Have you ever, like, pondered your existence man? I mean ever actually thought about why we’re here and what it all means? Cause I heard once that you can fit the entire universe in a speck of dust, so what if everything around us is inside of a speck of dust that something even bigger is looking at? It’s all about perspective, man.
OK, getting out of the stoner speak it’s time to talk about Sausage Party, the new movie from Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. The movie is basically Toy Story but with grocery store food. It follows Frank (Rogen) and Brenda (Kristen Wiig), a hot dog and a hot dog bun, respectively, who stare at each other longingly across the store shelves. When they’re both chosen by a shopper they, along with the rest of the food that’s purchased, they feel they’re going to the promised land to fulfill their destiny or some such. What they find, though, is that the reality of the promised land is kind of horrific, filled with chopping and dicing and cutting and peeling and everything else that’s involved in food preparation. Feeling they need to warn the rest of the food community about this and tell the humans that they have feelings and thoughts, Frank, Brenda and the rest of the gang set out to make things right.
You can get everything you need to know about the movie – or at least its attitude and vibe – from the first teaser poster. Frank is shown against a bright yellow background like he’s jumping out at the camera or maybe flying through the air with a big, goofy smile on his face. The substantial cast list is at the top, followed by the tagline “A hero will rise,” which works better if you giggle after reading it like a third grader telling a dirty joke he overheard his uncle tell.
The theatrical poster just extends that. This time Frank is joined by Brenda, who has him pulled into her mouth-like lips just like a…you know what, you get it. The same cast list is used at the top but now the copy reads “Get your fill,” meant to be a…yeah, you probably get this too. Additionally, this version helps sell the movie by pointing out it comes from the same team that gave us This Is The End.
The first trailer, which debuted at the same time as the SXSW screening, starts out innocently enough, presenting a world where the greatest wish any food item in the grocery story has is to be chosen and go to the promised land. There’s even a religious element here as the “gods” have chosen them. But when they’re home they see the reality as the potato is skinned, lettuce is split and more. After witnessing the atrocities committed by the humans Rogen’s hot dog decides he has to warn everyone and it’s that journey that will apparently form the crux of the movie’s story.
It’s outrageous and really funny, with a lot of cursing going on to make it clear that yes, this is an animated feature but it’s certainly not a kids’ movie. I love the Saving Private Ryan homage as various foods walk around like they’re on a battlefield, picking up broken pieces of themselves and so on. This is clearly the work of insane people.
The next trailer didn’t do a whole lot to expand on the premise laid out in the first. We watch food be chosen and celebrate going to a better place before finding out the horrors that take place in the average kitchen, all filled with sexual innuendos based on food puns.
Another red-band trailer debuted at the same time it screened at Comic-Con (more on that below) and expanded the movie’s story quite a bit. So we get the same basic setup, that the food is just waiting in the grocery store for a destiny that’s much more gruesome than it anticipated. But then we see that the food begins to fight back and make people aware that it’s sentient, both with violent uprising in the store and at home. In particular, a stoner begins to see the food walking around and talking and freaks out, setting up what it can be assumed is a decent portion of the plot.
It’s pretty funny and I like the additional story elements that are shared here. But let’s be honest, we’re going to go see this to see food swearing and getting it on, not for some intricate story. So it’s alright if that’s sketchy at best for the time being. It still works.
Online and Social
When you load the official website you get some of the key art in the background along with big prompts to watch the red-band trailer or buy tickets. There’s also a button here to download the “NSFW keyboard app” that features the characters from the movie.
Going to the menu at the top of the page, the first section is “Story” which is where you can read a very short synopsis that focuses heavily on the names of the starts involved while providing just a brief outline of the plot. After that is “Videos” and is where you can watch all three trailers, the two red-band versions and the one general access trailer.
“Cast & Crew” just has the names of the actors and filmmakers but doesn’t offer any further information either on the page or by linking elsewhere. There are just three stills from the movie in the “Gallery,” which is a little disappointing.
A new site opens when you click “Fast Food Me,” which is a site that lets you upload a picture and insert that into one of the food characters from the movie, which is kind of fun. That’s followed by the “Partners” section where you can find out more about the companies who are either promoting the movie in some way or who provided some kind of support for the production.
The movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages are filled with videos of all sorts, promotional photos and images, RTs and Shares of Rogen’s appearances in the media and more. Nothing groundbreaking here, just a steady stream of updates to make sure people don’t forget it’s coming out. There was also activity on a Snapchat profile that featured more content around the characters and the stars.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
TV spots like this one were released and run that played like mini trailers with a few bits of new footage here and there but largely the same gags and beats we’ve seen before, just a little less detail on the story side of things.
Promotional partners for the movie included:
- Dog Haus: The fast food hot dog chain provided some promotional support on their website and social channels.
- Door Dash: Not sure what the food delivery service did.
- ibotta: Not sure what the company that helps create a new couponing and loyalty service for small retailer did.
- Pabst Blue Ribbon: Not sure what the beer brand has been doing, but it obviously wants to have some association with the movie and bring whatever anticipation for the film exists to its hipster customer base.
- Tipsy Elves: The clothing designer created a collection based on the movie.
Online and social ads were run that used the videos and key art, the latter of which I’m sure was also used for outdoor billboards and other signage.
Media and Publicity
The movie debuted a “work-in-progress” print at SXSW, where it was greeted with almost universal accolades for its outrageous nature and genuine comedic chops. While there Rogen and Goldberg talked about how they got the movie’s subject matter approved and more.
A ridiculous video featured Rogen doing his best Walt Disney impersonation as he introduces Frank and the movie as a whole while wearing a retro suit and walking around a faux animation studio, just like Disney’s old introductions to TV specials. That was followed by a faux PSA around the Fourth of July asking people to consider the consequences of their holiday cookout. In a very odd move, live action versions of the main characters – people in costumes – showed up on a small Denver morning show engaging in all kinds of antics.
The movie had a fan screening at San Diego Comic-Con, where it got decent buzz and started off some good conversations for the movie. Rogen and team were also there, talking about the process of getting the movie made and more.
Rogen and Goldberg kept talking about how they wanted to make an R-rated Toy Story, how they strove for the movie to look good so the jokes didn’t make it appear low-rent and more.
Rogen also made lots of appearances in the media, showing up on various shows both on TV and on the web, particularly on food-based online shows, to keep talking about the movie and being generally hilarious.
It would be naive to think this campaign is targeted at anyone other than 15 year old boys, be they actual 15 year olds or 30-40 year olds who still think like one. That’s *clearly* who every element of the marketing is trying to reach with its constant use of sophomoric locker room humor and double entendres that really aren’t even that double.
But this is the Rogen brand. While many find his constant embrace of stoner humor the sign of a lazy mind, this is what he does. It’s his niche, the creative corner of the world he’s carved out for himself and dammit, he’s going to own it. Yeah, in 10 years or so he might decide the well has run dry and he needs to do an indie drama to jumpstart the next phase of his career, but for now he’s very much killing it by making movies with his friends that are filled with sex and drug humor, so if that’s not what you’re expecting from Sausage Party, I’m not sure what to tell you.