Timing, in movies as in most other parts of life, is everything. You want to strike at the best possible moment for the market and take advantage of whatever kind of zeitgeist or other cultural moment mike make your product more appealing or relevant to the audience in some manner. If you miss your window it can have serious repercussions on the success of a product or project. Too soon and you don’t have the awareness or goodwill. Too late and you can be seen as an also-ran or being so far behind the cycle as to be kind of laughable. It’s a tough tightrope to walk.
The Angry Birds Movie is here to test the idea of timeliness. The movie is, of course, based on the popular mobile game that took over the cultural conversation years ago. And that’s the key: Years ago. It’s been a few years since the game was at the top of public awareness, which makes the timing of the movie somewhat questionable. Essentially an origin story, we see the island of birds during more peaceful times. When a ship full of pigs lead by Leonard (Bill Hader) lands, all the birds are fascinated with the exception of Red (Jason Sudeikis), who wonders what they’re up to. Soon the pigs are gone, having taken all the birds’ eggs. So it’s up to Red to organize a response and show the birds how powerful they can be to retrieve their precious eggs.
The first poster that was released was just an extreme close-up of Red’s face with the title treatment and “May 2016” toward the bottom. A series of character posters followed a bit later that included Red, Bomb and the rest of the birds, as well as a pig. These kind of posters are so common tactic for animated kids movies as a way to let everyone know who these characters are and, thanks to facial expressions and so on.
A later poster would put three of the birds together on one image, like the other two are trying to cheer Red up while they take a selfie. A rather lame Easter-themed poster was released showing Red in the middle of a batch of eggs, so at least it’s a little contextual.
The theatrical poster shows three of the birds looking at the camera through a bit of burnt…eggshell? Paper? Wall? It’s not super clear what this is but it’s clear they’re not happy about whatever it is that’s going on. The cast list appears at the top with the title treatment toward the bottom with reminders the movie is coming in various 3D formats.
The first trailer is….well…it certainly tells you that there’s a movie called Angry Birds coming out. We meet some of the cast, including Red and the other birds, some of whose powers are only hinted at. This one just puts them in different situations that are supposed to be cute and amusing to introduce us to these characters without hinting at anything approaching a story. (not that it matters) The closest we get on that front is when a pig comes ashore, which causes some whispering and questioning from a few of the birds.
Honestly, I think the marketing team thinks this is a lot more charming than it actually is. There’s nothing particularly funny about it and we don’t see the birds in action at all, which is presumably the major draw here. And as usual, the team who put it together think their music choices are a lot more clever and endearing than they actually are.
A holiday promo featuring the “hatchlings” was released. Not so much a trailer but a way to show off the cute little characters from the movie.
The second trailer is much more concerned with the movie’s story. We go back and see some of Red’s background, which is meant to both show and explain why he’s so angry. The pigs arrive and while the birds are first intrigued it soon becomes clear they have ulterior motives, specifically stealing the birds’ eggs. Red and his friends go to seek wisdom from Mighty Eagle but instead get a look at his morning bathroom habits in a scene that really has to be seen to be believed.
Well, we can certainly see what the base level sense of humor here is going to be, can’t we? Because the nut shot Red takes and the extended urination sequence it’s clear this isn’t going to be an intellectual comedy.
Another trailer debuted exclusively on EW and starts off with Red delivering a singing birthday gram. We get some more shots of Red’s anger issues before the pigs arrive and quickly steal the birds’ eggs. Everyone rallies to get them back and we get the shots of the birds attacking the pigs’ island, including shots of the various abilities the different kinds of birds have.
Online and Social
The third trailer starts playing when you open the movie’s official website. Close that and you get a rotating carousel of character images showing all the major birds – and Leonard the pig – from the movie.
At the top of the page the first section is “Media,” with Characters being the first option in that drop-down. Second is Photos, which has 17 stills from the movie. Videos brings together all the trailers, the holiday-themed spots and other clips and featurettes. You can download some character sheets under How to Draw that will help you learn how to draw the characters yourself, a fun option for young kids. Then Trailer once again plays the third trailer.
There’s a “Fan Art” section that has sketches and other drawings featuring the movie’s characters that have been posted by fans on social media. So this looks like a curated batch of Tumblr posts.
