Disney-Pixar’s “Brave” hit the box office this weekend, raking in $66.7 million, making it the fifth-highest opening ever for a Pixar film. The first two action-packed trailers were big buzz builders (and positioned the film as boy-friendly even though it stars a female heroine), but Disney’s marketing machine has been full swing for months, building interest through other media properties well before the film’s release.
In fact, kids could know a significant portion of the story before the film’s release thanks to a few book apps Disney rolled out the week before the film hit theaters. In a conversation with Lyle Underkoffler, VP of Digital Media at Disney Publishing Worldwide at Book Expo, we asked him about the early release of the apps and if it was a concern to reveal too much too soon. He noted that it all depends on context and timeline with each property, but “there are still surprises in the theater” for audiences that see “Brave.” Meanwhile, the brand has been building buzz around the characters and story with prequel pieces, carrying it through the release with “inbetween-quels,” and adding to the story with small sequels that tell stories that come after the film — with all of these extra stories taking shape outside the theater experience.
Movies don’t exist alone anymore, with product extensions and deeper character development coming as afterthoughts as films become successes. Young viewers want to interact with characters and stories in a variety of formats — a true transmedia experience. That desire has grown as they’ve developed a connection with films via social media, tweeting about what they’re watching, following film stars, and sharing trailers on Facebook. It gives film properties a life outside of the theater, one that Millennials wish to extend, both before and after the film’s release. Their desire for more — more of the story and more entertainment from a film property they love — has even led them to create their own content when they find it lacking. But with Disney-Pixar’s “Brave,” few will find that there isn’t enough content with which to engage.
Disney has a particular talent for creating that deeper level of engagement with fans, and its product extensions are a big part of that. It’s beautifully crafted Brave: Storybook Deluxe app features character voices and animation from the film. The Brave Interactive Comic app is designed as a graphic novel for tween fans and comes with how-to instructions to draw the film’s characters, which means we can expect to see a lot of pretty good fan art around the film. Disney also released “Temple Run: Brave,” which became the top-selling game app when it was released a week before the movie came out. The game follows Merida through the Scottish countryside as she races along shooting targets and battling a bear, which are activities that tie-in with the film, but also make perfect sense for those who haven’t seen it.
The augmented reality apps, book apps, and MMORPGs that Disney-Pixar has developed for “Brave” are expansions of the story told in the film — they can live separately from the movie for those who haven’t seen it or offer fans a way to further engage with the story and characters, adding a new dimension to the film experience.