Beauty and the Beast is back in theaters, this time as a live-action feature that ostensibly remakes the 1991 animated classic. The movie follows the same basic premise as the original, as well as the fairy tale both are based on. One day Belle (Emma Watson), who’s a beloved young woman in her small village, finds her father (Kevin Kline) has disappeared. She tracks him down to a mysterious nearby castle and finds he’s been imprisoned by Beast (Dan Stevens), a strange animalistic man who lives there.
She agrees to take her father’s place in the prison but begins to identify with Beast. Soon she finds out he’s living under a curse that can only be broken by finding love. She finds this via the enchanted objects that live in the castle and serve Beast, the anthropomorphic teacup, candle holder and more. Eventually, of course, she falls in love with him and dance in the ballroom and everything else in a story many of us know by heart. So let’s see if no one can market live-action remakes like Gaston.
The first teaser poster recreated an iconic image from the original movie, with a single rose suspended under a glass jar, snow caked on the windows and towers in the background. This is all about brand awareness and letting people know this is a remake of a movie they already love.
The next poster was focused mostly on selling the fairytale aspect of the story. So we see Belle and the Beast dancing in the middle of the design, ornate windows in the background and the sparkle of light coming from above shining all around them. No copy or tagline, just the names of the cast at the top and the title treatment followed by the credits block at the bottom.
A theatrical one-sheet shows us the ensemble cast the movie sports, with Belle and the Beast at the top as the primary figures and the rest of the characters, including those that are turned into cutlery as part of the story, still in their human forms because you don’t cast Ian Mckellen and Emma Thompson and then not feature them in the campaign in some form or another.
A triptych poster split up the individual elements from the theatrical poster into three segments, which were then recombined to create something larger. It’s mostly the same images on display, just spread out a bit and with some new background material added in to pad things.
One more poster cut to the chase and gave the audience what they were looking for, a live-action recreation of the iconic scene of Belle and the Beast dancing in the ballroom, her in her flowing yellow gown and him in his blue overcoat. It’s meant to amp up the sense of something magical and to make sure everyone knows that yes, this scene will be in the movie so don’t worry and buy a ticket or 20 please.
A slew of character posters were up next and made sure everyone got their time in the spotlight. Each poster is ornately framed and shows the castle in the background. For those characters who are transformed into something else, those other versions are shown in the corner or elsewhere in the design. These are all meant to keep up the theme of this being a storybook romance type of story, still slavishly devoted to recreating the original. There were also motion poster versions of these.
There’s not much to the first teaser trailer. It focuses on a sweeping tour of the castle, featuring real life versions of the sets from the animated classic until a set of claws tears a family portrait. Two unseen characters react to a door opening and it ends with Belle shown leaning down and looking at the rose under glass as the familiar theme music plays.
It’s a good first effort, designed to sell the movie to the hordes of people who loved the animated film and who have fond memories of it.
The first full trailer is much more focused on setting up the story. Basically it does exactly what it needs to do, which is show the audience that this is a live-action remake of the animated original. So it hits all the story beats and shots you’d expect, from the rose losing its petals to Belle and the Beast dancing to the talking china and so on. Nothing all that unexpected here, nor does there need to be.
This will make a gazillion dollars.
A final trailer laid out almost the entirety of the first two-thirds of the movie, showing Belle’s life in her home village to her encounter with the Beast and the rest of the residents of his castle, all the way through their developing relationship and romance. It also features more Gaston, which is much needed because no one stars in trailers like Gaston.
This will make a gazillion dollars.
Online and Social
When the official site (which has the notable URL inclusion of “2017”) loads you see a big recreation of the key art featuring a big “Get Tickets” button.
There’s no navigation menu so you just scroll down and come across the trailer, which is followed by a plot synopsis that goes into pretty good detail and features the credits of everyone involved.
Keeping going and you’ll find all the motion character posters. That’s followed by a section devoted to the Disney Store, showing off all the movie-themed merchandise you can buy.
A photo gallery of nine stills, including one behind the scenes shot, is next. And then there’s a section with the logos of the companies who signed on as promotional partners. A few videos including clips, interviews with the cast and more finish off the site.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
The first extended TV spot aired around Christmas and played like a mini-trailer, showing Belle discovering Beast as well as the other inhabitants of the castle and their journey to falling in love in a magical setting.
More TV spots like this one opted to focus on those other characters, with only a bit about the Belle/Beast romance. And another one that aired during the Golden Globes awards ceremony was focused on the visuals and gave the audience the first real listen at Belle singing. There was less of an emphasis on the Beast and more on the magical world Belle finds herself in in a spot that aired during the Oscars broadcast.
Disney exercised some corporate synergy when a couple of the movie’s stars hosted a special edition of “The Bachelor” on ABC to promote the upcoming release.
Lots of online ads used the key art and social ads used videos and more. Plenty of outdoor artwork promoted the movie as well.
There were also a number of companies looking to get some of their own bounce off the movie:
- Gelish: The nail polish company offered a movie-themed collection of hues.
- HomeAway: A sweeps offering the chance to say at Duns Castle with 20 guests.
- HSN: Offered a collection of apparel, home goods and more inspired by the movie.
- Kohl’s: Similarly offered exclusive items and carried other merchandise.
- Le Creuset: Created a selection of movie-themed cookware.
- Luxe Bloom: Was the “official flower” of the movie, which is actually a decent idea given the story.
- Williams Sonoma: Offered tips on how to throw a movie-themed party.
- Twinning: Put some of their tea flavors in movie-branded packaging.
- Neutrogena: Offered tips on how to get Belle’s look and put products in movie-branded packages.
- Morgan Taylor: Another set of movie-themed nail polish colors.
- Microsoft: No details I can find on this partnership.
Media and Publicity
While there’d been plenty of buzz during production, the first major publicity shot was in the form of an EW cover story that showed off the first good looks at Belle, The Beast and the movie’s feel and tone in general as well as interviews with the cast.
A couple months out from release Watson started doing more interviews, starting with comments about how she’d been approached to star in Disney’s live-action Cinderella a couple years ago but passed and was glad she had since it would have precluded her playing Belle.
Another EW cover story followed just a few weeks out from release, but it was just one small part of the overall publicity and press that was being done for the movie that had Evans, Watson, Gad and the rest of the cast going all over the place. Later press would reveal that Gad’s character is the first explicitly gay character Disney has put on film. That came with the totally-expected backlash from religious fundamentalists who likely have no problem with movies featuring mass murder and adultery but who draw the line and homesexuals on screen.
Wringing-of-hands also followed a Vanity Fair feature on Watson on her career to date, a feature that included one photo (out of a dozen that had her covered head-to-toe) showing her breasts. Concern trolls cried out about how that meant she wasn’t really a feminist, a claim she quickly countered by stating feminism means defining for yourself what you want to do, not having that dictated to you.
To say there’s a reliance on nostalgia in the campaign would be a massive understatement. Everything here is designed to let the audience know that if they loved the 1991 animated classic this new movie offers exactly the same thing, just in live-action form. Though with this much CGI, “live-action” is a carefully-applied term. The trailers and posters in particular have gone out of their way to present the audience with the promise that this is a surefire way to see something familiar, albeit in a new way.
All that being said, there’s some good stuff going on here. Watson looks like she’s using all those years learning how to act against a greenscreen and with non-existent costars to good use. It’s kind of a high-profile cast to be lending voice work, but that’s the Disney promise. If you want to get wrapped up in a fairy tale and just give into the romantic majesty, this campaign assures you that it’s a good way to spend about two hours in theaters.