Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Selling Walt: the Business (and fun) of Movie Promotion--Part Two

Walt Museum

Part one of my recap of Robert Tieman’s captivating program, “Selling Disney: the Business (and fun) of Movie Promotion,” left off at Character Appearances & Publicity Stunts. Let’s roll right into part two, starting with the next segment, titled:

*Specialty Art*

The characters found themselves on more than one periodical cover during the course of their film’s promotion. The cover of the December 1937 issue of Time Magazine featured Walt with all seven dwarfs.

December 1937 issue of TIME

Snow White was also displayed on the covers of Liberty Magazine, Hollywood Magazine, and Movie Mirror, the latter of which featured a headline reading “The dramatic life and death of Dopey in ‘Snow White’.” This was largely due to the fact that when Walt was asked what project Dopey would be starring in next, Walt replied with, “None.” The media of course came to their own conclusion as to why. Pinocchio showed up on a Children’s Book Week poster for the week of November 12, 1939. He also found his way onto the cover of Liberty Magazine, Playthings, and oddly enough, Screen Romances. The magazine Town and Country featured a piece depicting how the characters would look if they were painted by famous artists (Gauguin and van Gogh were two of the painters chosen). Pictorial Review featured Cinderella on two different covers: One with Santa presenting her to PR’s readers, and another in which she meets Baby New Year.

*Who’s Hungry*

Restaurants got in on the action too. If you happened upon Carder’s Restaurant at 6300 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles in the early 1940s, you might have noticed a certain little wooden boy adorning your menu. And on your neighborhood Thrifty’s menu, you would spot Cinderella, complete with a cutout character from the film; just a little extra incentive for the kids when nominating where to eat out that night.

*Time to go Shopping*

Advertising for the Storkline infant suite number 7258 carried with it a Snow White theme. And one music store displayed a white piano in its ad. Not just plain white, mind you. "Snow" white. Pinocchio, meanwhile, showed up on several different catalog covers. The two Robert shared with us were: The Hutzler Brothers of downtown Baltimore, and The Spiegel Christmas Catalog of Chicago. The Spiegel cover also featured a cartoon bear, for which Pinocchio announced an “I want a name for my pal” contest. Even though the contest produced a winner, it was the Studio who ended up choosing the name for the bear. They called him Humphrey, and he made his first appearance in the Goofy cartoon Hold That Pose. In a few of the more clever campaigns, department stores windows were decorated with a pumpkin coach and horses, and Cinderella herself was used to promote shoes.

*Small Town Copy Writers*

The characters also appeared in a variety of newspaper advertisements. Clark & Johnson, a restaurant in Dallas, Texas, utilized characters from Snow White. Dopey found his way into an ad for a clock shop, giving readers two pieces of advice: “See me in Snow White, and have your watch repaired at…” Jiminy had some advice of his own: “I’m Jiminy Cricket. I never tell a lie. You’ll enjoy shopping at…” That last one was particularly crafty. Cinderella hawked new homes, and it’s good to know that according to one newspaper advert, if Cinderella and Prince Charming had ever found their way to Michigan City, “They would eat at Arnie’s Griddles!”

Snow White found herself in a Royal Typewriter Company ad, which offered customers the option to “Tap like Snow White, or hammer like Dopey.” Pepsodent claimed “It’s easy to have teeth like Snow White with Pepsodent toothpaste or powder.” Some of the products the characters peddled made sense in some way: The aforementioned selling of shoes by Cinderella, and Snow White selling bleach. Snow White selling sunflower seeds does not fall under that category. In one of the funnier ads however, Robert shared a photo from the period during the 1952 reissue of Snow White, in which her and the seven dwarfs are transporting a washing machine back to their cottage. “With the Bendix washing machine, you’ll wash happily ever after.”

