I never quite got into Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I enjoyed the first cartoon show but never watched it regularly. And I certainly liked the initial comics but that’s about it. I never collected the toys, never got deep into the mythology of the characters or anything else. I’m not sure, in retrospect, if that’s because I just never really connected with the characters or story or maybe it just came in a bit later for me and I was full up on toy/comic/cartoon/movie franchises, having already sworn my allegiance to G.I. Joe, Transformers, He-Man and others. Whatever the reason, I wasn’t a Turtles devotee.
The characters have been popular on the big-screen as well as the small, though, and now are back in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, the follow up to the 2014 blockbuster that effectively reintroduced them to movie-going audiences. There’s not much to say about the story here. This time around Shredder has returned and hired Dr. Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry) to create mutant warriors of his own, resulting in Bebop and Rocksteady, two classic characters making their debut in this franchise. Meanwhile Krang, a visitor from another dimension, is causing trouble of his own. But the heroes have help in the form of April O’Neil (Megan Fox) and Vern Fenwick (Will Arnett) along with Casey Jones (Stephen Amell) the vigilante who gets caught up in their adventures.
The first two posters for the movie were “Wanted” style posters for the two new baddies in the movie, Bebop and Rocksteady.
A series of character posters were next that featured each of the four turtles standing on the ledge of a New York skyscraper. There’s nothing about the story here, it’s just about finally showing off the heroes themselves.
Two new posters, one for Bebop and one for Rocksteady, debuted at WonderCon. Both just showed the character walking toward the camera, looking like a tough guy.
Another poster took the four turtles and put them all together on an outcropping of a New York skyscraper, as heroes often do. There’s not much to it, it’s just another opportunity to show off the look of the main characters and doesn’t contain anything about the villains, story or anything else that adds to the understanding of the movie.
Another set of character posters showed the Turtles again engaged in some kind of fighting activity, with some on rooftops, some diving through the air and so on. The humans of the movie finally got some poster attention with a one-sheet showing Amell and Fox, with the former carrying his hockey equipment and the former in the classic – and much-derided “brokeback” pose where she’s facing away from the camera but looking back over her shoulder so we can see both her face and her posterior.
The first teaser, which was teased just hours before it was released, immediately signals that it’s primarily concerned with appeasing fans who felt the first movie didn’t do enough to service their nostalgia. The plot is inconsequential – we just see some apparently bad ninjas doing various vague things that the Turtles try to stop – as we see the Turtles’ yellow van, meet a new ally in Casey Jones and new villains Bebop and Rocksteady. Megan Fox is a big part of the trailer because she’s Megan Fox and we see that, yep, Will Arnett got another paycheck.
So it’s very much a sequel, but the overall message here is that whatever fans may have felt was missing from the first movie will be addressed in this installment.
The second trailer opens with some discord between the turtles, who argue about their place in the world. But there are threats to deal with and we see the transformation of Rocksteady and Bebop, with the turtles then wondering if the same ooze that turned humans into animals could turn them into humans, tying together with the opening struggle. We again meet Casey Jones and the rest of the trailer is mostly just about showing off the various fight and other action sequences as well as Megan Fox’s midriff.
I love how the studio is really trying to put a story in there about the turtles wrestling with who they are and what they’re meant to do. It’s like they think people care about that and aren’t just coming for the spectacle.
Another trailer took the odd approach of acting like this was the first time we’d met the characters. So instead of offering story points at first we get character descriptions and personality overviews of the four turtles before diving into some of the same scenes we’ve seen before along with a few additional shots.
Again, it’s just odd that the decision was made to treat the audience as being completely ignorant as to the Turtles’ names and personality quirks. Even if people just saw the first movie, that should be enough that this sort of exposition is largely unnecessary.
There was one more trailer that focused on Bebop and Rocksteady, showing the two bad guys busting through a scene from the movie and commandeering the trailer, at which point we see lots of shots of them taking on the Turtles in various scenes.
Online and Social
You get a recreation of some of the key art when you open the official website along with a big prompt to watch the trailer again.
“Videos,” the first section along the top menu bar, has a number of TV spots but not, oddly, the trailers or anything else. The “Gallery” has about 10 stills from the movie, including close ups of all the turtles.
“Soundtrack” is something I’m not used to seeing. Instead of being a link to take you to buy the album it’s the credits, including all the musicians and singers who performed. Then there’s a link to the “Partners” that helped promote the movie on their consumer packaged goods.
Finally “Shell and Tell” takes you to a Tumblr blog where the studio is soliciting and curating fan photos showing off their TMNT collections or other photos.
There are lots of promotional videos and images on the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. Twitter has more engagement, mostly in the form of RTs of positive comments from media and fans, but that’s it.
Paramount also launched a chatbot on Kik that allows you to cycle through conversations with the four characters, who respond with movie quotes, comments about pizza and more. Users who interacted were also rewarded for watching the trailer and other activities.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
Advertising for the movie kicked off with a Super Bowl commercial that wasn’t concerned at all with selling story, instead just focusing on the goofy antics of the turtles. There was a better look at some of the villains, including Krang, to get people talking about it but that’s about the extent of what’s notable about the spot.
More TV spots would follow the same basic format, all just kind of hinting at the story but focusing on the visuals and the bad guys.
Promotional partners included:
- Tastykake, which created co-branded packaging and ran an online sweeps.
- The Ad Council, which ran an anti-bullying campaign featuring the movie’s characters and including some footage.
- Grubhub, but I’m not sure what the tie-in is since there’s nothing readily available.
- Crush, which created co-branded packaging and offered a free movie ticket with select purchases.
- Del Taco, which offered movie-themed collector’s cups in restaurants.
- Tyson, which has a poll going to help you “derate your family’s hunger.”
- Airbnb, which offered “The Turtle Lair” as a place people could rent in Tribeca, New York, though vacancies filled up quickly of course. A sweepstakes offered the chance to reserve it for a night.
Media and Publicity
Amell talked about joining the franchise, his history as a Ninja Turtles fan, what the movie has in store for the character and more. There were a few other small-scale interviews with Amell, Fox and Arnett but nothing approaching what I’d refer to as a significant press push. Most of the press coverage seems to have come from the release of trailers and other marketing materials.
If you’re 10 years old, this campaign should work for you. It’s all about the jokey, pizza-loving side of the turtles and the big – bigger than the last movie, we can’t stress that enough – adventures they get into. Everything here is bigger and better than the last movie. That’s especially true in how they latched on to the idea that people seemingly loved that mountain chase in the first one and so have made it a point to highlight similar sequences from the new installment here. And of course there’s plenty of Megan Fox cheesecake on display along with hints as to what’s up with Arnett and Amell’s characters.
For the most part, though, it’s just about making sure people understand that the new movie is coming out and that it’s going to be as mindlessly half-enjoyable as the first one was. There’s nothing about the campaign that sticks in my memory at all – I have to keep going back and reminding myself of certain things – but I know it’s coming out, which is all that matters. Comprehension is secondary to awareness in most things but especially, it seems, here.