'Toy Story 3' Screens Minus Its Ending

By Robert Marich
   May 2, 2010 – Boy, this is one ballsy promotion using sneak preview screenings! Walt Disney Studios is showing over half of Toy Story 3 at 40 college campuses before June 18 general release. However, the audience is warned in advance it won’t see the full-length animated theatrical film’s cliff-hanger conclusion.
   What’s going on? Today’s college students were little kids when the first Toy Story hit theaters in 1995 and they’ve outgrown the property, or so they think. “By reigniting these core fans — and withholding the ending — Disney hopes that they will not only buy tickets to opening weekend, but also bring their friends and chatter on Facebook and Twitter in the meantime about how much they liked the opening two-thirds of the film,” notes a New York Times article by Brookes Barnes.
   At the end of the screening, the audience sees an ad saying: “Make sure to check out the full 3-D experience of Toy Story 3 when it hits theaters nationwide. The toys are depending on you.”
   The New York Times article says that the special screening ploy seems to get an online buzz afterwards from the audience and the audience is impressed with what they saw, though some folks express anger at having the movie’s ending withheld. Still, Disney seems smart to expose much of the Pixar animation creation to create word of mouth.
   Showing big chunks of films prior to theatrical release is nothing new. “Twentieth Century Fox last year showed about 15 minutes of Avatar at a specially ticketed event in Imax theaters around the world,” notes the New York Times article. “DreamWorks Animation used 40-minute college screenings to create awareness for releases like Over the Hedge.”
   …one postscript to this all. The Disney theatrical marketing team has been doing outstanding work with this innovation and other campaigns, notably Alice In Wonderland. Reviews for Alice were not raves but the film became a megablockbuster ($330 million in domestic box office alone!) launched by an ad campaign that conveyed the arresting color and wonder of the Tim Burton extravaganza.
   Disney corporate brass pushed out a lot of film executives, including the chief of marketing, yet remaining marketing executives keep the magic coming.
   As reported, Disney just hired a marketing czar M. T. Carney from outside Hollywood. She advised consumer goods outfits on low-cost digital media marketing.
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