Anybody thirsty? How about a sip of refreshing Monstro Soda? Need to freshen that breath? Try Calox Mouthwash, complete with a Pinocchio glass. Ads Robert showed us also featured Pinocchio hats, Pinocchio Weatherbird shoes, Pinocchio bread, and Post Toastie Corn Flakes with cutout Pinocchio characters on the back. And even the American Dental Association got in on the action, offering a “Pinocchio Presents the Good Teeth Award to __________” certificate. I hope the kids brushed after drinking all that Monstro Soda. And during the 1954 reissue of Pinocchio, rose breeders Jackson and Perkins offered horticulturists the chance to “grow a storybook garden” using roses named after Pinocchio, Geppetto, and Figaro.

Cinderella herself was featured as part of a campaign for do-it-yourselfers to spruce up their homes. “Make your home a palace” was the slogan used, and that phrased donned ads, buttons, and even billboards with a three-part method suggesting you Clean Up, Paint Up, and Fix Up your residence. At one point consumers perusing their daily paper might have even stumbled upon a JC Penny ad (that turned out to be a wildly popular promotion) which offered free Cinderella aprons to its customers. Apparently all one had to do to get one was just show up and ask!

*Give Away Comics*

The program wrapped up with a few images of some special giveaway comics that people received, that not only came free with products, but more often than not featured said products within its animated pages. Snow White appeared in a comic called “Mystery of the Missing Magic.” Pinocchio and Jiminy took to the comic medium to provide children with important kite safety tips. And during the 1958 reissue of Cinderella, one particular comic featured many of the film’s characters enjoying a refreshing glass of milk.

Robert Tieman’s comprehensive presentation seemed to fly by, as audience members who were around in those days relived wonderful moments of nostalgia, while the younger participants received a very interesting peek into the early days of movie marketing. I’m afraid my recap doesn’t do it justice; I was only able to take so many notes, and many of those old photos were so great, they are way better seen rather than read about. For those of you in Southern California, Robert is presenting his “Selling Walt” program again this Saturday, July 21, at the Disneyana Fan Club Convention in Garden Grove. I highly recommend checking it out. You can also check his official website for future presentations/news.

Thanks for the great presentation, Robert!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A History of Disneyland Transportation

I recently penned an article detailing a brief history of Disneyland transportation for Storyboard, the Walt Disney Family Museum blog. It was written in honor of Disneyland Week, and was inspired by the recent transportation addition to Disney California Adventure, the Red Car.

The majestic Red Car en route to Buena Vista Street

The article encompasses modes of transport that board(ed) inside Walt Disney’s original Magic Kingdom, and are/were able to drop you off at a different location. Because of this, I had to leave out a few beloved attractions, like: The Peoplemover, The Columbia, even the parking lot tram. But I think it's still a pretty good read. If you have a moment, please click the link below!

A History of Disneyland Transportation

Monday, July 2, 2012

Selling Walt: the Business (and fun) of Movie Promotion--Part One

Walt Museum

On Saturday, June 23, I attended a presentation at the Walt Disney Family Museum titled, “Selling Walt: the Business (and fun) of Movie Promotion.” Author and former manager of the Walt Disney Archives, Robert Tieman, took us back to the early days of the Disney Studio, and the art of the advance promotion campaign. Back before constant (or any at all, in the case of the earlier films) television commercials, Twitter, Facebook, and viral videos, Hollywood had to take unusual steps to promote their upcoming releases. They not only had to describe what the story was about, but introduce the characters as well. And for Disney’s animated films, this was no different.

Because of the length and great detail of Robert's presentation, rather than editing out vast swaths of it, I decided to make it The Disney Project's first two-part recap. I hope you enjoy part one.

Robert Tieman worked with Disney Legend and original archivist Dave Smith for more than 25 years. “I tried to catch up to Dave,” Robert said. “But when I was learning all of the stuff he knew, he was learning new stuff. So I never could quite catch up.” One day Dave suggested to Robert that he write a book. At first, Robert rejected the notion. But he soon had a change of heart, and he went on to write: The Disney Treasures, The Disney Keepsakes, The Disney Experience, Quintessential Disney: A Pop-Up Gallery of Classic Disney Moments, and The Mickey Mouse Treasures. For the program, Robert advised us he would be focusing on three films: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, and Cinderella. He then rolled right into the photo-intensive presentation, and broke it up into categories.


