One of the recurring themes in our coverage of Illumination’s films—whether from four years ago or a recent post about the absence of Illumination “art of” books—is looking at how the studio operates differently from other major Hollywood animation producers.

As a feature animation company, Illumination is less revolutionary, more evolutionary. Founder and CEO Chris Meledandri has brought a boutique animation shop flavor to Hollywood feature animation, creating an alternative to the bloated feature infrastructure of Disney in the 1990s and Dreamworks in the 2000s. Illumination’s model of curated hand-picked projects is in many ways an iteration of Pixar’s approach, even if the resulting films are different.

A piece published yesterday in the business publication Fast Company sheds some light on one of the studio’s biggest strengths: marketing its films to the global masses. The piece presents the statistic that 20% of the content produced by Illumination’s French studio Mac Guff is not actually for the films, but for ancillary content related to the films:

[I]nterstitial ads and smartphone games have to be as compelling as the movies themselves. “Nothing we do is ancillary,” says founder and CEO Chris Meledandri. “Every interaction the audience has with our characters is equally important to us.” Thanks to a dedicated creative unit that functions as an internal ad agency, 20% of the material Illumination creates is simply in support of its movies—some appearing in increments as short as five seconds long.

It would be interesting to learn how the 20% figure compares to other studios. Regardless, there’s a valuable common sense lesson here for any animation producer/distributor, even those working on a much smaller scale than Illumination, and that’s that no one knows you’ve made something unless you invest significant resources on the backend to promote it.

Meledandri has also pointed out previously that Illumination’s 100-person marketing department is integrated into the production team at Mac Guff, creating synergies between the films and ancillary content. That integration can be a boon considering that, per Fast Company, Illumination controls all of its licensing deals and partnerships.

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Amid Amidi

Amid Amidi

Amid Amidi is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Cartoon Brew.

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