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Movie Marketing Madness: Smurfs: The Lost Village

After a few recent movies where they had to share precious screentime with human co-stars, everyone’s favorite little blue elves are back in a fully animated adventure in Smurfs: The Lost Village. The story this time around focuses on a mysterious map that’s found by Smurfette (voiced by Demi Lovato) that sets her on an journey to uncover one of Smurfdom’s biggest secrets.

Joining her are Brainy (Danny Pudi), Clumsy (Jack McBrayer) and Hefty (Joe Manganiello), though all the other Smurfs are here as well, including Papa Smurf, Vanity and all the rest of the characters you once had little plastic versions of when you were a kid. Of course Smurfette’s adventure opens up a whole new world – and cast of characters – to her and the rest of the village as they try and outrace Gargamel (Rainn Wilson), who still just wants to boil all the Smurfs.

The Posters

The first teaser poster hints at the journey that Smurfette and her friends embark on, showing them from behind as they look out over a strange and mysterious area.

The theatrical poster swooped the camera around to show the quartet huddled together against what appears to be a threat. Around them are all sorts of leaves, with eyes poking out from behind them. “They were never alone,” the copy above the title tells us, hinting at how this is all about discovering what’s likely another hidden group of Smurfs.

The Trailers

Not much to the first teaser trailer, just a scene of some of the Smurfs searching around a forest before Brainy is eaten by one of the flowers, only to be spit out.

Well, this is certainly a movie that’s happening.

There’s more of the story that’s laid out in the first full trailer. We start out by being reintroduced to the concept of the Smurfs as a whole and are reminded that for all the different personalities they have there’s only one girl Smurf, so that’s somehow important. From there on out it’s all about the search for the Lost Village, which seems to have Smurf-like creatures smurfing in it. The dangers the group that goes on the journey to smurf them are plentiful and quite smurfly disturbing.

OK, it’s fine. If you’re into this sort of thing – or more specifically if your kids are – this looks like a not totally unpleasant way to spend 90 minutes. You get the gist in the trailer, which is all it needs to do.

One more trailer actually explains the story a bit more, showing why some of the Smurfs set off to search for the Lost Village and what happens once they get there. Oddly missing from much of the plot is Gargamel, but whatever. This really sells the movie as having the same story as that season of “Lost” where they found the “Others” on the other side of the island, only in this case it’s finding a bunch of girl Smurfs.

Online and Social

The final trailer plays when you load the movie’s official website. Closing that and moving to the content menu at the top of the page, “About” offers a brief synopsis. “Meet the Characters” lets you click through to find out a bit more about the main characters, including some of the new characters we meet along the way, which is kind of a big spoiler if you care about such things.

There’s a big “Fun and Activities” section that has a Gallery of images, Games, Coloring Sheets and lots more geared toward the younger section of the audience and which is designed to keep them engaged with the brand.

There are also links here to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr profiles. That Tumblr served as a production blog, but it hasn’t been updated since last November. Also on Facebook, Sony worked with the network to create “masks” that could be applied when using the app’s camera, applying a movie-themed mask to your selfie.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV spots like this one weren’t so much worried about selling the story as they were about seeing the wacky adventures the Smurfs are engaging in and the sight gags that are in the movie. These aren’t going to do much for anyone over eight years old, but that’s kind of the point.

There were surely outdoor and online ads placed as well.

A tie-in with International Happiness Day encouraged kids to set big goals for themselves in terms of protecting the environment and more.

Media and Publicity

A few teaser images and a plot synopsis kicked off the publicity campaign a full year and a half before the movie came out.

 

Most of the press coverage came as the result of the release of marketing materials. In the weeks leading up to release the cast did a few interviews here and there and offered their comments at the premiere and so on, but there wasn’t a huge, concerted press push.

Overall

As I’ve said on a few different occasions, there’s little here for anyone who’s over the age of 10 or so. The whole thing is designed to appeal to the younger crowd and sell them a bunch of wacky hijinks and gags. It just wants to make sure these kids know that there’s a steady stream of brightly-colored visuals that surround a paper-thin story and a variety of characters that they might vaguely know but should definitely come out and see again.

If you start to scratch the surface of things, though, you see that the story really is not only paper-thin but it’s essentially pointless, spoiled by the campaign all over the place. It’s surprising too that there’s not *more* of it, as there’s no selection of character posters or anything else. The point of this whole campaign is just to make sure people know this is a viable alternative for young kids who may not have been interested in Beauty & The Beast or who saw that weeks ago and need something new. Interestingly, the campaign only occasionally hints at themes of female identity and leadership, keeping that well hidden for the most part behind jokes about Smurfberries.

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