Robert showed us a photo of the Snow White premiere at Radio City Music Hall. It was packed. Disney of course was a very well-known name at the time, but thanks to Kay Kamen, who I recently discussed in this article, they made sure that everybody knew about their upcoming and first feature-length animated film.

For the purposes of promotion, studio Publicity Departments created something for the theaters called “Press Books.” These books contained lots of wild ideas to help individual theater owners promote an upcoming release. Robert showed us pictures of the Press Book covers for each of the three films. One excerpt from Pinocchio’s read “A far flung ready-to-tie-in-with exploitation machinery that is waiting for you to harness to your showing of Walt Disney’s Pinocchio.”

Walt himself keyed in on using the existing network of newspapers for promotion. A few weeks before Snow White premiered, a comic strip featuring parts of the film’s story appeared every Sunday. Disney did this for live-action films as well, including 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and even the original Tron! There were also a series of ads in the papers, each one featuring a different character, and each one stylistically different than the other, including size, font, etc. That wouldn’t happen these days, with the standardized font and specific shades of colors.

*Fun in the Lobby*

The Snow White Press Book had some pretty imaginative suggestions, such as a magic mirror people could talk to, and an actual wishing well in the lobby, complete with a record player at the bottom. The book even recommended collecting the coins for local charities. Sculptures of the Snow White characters were also suggested. Creating them from snow outside a theater was a reasonable idea. Shaping characters from beef tallow for a cooking competition in Boston was not quite as reasonable. Pinocchio-related ideas involved transforming ticket booths to resemble Geppetto’s Workshop, and holding a Figaro look-alike contest for cats. Theater owners wanting a theater full of cats, however, is another story.

*Character Appearances & Publicity Stunts*

Showplace Magazine, the official magazine of Radio City Music Hall, advertised the seven dwarfs making an appearance at the Skating Pond in Rockefeller Center.

The dwarfs made all kinds of public appearances. They showed up at ice cream parties, swimming pools, and parades. And everyone’s favorite dwarf, Dopey, even had his own dance craze. It was called “Doin’ the Dopey.” These days “doing the dopey” is a term Disney runners use, indicating the running of a 5k, half marathon, and full marathon in 3 consecutive days. But back in the late 1930’s, it consisted of seven distinct dance steps, and even had its own record.

Pinocchio had his own balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. The quality of it was a little suspect, however, as it was not an official Disney balloon. From the picture Robert showed us, the balloon sort of looked like a puppet with Monstro protruding out of its face.

In one of the more curious promotions, the Studio made a 3-foot tall recreation of the Pinocchio puppet, and actually suggested that it arrive by plane, de-board, and be interviewed by the local press (someone thought it was a good idea, because Robert showed us a photo of it happening!). The Press Book also recommended a person dress up like Pinocchio and ride around on the back of a pick-up truck, “trapped” in a bird cage. An alternate option was for him to ride the back of a donkey. While Robert didn’t have any bird cage photos, he did produce a full-grown man dressed as Pinocchio, riding a donkey. I wouldn’t go as far to call the photo terrifying, but it was certainly odd. And speaking of odd, we were presented with another photo of a real life Pinocchio, this time being taught how to golf by a baseball star (as opposed to a pro golfer), Red Sox infielder Jimmie Foxx. In the category of "pretty neat promotions," there was a “Quest to find Cinderella” in Chicago. One hundred winners were chosen, and each girl was given a free ball gown, and got to put it to use in an actual ball thrown for them.

The end of that segment merely marks the halfway point of Robert’s presentation. Please check back soon for the second half of “Selling Walt: the Business (and fun) of Movie Promotion.” The next segment Robert presented is titled “Specialty Art,” and details some pretty cool magazine covers the Disney characters were featured on!