avatar were animated features apparently while Rango is).

    • http://AnimationIdeas.com Phil Willis

      That’s exactly what I was thinking.

      The parrot has this honking big beak. To NOT show it in profile is just lazy design.

  • optimist

    Have you seen the “quality” of any animated poster from 1965 through 1988 or so(almost all Disney releases)?
    I have so I can’t complain about these which are practically Saul Bass by comparison.

    Anyway, I’m sure the similarities of these two are the result of marketing decisions, not intentional copying.

  • Marketing Companies Buh-Low

    Blame the marketing companies, not the animation studios behind them. For some unknown reason thats always perplexed me, large studios farm out their marketing to crap-weasel firms that dont know the first thing about creating an original layout design for a poster, or an interesting trailer for that matter.
    Look how many animated trailers that have the exact same structure and beats…. Its tired, played out…

    This sort of shit drives the animators at the studio’s just as crazy as it drives us.

  • P. Cornhair

    Sweet lord what a bunch of hand-wringing ninnies.If you can design a better poster, then you ought to be out there designing better posters – you have no excuse. I’m sure a studio would love a chance to have a striking original design delivered to them for a cut-rate price. Get to it! Stop typing and start drawing!

    • http://wallcollective.com/cogspa/wall/ joe micallef

      There are lots of artists designing their own movie posters… for example; http://reflectionof.me/redesigned-movie-posters

      Give it a google, hundreds of artist are out their doing exactly what you say.

      But “better design” or originality is not the issue. Studios care mostly about the standard branding procedure that sells their products. Its more about business than art.

      Nothing negative with this conservation – most of the comments here reflect the business of movie production.

      • P. Cornhair

        Those are terrible examples of redesigned posters. They tell you nothing more about the film than what costume or part of a costume a character was wearing, and are only meaningful if you’ve already seen the film. Even then – they fall back on the same composition half this thread is decrying – a character (in this case, an object representing a character) in the center of the frame, with the title of the movie below it.

        Furthermore, all poster design is by its very nature commercial design, which -is- marketing. This shouldn’t be a revelation to anyone in this industry. The whole point of a movie poster is to sell the movie to the public. If your design doesn’t do that, no matter how lovely your composition is, no matter how esoteric your design elements are, it has failed as an example of poster design. It may very well be a finer example of art, but as a solution to the problem of making masses of people want to see a movie, it is inadequate.

      • Ryoku

        Yea, those re-designed posters are WAY too vague.

      • http://librabear.blogspot.com Wesley Louis

        This conversation reminds me of the Coraline posters. They all serve their primary function which is to sell the film, one of them however would have put me off if I’d seen nothing else. Makes me think the marketing guys tried to cover all bases

        http://www.movieposteraddict.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/11/mpacoralineposter.jpg

        http://thecia.com.au/reviews/c/images/coraline-poster-0.jpg

        http://www.movieposteraddict.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/11/mpacoralineposter2b.jpg

    • Ryoku

      Lets see… I’d be out there if they’d hire me or if I knew how to contact them. Even then I bet it’d have to go through several focus groups.

      • P. Cornhair

        Or you could start honing your craft by doing posters for local bands or theater groups. Kids today. They want to start at the top and work their way sideways.

      • Ryoku

        I’ve been searching my local craigslist for work, who says I want to start on top?

        The main problem I’ve been having is some posters expect me to have 3 years experience on $500 programs.
        I have just a few minutes of experience from a demo!

  • http://MrFun'sBlog Floyd Norman

    I bet to differ.

    The studio wouldn’t know a good poster if one hit them in the head.

  • http://www.cementimental.com Tim Drage

    You should count yourselves lucky they’ve moved on slightly from ‘character looking smug on plain white background with giant Gill Ultra Bold red text’.

  • monty

    Those two posters don’t really look alike..There are teams of people whose whole focus is bringing the masses (mostly children) in to see these movies. They do tests and surveys and have devoted a lot more time than I have into finding out what drives box office. I’m sure there are people who can tell you exactly what percentage of people respond to this type of design, I’m sure they could tell you by age, race, and economic demographic. I’m also sure they are not here commenting about this topic. If we start looking at all of the movie posters where the main character is staring at the audience youll be here for a while.

    In looking at the success of feature length computer animation over the last 10 years they obviously are doing an amazing job. Sometimes there’s a reason why a cliche becomes so, because it works.

    (remember..we may not be the target audience)

    • http://artofguy.blogspot.com Guy

      Yes, marketing experts have definitely discovered that the main character staring at an audience creates an irresistable urge to see the movie.

    • Ryoku

      I thought movies were meant for families to watch.

  • Isaac

    That’s just nitpicking. We all saw Tangled’s posters and trailers. They reflect nothing about the film.

    • http://elblogderg.blogspot.com Roberto

      That’s not the point. Jerry already said he has high hopes for these two films. He didn’t imply the quality of the posters reflected anything about the movies.

      The criticism is still valid. For example, I think most of the characters in Rio have beautiful designs. However, the poster looks ugly to me. I’m not blaming the movie or its designers, just they guys who approved the poster. Instead of making a good use of the designs in a nice composition, every character is competing for your attention. They created individual stock-poses for every one of them that would work as individual stickers, but they don’t work when you put all the characters together.

      Incidentally, I don’t like the ‘tude poses in “Tangled” poster, but the composition is acceptable.

  • chipper

    It seems pretty standard, but I’d rather have this than those boring live action movie posters where you have characters on blank white backgrounds. Live action could take a cue from animation.

    I get the names mixed up, but I always get names mixed up.

    • Ryoku

      Oh geez, those white blank backgrounds make it look like the graphic artist didn’t have time to make a background.

  • http://www.stringstornasunder.blogspot.com Chris Powell

    2 thoughts:

    1. Google Rio Poster. There are several pretty nice, more appealing posters for this film. (just noticed that. wanted to point it out.)

    2. actually a question. What is that thing to the left of the main character, under the toucan?!!

    • snip2345

      Iz a MONKEY! :D

  • Erin Siegel

    Well the Rango one kinda works for me since you can see he’s isolated, has his own space, and is clutching that bizarre thing. You get a sense he’s very much alone. For Rio’s, you got a fairly strong pose from Blu being all mangled by all the other characters tossed on him. The perspective is all kinds of weird too. I’m pretty sure that toucan is supposed to be bigger than Blu. And judging by the poster alone, that dog is the other lead. Going by the trailers, it’s the female spix (blue) macaw. So why is she way in the background stuck behind that random cardinal whatever and given less poster real estate than the rapping capuchin?

    Just a strange design choice.

  • Silence Dogood

    Hmm…I suppose the Smarm Brow poster trend got old. Now we have the puzzled protagonist pose.

  • http://www.facebook.com Pixar Fan 2010

    I think both posters are nice.