“About” has two sections: The Story offers us a brief synopsis of the story that focuses on the voice talent involved. The Cast just has a straight list – no other information or links elsewhere – about the cast and crew involved in making the movie.
“Action” is devoted to getting you to download the latest Angry Birds game, called Action, of course. So there are links to download it on iTunes and Google Play as well as a trailer. The game, offered a prequel story for the movie but which also included an augmented-reality component. So select merchandise such as LEGOs and more along with other promotional materials will, when scanned with the app, unlock bonus material and mini-games. That’s actually a really-smart way to tie all that into the movie and make it part of the marketing effort.
“Partners” has the names of the consumer companies who have signed on to help promote the movie.
There are blurbs and links to stories about the movie in the “Press” section, an odd choice for a movie like this that can’t be too concerned with these kinds of stories resonating with the target audience. “Soundtrack” has a link to buy the album on iTunes as well as a track list.
There was also Angrify.me, which let you upload a picture of yourself or someone else and add Red’s distinctive angry eyebrows to the picture, then share it across social networks.
The usual array of promotional videos, photos and other updates could be found on the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. There’s also a link on the site to Whatsapp so the studio must have done something there but I can’t find information on what that was or is.
Advertising and Social
There were an absolute ton of TV spots created like this one that played like miniature versions of the trailer, showing the rough outlines of the story and presenting the kind of broad comedy that’s on display. A couple specifically focused on Blake Shelton’s song and sold it as a summer party with him but for the most part the TV campaign played up the comedy as much as possible.
A holiday promo featuring the “hatchlings” was released. Not so much a trailer but a way to show off the cute little characters from the movie. They went timely again with an Easter-themed promote that had the baby birds talking about hiding eggs, the Easter Bunny and more. I guess we’re all cool with how the spot ends with one bird kicking another who disagrees with them.
The studio partnered with the United Nations Foundation and other organizations on the International Day of Happiness on March 20th (because irony) that encouraged people to get involved and share on social media something they were doing for a good cause.
Other promotional partners included:
- McDonald’s: Offered movie-themed toys in Happy Meals.
- Citroen: Launched a co-branded campaign
- Ziploc: Co-branded packaging offered discounted movie tickets with select product purchases
- Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt: Offered collectible movie-themed spoons in stores around the country.
- Jack Links: Ran co-branded TV spots for a couple of its meat snacks
- Panasonic Batteries: Offered co-branded packaging along with a movie-themed portal that included a sweepstakes.
- AccorHotels: Showed off movie displays in hotel lobbies that let people enter a sweeps when they took a picture with the standee
- Home Depot: Offered a special movie-themed event where kids could come in and build and Angry Birds-themed birdhouse.
Media and Publicity
Much of the publicity in advance of release was around casting and the release of various marketing materials. Unfortunately the movie couldn’t escape the gravity of the game that spawned it, being pegged as a must-have hit for Rovio in the wake of that company’s disappointing string of earnings reports. That continued to be a theme in the press right up to release.
Producer John Cohen and others talked at the movie’s premiere about the gap in time between the game’s peak moment and the release of the movie and more.
There wasn’t much more than that outside of the coverage that resulted from the release of marketing and other promotional materials. This isn’t a movie where the audience is super press-savvy so that’s not a surprise.
I feel like I shouldn’t, but I actually kind of like this campaign. And that started off very much not the case as I seriously disliked the first trailer and felt from the outset that this was going to be a disaster. I still have questions about the quality of the movie – I think most adults who are paying attention at all would be justified in feeling likewise – but all that comes with the knowledge that I’m very much not the target audience for the movie. Not at all.
Instead this is being sold directly to kids, which isn’t surprising. The campaign is full of butt jokes, violent pratfall “physical” humor and at least two jokes where the mime is the only one to speak in a crowd full of speechless birds. It looks funny enough but as with most kids’ movies it makes it clear to the audience that the sense of humor isn’t going to evolve above that of an eight year old and the kind of jokes they would find funny at school. I can’t fault them for taking that approach, but it doesn’t present something that looks very appealing at all to anyone not in the age group.