Marketing: The Driving Force for Pixar’s Animated film “The Incredibles” Major Success in The Early 2000’s

Paper by Donovan Geronilla.

The High concept method was practically the driving point and key in Hollywood’s filmmaking from the 1990 to 2007. The early 2000’s introduced a vast advancement in technology, especially in film making. The year was 2004, when Walt Disney’s Pixar animation studio’s launched their sixth animated feature length film, “The Incredibles”, that set a new bar for film making, by using highly advanced computer generated imagery(CGI), that introduced a completely new way to make animated films. What does this have to with marketing? How, is it that this specific type of strategy acclaimed major success for not only the film, The Incredibles, but for all of Disney’s Pixar animated films? The high concept method can easily answer both of those questions, but now that just creates another question. What is the “high concept” method? According to author, Justin Wyatt, who wrote the book “High concept, Movies and Marketing in Hollywood”, in my own words, the high concept method demonstrates simple films, that rely on type casting (big name celebrities), non-critical thinking plots, undeveloped characters, big budget, studio controlled, and appeals to a mass audience, by using extensive marketing and advertising through the internet, TV commercials, newspapers, and etc. Some background of the success for high concept films would be Steven Spielberg’s, “Jaws”, and James Cameron’s the, “Titanic”. He examines the high concept film “its stylistic features and economic identity-as a marketing phenomenon”. Now, that we know what the fundamentals are of the high concept method, we can get back to my main argument of why Walt Disney approach to the high concept method using marketing as the primary source that helped the film “The Incredibles” reach success in many areas. Walt Disney’s, Pixar animation studios had three key marketing techniques for advertising and promoting The Incredibles. First, is their own 24/7 year around national broadcast television channel called Disney channel. Second, is their own internet website, Disney.com. Third, is their very own computer generated imagery company, Pixar animation studios. By identifying the three main reasons for the acclaimed success for the animated film, “The Incredibles”, is how I will prove my argument to be valid.

Two of Pixar’s animated films that help exemplify my argument are The Incredibles and Finding Nemo. These two films make a strong connection from how and why the high concept method of marketing was there pre-success at reaching out to many consumers from around the world to attract that rather large audience to purchase tickets to see these animated films. Once both films were no longer in theatres and made its way to dvd, they achieved mass success from their dvd sales. A big reason why they sold so many of these dvd copies, was due to the fact that they used the Blu-ray format, which at this time was like the only way to watch a film, because it enhanced the quality of the film and since these were both animated films, this really made it easy for the films to be distributed and marketed. They both relate in a stylistically way from both films being made in a very artistic way in the CGI animation format. Not just any animation, but Pixar’s highly advanced computer software filmmaking and editing application that had a high cost for both films in the millions and millions of dollars to range to produce and distribute.

The one film I found to be very interesting in many ways that relates to my argument is Disney’s Pixar’s sixth animated feature length film, “The Incredibles”. This was their first ever animated superhero movie that revealed never before seen computer generated imagery graphics that seem way too advanced for a film being made and released in the year of 2004. By using such top quality CGI for this film, I believe this created the overall theme for why it was marketed so effectively and reached a mountain of success. “Spectacular films also continue, just as much as any others, to mobilize thematic narrative patterns.”(348) Now, I could sit here and explain why this movie is so wonderful, but that doesn’t help prove my argument, but what does help prove my thesis is how smart Pixar was to use such highly expensive software, that they knew would come across the attention of a mass audience. “They lend themselves very easily to modes of narrative analysis that focus on qualities such as thematic oppositions structured into cultural texts.”(348) The cultural of the time in the early 2000’s was the birth and rise of high tech equipment. Each animated film before The Incredibles, revealed some sort of new innovation into making these kinds of films. With The Incredibles, Pixar decided to raise the bar even higher, by showing how more advanced they are with their CGI software, then their competitors. This was very key in marketing this film, because every audience expects to get their money’s worth and this film made sure of it. This helped beat out other animated film studios, like for instance DreamWorks who fell into second place, giving Pixar an academy award for best animated film.

“Having redefined high concept as “the look, the hook, and the book,” Wyatt feels the need to defend his project from would be detractors. “He states, “[t]he attempt to construct this model of high concept should not be viewed as an academic spin on the critics’ condemnation of commercial filmmaking, nor as an attempt to glorify the popular. Rather the project addresses the initially curious supposition that Grease, along with Jaws (1975), Star Wars (1977), and Saturday Night Fever, is of greater significance to American film history than the critically and institutionally recognized films of the period . . .” (22). Since, my focus is on the time period of the early 2000’s and author Wyatt wrote his book on the high concept method in 1994 and their we see a big period gap of time that involved many changes to his argument of the high concept method is all about. I’ve seen a significant change from the 90’s to the early 2000’s, in the way studios market their films. Although, I do feel that his phrase “the look, the hook, and the book”, is somewhat relevant to my argument, it also introduces a new way or idea of how marketing in the early 2000’s revolutionized the high concept method. In the early 2000’s, technology, television, and the internet really started to take a life of its own, especially in big countries like the U.S and China. I believe that the new era of the millennial had changed the complexion and once again redefined the high concept method. Pixar animation studios is a prime example for this new innovation of marketing high concept films. They’ve established themselves as a big budget film production studio who had endless amounts of funds to distribute, market, and advertise their feature length films. They knew with their many advantages, they were going to make a fortune, with new innovative ways to market, by using the rise of the internet’s popularity, 24/7 broadcast television, and their top of the line, state of the art CGI technology, as the new and primary factors to market and advertise their films much more quickly and effectively to attract a large audience.

