This spring, when audiences poured into theaters to see Disney-Pixar’s Up, the trailer for the third installment of the Toy Story series met them with surprise and delight before the feature even began. Set to come out in June of 2010, Toy Story 3 is being preceded by a two-week limited release of a theatrical double-feature of the original two films in 3D.
This release shows Disney’s continuing marketing genius. The double-feature will perform beautifully at the box office, as will the new sequel.
“I’d be surprised if Toy Story 3 doesn’t break some sort of record for animated film box office gross,” said RTVF professor Max Dawson. “I think it will be one of the most anticipated movies in quite some time.”
Our generation grew up on Toy Story. Since making their first appearance in 1995, Buzz Lightyear and Sheriff Woody have starred in two of the highest-grossing and most critically acclaimed animated films on record, spawned a spin-off TV series and sold millions of toys (toys based on a movie based on toys!). Pixar, as a company, took center stage for the first time, wowing audiences with the new technology it presented.
“People had never really seen a feature-length animated film that was able to do the same sorts of things [as a live-action picture] in terms of camera movement and innovative use of space and creating the characters’ movements and expressiveness,” explained Dawson.
Another RTVF professor, Eric Patrick, comments that Pixar “seemed to have transcended what we tend to think of as computer animation by applying character animation principles to it.”
The franchise has been immensely successful in both box-office and home video sales, so the “threequel” seems like a no-brainer. However, Disney saw additional opportunity in the upcoming film. It’s been a while since 1995, and a new wave of young’uns has cropped up since then.
Variety magazine quotes John Lasseter, Pixar’s Chief Creative Officer, as saying the following at Comic-Con: “Think of how many kids were born [since 1995]. They only know us from the home videos. These films were meant to be seen on the big screen.”
According to Dawson, “If you think of the 3D re-release… as an example of the way that Disney takes advantage of new exhibition and distribution technologies in order to refresh its catalog… it’s brilliant marketing on Disney’s part.” And since viewers associate the Toy Story name with adept storytelling and ground-breaking presentation, it will be easy finding an audience for this new rendering, even if the viewers already know the tale already.
The 3D release, then, serves a dual purpose. The films are being shown partially for their own sake and partially to advertise the upcoming third movie.
“Ultimately,” says Dawson, “bottom line, this is less about generating critical buzz or really renewing these films or re-presenting them in a new fashion then it is about creating and priming the audience for the 2010 release of the third film.”
Generating interest by using an old, beloved storyline as a vehicle for new ideas seems to be an almost guaranteed success.
The double-feature is now in theaters.