Mar 28, 2012

Won't You Join Me in a Cup of T?

All Images Courtesy of Disney
I'm just going to say it... I think this is a wonderful idea and it should be quite a lot of fun. Mad T Party will be the 3rd such street party in DCA and is looking to be the best of them all.

First came Glow Fest. It was nothing but a street party. It's theme was almost non-existent and consisted solely of "bright neon colors. Oh and also monkeys and belly dancers." It was a huge hit. Not because of the theme, but because of the atmosphere it created.

Next up Disney took a crack at creating their own version of this. Being Disney, they really themed this one up and gave us elecTRONica. Instead of recorded music, we got live DJs that rotated out so the music and styles were different each time. They added entertainment CMs throughout. The created a story and show and a place for this party to live in. They brought in dance crews and Laser Man. Created competitions and various areas within the party. It was a huge step forward for the concept. But the TRON theme is kind of dark and heavy. While the music was still awesome and amazing, the overall vibe was heavier and more atmospheric than the very light and bouncy Glow Fest.

Glow Fest was much more for the whole family while elecTRONica was much more geared towards adults.

Hatter, Alice, Cheshire Cat, Dormouse, Caterpillar and
March Hare are the house band
Now Disney is set to unveil the 3rd in this line of night time parties: Mad T Party. With the Mad T Party, Disney is working to combine these a bit. We get the brighter and more psychedelic design of Glow Fest mixed with the atmospheric lighting and street performances and live music of elecTRONica. They are creating a live band (guitar, synths, vocals, etc) composed of the film's characters. We're getting a DJ for when the band isn't on. The playing cards end up in the role of crowd dancers, interacting with the people dancing and keeping crowd energy up. elecTRONica had "programs" in this role but they didn't actually do much beyond play disc frisbee with people while the Go-go programs were isolated from the crowd on podiums. This should prove to be much more interactive and energetic. As gate keepers to the T Party and bouncers we get the Tweedle's, Dee and Dum.

The dancing cards

Seriously, this look has quickly become
my favorite of all the designs.
Most things dealing with the Alice in Wonderland stories allow the psychedelic aspect to creep into architectural details and set design, but costumes stay more or less normal looking. Without much architectural stuff going on for this T Party, it has been incorporated in the costumes. The checkerboard patterns on Tweedle Dee & Dum's boots. Bold stripes and high contrast colors along side solids. Overall it looks like a fusion of the gothic, grunge and lolita styles.

There are elements here that can appeal across demographics. Adults get the darker slightly edgier more club feel of this Alice party compared to Glow Fest. It looks like kids will have the brighter colors of this compared to elecTRONica as well as much more interactive looking walk-around characters. Teenagers get a harder rock, Hot Topic/Spencer's sort of vibe from the costume/character design.

"House of Cards" bar and dance area
This is based on the little we've been shown so far. I guarantee Disney is keeping the best surprises from us, despite appearing to leak quite a bit. One area we know almost nothing about is the lighting design. Given the massive projection mapping undertaking elecTRONica had I can see them combining that with the bold color splashes Glow Fest had as well as the crowd dancing projections. There will be areas that are darker and more subdued such as the house of cards bar area. There will be areas with lots of color and motion, most likely near the dance floors. I expect surprise, impromtu performances throughout each night as well.

Glow Fest was a straight up dance/club party. elecTRONica was more the experience of being pulled into the grid. It suffered from large areas not really being used for more than projection mapping, heavy music and walking through. Glow Fest didn't have enough areas where non-dancing was happening. The Mad T Party looks like it will bring the best aspects of both of these together while dropping out items that didn't work so well all behind a unified, cohesive, well known (so it doesn't need an explanatory pre-show) theme. We even get pretty cool looking merch! No idea why, but I'm loving the Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum art and shirt. It just has a really cool look.

When Glow Fest was announced it was widely worried that this would encourage a drunken orgy of sorts. It didn't. elecTRONica caused this concern to resurface, especially given it's much more adult feel. Again, not really a problem. Concerns and worries about Mad T Party are also surfacing. I don't forsee this being any more of an issue now than it was for the previous two parties. In fact, it will probably be even less of an issue.

I really look forward to visiting the Mad T Party when I'm at the resort this summer. It should have all the energy of Glow Fest and all the atmospheric story-telling of elecTRONica with what looks like some new ideas thrown in for good measure. Clean cup! Move down elecTRONica!

Additional images:
The bank playing for the crowds.

DJ White Rabbit. Kind of a Deadmau5
thing going on with the ears.

Hatter characters as "hosts"

Mar 23, 2012

How Not to Market a Film

Disney recently announced that they are going to take a $200 million hit on John Carter. They really don't have to look any further than the marketing department for this one. It's sad really as it is one of the best movies I have seen.

