Let me just get this on the record: I’m tired of computer animated films, even those from Pixar. There. Now you all know that I really am the heartless SOB everyone has long suspected I was. I don’t think they bring anything new to the film lexicon, there’s nothing inherently different or unique about them and quite frankly the advent of CGI has led to a lot of crap. It’s not like animators are all of a sudden able to do something more original with CGI that they weren’t able to do when they were drawing these films by hand. Plus, I’m getting a little tired of the look of them.
So Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride is a wonderfully refreshing experience for me. Forgoing even hand-drawn animation, Burton has once again delved into the world of stop-motion animation. The first time was for “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” which came on the heels of his two successful entries in the (initial) Batman series. I’m not going to go into the plot too deeply since Pete Vonder Haar already submitted his review of the flick. Let’s just say that, shock of shocks, Johnny Depp plays an eccentric. Who’d have thunk it?
I love it. From the look of the characters to the little yapping skeletal dog in the background this poster positions the movie not only to be funny but also at times genuinely spooky. If you’re already familiar with “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” “Batman Returns” or “Edward Scissorhands” you’d be able to tell this was a Tim Burton flick even without his name appearing just above the title. Burton has a one-of-a-kind visual sense to him and it’s in full display here. The slightly emaciated figures, the blue/gray color palete and the spiny vines coming off the rock all mark this undoubtedly as a Burton production. Interestingly I think that might be an actual picture of Helena Bonham Carter they used for The Bride and not the clay model.
Let’s not make any mistake about it, the teaser trailer for this flick works a lot better than the theatrical one. The main reason for the disparity is that the teaser trailer doesn’t feature Annoying Voiceover Guy. He’s just there in the full trailer to explain to all the rubes sitting in the theater waiting for The Island to start. The teaser allows the characters to play their parts and let us know what the story entails. There’s nothing wrong with making the audience think a bit about whether they understand the movie being pitched and then decide if it’s one they’d like to see. No need to hand everything to them on a silver platter.
OK, that’s enough of that rant.
Anyway, there are some genuinely funny jokes in the trailers and they allude to the dark sense of humor the movie has. Most of the time of the trailers is spent, shall we say, above ground, as the members of Victor’s and Victoria’s families deal with the strange twist that’s occurred as the couple prepares for their wedding day. There are some shots of the underworld citizens but not as many as I would have expected. Seeing the characters move around and interact reinforces the unique design they were given and the craftsmanship required to present a full-length stop-motion feature.
I can’t tell you how disappointed I initially was when I brought up the website for this movie. The HTML site-lite that Warner Bros. created simply lists all the usual content for a new movie. Trailers, Photos and such were all there and listed very nicely and cleanly so anyone with basic computer skills could access them. My heart sank. “Surely they won’t let a movie as unique as this one be stuck with a half-hearted website,” I said to myself. Then I entered the Flash-based site and things began to improve.
What Warner Bros. has done (or, more accurately, what the design firm has done on behalf of WB) is create a wonderfully interactive website that showcases the film’s unique locations. Let’s dig in.
First stop, “The Pub”. Here you can not only view the Trailer by clicking on a pair of spooky eyes, but you can play a game of darts to unlock other video content. Online games are often lame but this one is actually quite fun and I played multiple times. Then we’re off to the “Village Square of the Dead”. Play catch with the skeleton dog and if you get him to catch the ball, which you throw by grabbing it with your mouse and bouncing it off the buildings, you get to view the Character Profiles of the underworld residents.
Next on the tour is the “Elder’s Study”, where we find some Desktop Wallpaper and, after doing a bit of snooping, a Screensaver. In the “Village Square of the Living” we get Character Profiles of those in the movie who still have heartbeats and aren’t decomposing. “Victor’s Room” contains a Synopsis and the Production Notes. Final stop here is the “Music Room” where we can listen to some clips from Danny Elfman’s soundtrack. If you look hard enough you can also find a spot where you can play some music yourself using your mouse or keyboard. Again, it’s a lot of fun and I had a good time playing it.
Keep in mind that much of the content here is hidden, requiring you to look around for things which look out of the ordinary and click on them. The content itself isn’t that revolutionary but engaging the audience is a good thing.
There are also three microsites associated with the movie you should check out. Askthedead.com and Bonymail.com both allow you to create spooky messages and send them to friends, while Sept23.com has a grainy Blair Witch like video.
Where this campaign really shines is on the web. The trailers are good, but ultimately weighed down by unnecessary voiceover work. The poster is great at conveying the macabre sense of humor and look of the movie. The website, though, really seems to have been created with the mindset of providing entertainment value on its own, not just as a repository for repurposed content. The interactive nature of the website makes it more than just a one-time destination and works hard to sell the movie.
As moviemaking costs increase, the pressure to successfully market those movies becomes greater. In an attempt to show how marketers are trying to put the most hinders in the theater seats, Chris Thilk breaks down why some movie campaigns work and some don’t. The posters for “The Rocketeer” and “Unforgiven” remain two of his all-time favorites. For Chris’ ongoing movie journal and other various musings, visit his Movie Marketing Madness blog.