Disney is a Marketing Genius… (“Why We Love Disney” Chapters 5 and 6)

The one thought that kept coming to me as I read these two chapters was how good Disney is at identifying and pleasing its audience, despite its few failures over the years. Disney seems to have always been good at marketing, right from the beginning. Additionally, the company seems to have always been open to experimentation and trying new forms of media and entertainment. Disney is able to go back and forth between giving the audience what they want, as well as giving the audience something new and different.

Right from the beginning, with the release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, I noticed this trend beginning to form. No one had ever dared to make a feature-length animated film before, and people loved it. Subsequently, there appeared many different Snow White products, from records to soap. This shows how Disney has always been good at identifying what its audience likes and exploiting it in every possible way. The same was true of Mickey Mouse and all of those related products, as we read in the other book. Much of the same thing is true with the way Fantasia was promoted and presented. The film is something new and unique, and as such, Disney needed to find creative ways to market it to the public.

Disney is also very wise when it comes to adjusting to their audiences. For example, the WWII films show how they shifted their priorities to suit the public interests and to stay relevant. Similarly, Song of the South is an example of a film that did well and was accepted by the public at the time of its release, but has since been swept under the rug by the company, because they know that today’s audiences would (and do) not approve of it. As far as trying new mediums of entertainment, Disney has managed to carve a permanent niche in both live-action  film as well as in television. With both of these forms of media, Disney was at first reluctant, but them accepting. In television, you can see this in the way they began to target teen and tween audiences with relatable, iconic young actors and actresses. From Annette Funicello to Miley Cyrus, and beyond, they have always been good at finding new talent and turning them into household names.

I think we still see these characteristics of Disney to this day, and I think it is one reason why they are still so successful and beloved. The best example of this that I can think of is with the film Tangled, and the way its promotion was handled. First of all, it is a computer-animated film, as opposed to a traditional 2D, hand-drawn film. Almost all popular, wide-release animated films these days are computer-animated, so it makes a logical sense that Disney would embrace this technology for such an important film. (I say it is important, because even though this is not the first computer-animated film they have release, it is the first one to feature a new Disney Princess, and I think that even if the film had been a failure, the Princess aspect would have been pushed and marketed to death. I hope this makes sense. I can’t really think of a better way to explain this.) Secondly, there is the way that the film was marketed. I’m sure I’m not the first one to notice this, but look at this promo poster for Tangled: 

The characters are looking very mischievous, almost edgy. The cocky expressions seem to say “Hey, this might be a Disney film, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be cool and hip.” It’s very reminiscent of a lot of the posters for various DreamWorks animated films: 

What is it with that cocky eyebrow expression?! This shift in promo technique shows Disney’s adaptability. They clearly have taken note of the popularity of films such as Kung Fu Panda and Shrek, and are doing their best to grab the audience’s attention with a similar marketing technique.

The trailer for Tangled does much the same thing:

To be honest, I felt severely let down by this trailer. It made me not want to watch the film. The obnoxious music, the fact that her hair seems to have a mind of its own or something… it all just left a sour taste in my mouth. I wanted another classic Disney Princess movie, in the style of my beloved Beauty and the Beast and Cinderella. I was sure that the film would be—if not outright horrible—at least not something anyone over the age of 10 or 11 would really enjoy. It would be the start of a new generation of Princess films, full of snarky, stupid humor and obnoxious pop songs.

Obviously, I was wrong. Tangled is nothing short of pure Disney magic. It has it’s shortcomings, but all in all, it follows the same classic formula and delivers a Princess film no less wonderful or beautiful than any of the others that have come before it.

But it’s all in the marketing. Ultimately, I think that Disney was very smart in the way they presented Tangled. Regardless of what the film actually is, they knew that promoting it in a certain way would attract the most viewers. Perhaps if it had been marketed as another standard Princess film, box office sales would not have been as good.

I realize that this post has become a weird review of Tangled, and not so much about the chapters. But this is all I could think of as I did the reading. Disney’s adaptability has allowed the company to stay relevant while at the same time remain loyal to their own tried and true formulas. I think this is one reason why the company is so successful. No matter what medium of entertainment they endeavor in, they find a way to make it their own, and make it work.

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