Just about everyone I know who has seen it has loved it and can't stop talking about how good it was. It has a 7.1 rating on IMDB which is nearly equal to what the Harry Potter films got. It's audience rating on RottenTomatoes is also sitting at 71%. That's pretty awesome. Especially for a genre of story that is so old. So with so many positive feelings among audience members, why on Earth is the movie not doing well?

If you go out and ask the average Joe on the street about it, you're going to get a lot of blank stares. Either that or people will say they've heard of it but have no clue what it is. What those are the reactions from people on the street your marketing department has a problem.

Looking at the trailers the problem is pretty clear. If you had read the books you knew the story and the trailers made sense. Otherwise, they were just a series of beauty shots that didn't really say anything about the movie. The fact that it took place on Mars wasn't even readily apparent. Many people complained that John Carter looked like a rip off of Star Wars or Avatar when in reality those two movies borrowed heavily from John Carter's source material.

Several things could have been done differently here.

  1. Play up the director. Pixar trailers always make mention of their other hits so you associate this new film with something you already like. "From the creators of The Incredibles, etc." John Carter should have stated clearly that it was from the director of Finding Nemo and WALL-E to associate that quality of story telling with John Carter.
  2. Play up the author. Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote Tarzan, one of the most enduring and widely known stories and a huge favorite thanks to Disney's re-telling of it. "From the author of Tarzan" should have been included in the trailer.
  3. Play up the story. It should have been made abundantly clear that John Carter is the original sci-fi/fantasy story and not some rip off of the very films that borrowed from it.

Epic Voice-over Man should have said something along these lines:
"From the director of Finding Nemo and WALL-E and the author of Tarzan comes first and greatest story of interplanetary love ever told."
Inter-cut that with shot orbiting Mars and then a high speed flight down to Earth. Give us the disaffected soldier who just wants out of all fighting. Brief shots of getting transported to Mars. Tell us that's where he is. Then lay out the broad brush strokes of conspiracy and fighting for love and what is right.

While the teasers and trailers that were shown were pretty cool, they didn't give you any information about what this movie was beyond an action movie that looked like it could be vaguely ancient Greek in origin. I don't know about where you live, but here the marketing was non-existent up until about 5 days before release and then the same jumbled trailer was played every hour on TV.

I think this is a result of the ridiculously over-sized, though unabashedly awesome, campaign for TRON Legacy. That was so huge and didn't get the results they wanted so now they've gone to the minimalist extreme. Hopefully they now realize that reality lies somewhere in between. It just saddens me that the movie that had to suffer for it was John Carter. It is a phenomenal piece of cinema. If you haven't yet seen it, please go. You'll feel like a kid again, just enjoying a movie for the pure fun and adventure of it. Beautifully told and imagined by master of his trade Andrew Stanton.

May the Odds Be Ever In Your Favor

Image Coutesy {link}
So thanks to my work, I got to see Hunger Games this evening. It's a lot of fun to waltz in past the midnight crowd as they line up outside.

I went into this movie with some pretty high expectations as it was a book I really enjoyed. It had a clever story and some really good political machinations. It had a love story that felt far more real than recent films. Fantasy is a genre that I enjoy quite a bit. Needless to say, the bar was pretty high already.

The movie didn't disappoint. The actors were all really good at their roles. They all felt believable. The story stuck pretty close to the book. As with all films based on books, there are things that either just can't be done on film, or not done simply, so they shuffle things and re-write bits. The changes weren't bad in anyway and worked well within the film.

The look of the locations, from District 12 to the Capitol to the arena, were all perfect. Even a new location that you didn't get to visit in the books but that you know exists was far cooler than I ever imagined it would be.

Stanley Tucci is awesome as Caesar Flickerman, and Toby Jones as Claudius Templesmith were perfect choices. Lenny did an awesome Cinna as well. He was completely believable.

There were only a couple things that I found a little disappointing. One was the shaky camera during action. I hate that. I feel that it is lazy. It means you don't have to fully choreograph complex sequences and it makes it hard for the audience to follow something. To me it doesn't add tension or make me feel the disorientation that the character must be feeling.

The second thing is some pacing. There were a mere handful of scenes that really lagged. The movie didn't feel long though. It felt just about right to tell the story. There were some cool things that didn't make the cut, but that is always the case.

In all honesty, this was a really fun movie. It was true to the books and just a good time. While the film does now gloss over the deaths of the tributes, it doesn't make them needlessly overdone or gory.

I give The Hunger Games 4.75 out of 5 stars. Go and see it.