The first of the three key marketing points for the major success of Disney’s Pixar animation high concept film, “The Incredibles”, is the large outlet they have to market and advertise this film through national broadcast television. Since, Disney has their own television channel, they could show a ridiculous amount of sneak peek previews, and trailers to this film. The various things that helped bring such a large audience to theaters were the highly and new advanced CGI graphics displayed in trailers and commercials, Pixar’s sixth animated feature length film which makes the film feel much more special and creates sort of a rare theme, and the studios making of its first ever animated superhero movie. Besides, using their own tv channel to the film’s advantage, they also marketed through other national cable tv channels that had the same exact content from the trailers shown on Disney channel. Walt Disney also got big branded companies like Kellogg’s cereal, Pop-tarts, Fruit Snacks, Pringles, McDonald’s, etc. “Kellogg’s released an Incredibles-themed cereal, as well as promotional Pop-Tarts and fruit snacks, all proclaiming an “Incrediberry Blast” of flavor”. “Pringles included potato chips featuring the superheroes and quotes from the film”. “Furthermore, in the weeks before the film’s opening, there were also promotional tie-ins with SBC Communications (using Dash to promote the “blazing-fast speed” of its SBC Yahoo! DSL service) Tide, Downy, Bounce and McDonald’s”. These huge merchandisers endorsed The Incredibles and this helped a lot by being able to market the film through these companies tv commercials when advertising their products.

The second key marketing strategy behind the success of this film, is Walt Disney’s website, called Disney.com. Disney.com is a friendly user website that promotes their amusement parks, products and upcoming films. With the rise of the wide public use for the internet at this time, people from around the world who have access to a computer and internet could stay up to date on any new film news, sneak peek previews, and trailers. Disney’s website also launched the pre-order your ticket technique, which gave many fans of the Pixar animated films an option to buy their ticket, before opening weekend and avoiding the problem of tickets selling out. This was a great marketing method to increase the film’s profit before the world premiere. Not only was Disney able to just market on their own website, they were able to market through many websites. For instance, I’m on a gaming website and on both sides of the page, there are advertisements of the upcoming film The Incredibles that show a mini clip of what the film is about. This type of marketing helped reach a very large audience in the U.S and overseas.

The third and probably most important key marketing standpoint for The Incredibles is Pixar’s computer generated imagery software. A lot of barriers had been broken on what’s not possible to make through CGI. “Although the technical team had some experience with hair and cloth in Monsters, Inc. (2001), the amount of hair and cloth required for The Incredibles had never been done by Pixar until this point”. “The Incredibles not only dealt with the trouble of animating CG humans, but also many other complications”. They used these complications as an advantage to help market this film, as being highly advanced, never before seen, and groundbreaking animated graphics through Pixar’s new and innovated CGI software. Increasing the hype for this film to evoke a reaction “I have to see this film!” from the many consumers. The Incredibles CGI graphics also helped create a new platform of authenticity and realism that can be made and seen in animated film. “The skin of the characters gained a new level of realism from a technology to produce what is known as “subsurface scattering”. The amazing creation of these CGI graphics helped promote the film in so many ways, especially when marketing the film’s trailer on television ads, online videos, and movie previews in the theaters.

The high concept method in marketing and distributing high concept films in Hollywood couldn’t be any more relevant in the film industry today. “Wyatt’s willingness to dig deeply into the marketing campaigns of various high concept films (he provides numerous lists and charts of movies that fit the bill) is perhaps the most revealing part of his book”. Wyatt’s analysis on high concept films help me formulate my own beliefs and ideas of how Disney’s Pixar animated films were marketed and distributed in the early 2000’s. In today’s world marketing and advertising on the internet and on television for Disney’s Pixar animation high concept films and many other types of genres, has only gotten bigger and bigger. Since the early 2000’s when that strategy was mainly used by large budget film studios, now what we are witnessing in the filmmaking industry is that this kind of effective strategy of promoting a film can be used by anybody now. Whether it’s a high concept film with a large budget with unbelievable visual effects and the use of high end advanced technology like computer generated imagery or a low concept film that has a small budget with a non-type cast, and more developed characters, filmmakers now have many effective outlets to market and advertise their films to sell to the consumers before it hits theatres, by using Walt Disney’s marketing strategies, which I believe redefined the high concept method of marketing a film. With the advance technology constantly changing and the internet growing immensely over the years it introduced another platform to the high concept method, social media, which then created a brand new strategy that is more effective than any other way of marketing a film in today’s world. My argument impacts today’s film industry by showing the amazing success from Walt Disney’s three key factors of marketing their Pixar animation films and how this resulted in the continuous evolution of the high concept method.


Works Cited

Coleman, Tim. “High Concept: Movies and Marketing in Hollywood.” Criticism 37.4 (1995): 653+. Literature Resource Center. Web. 22 Nov. 2015.
The Incredibles. Special Features – Behind the Scenes – More Making of The Incredibles: Music
Marketers latch on to ‘The Incredibles’ | News”. Advertising Age. October 4, 2004. Retrieved June 28, 2013.
Movie Marketing Madness: “the Incredibles””. Film Threat. November 3, 2004. Retrieved June 28, 2013.
Williams, Ruth, Linda, & Hammond, Michael. “Contemporary American Cinema.” Two Penn Plaza, New York, 2006. Print
Wyatt, Justin. High Concept: Movie and Marketing in Hollywood. 4. 1. Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press, 2003. Print.

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