Movie Article

Arabian Sheikdown

Marketing ''Aladdin'' -- Movie tie-ins, demographic sharpshooting, and teaser tapes all played a role in the Disney film's success

It takes more than wishes to make a movie like Aladdin the best-grossing film in Disney history, raking in $180 million to date. Of course, critical acclaim and word of mouth have played important parts in the film's success. Yet much of that record revenue is the result of a promotional campaign with even more shapes than Robin Williams' genie:

*April 1992: Attractor Trailers. Last spring, 11 million video copies of 101 Dalmatians went out with Aladdin trailers. Subsequent Disney tape releases (such as Beauty and the Beast) continued the coming-attraction strategy.

*Oct. 1992-present: Tie-ins, Tie-ins, Tie-ins. More than a month before the film appeared, manufacturers began unveiling thousands of Aladdin products: stuffed animals (''plushes,'' Disney calls them), a 3-D board game, neckties, sheets, cookie jars, and much more, churned out by hundreds of licensees worldwide — the largest such Disney program of all time.

*Nov. 1992-Jan. 1993: Demographic Sharpshooting. When Aladdin opened nationwide at Thanksgiving, a battery of TV and print ads focused on various aspects of the film and aimed it at every group Disney could think to target. TV spots on comedy shows highlighted Robin Williams' vocals, while other ads used action scenes and trumped up comparisons to Raiders of the Lost Ark. Markedly different print ads were created for adults (a realistic-looking hand on a lamp) than for kids (the whole cartoon cast). In January, broadcast spots suddenly used hardly any animated footage — just regular folks (including he-man jocks and construction workers) singing ''Friend Like Me.''

Disney also launched what it says is probably the biggest ethnic marketing campaign ever for a movie, aimed at African-Americans and Hispanics. Ads featuring black and Hispanic performers appeared on cable, including the Spanish-language Telemundo network.

*Nov. 1992-present: Musical Counterpoint. The film's romantic duet, ''A Whole New World,'' has topped the singles chart for months; the soundtrack is already double-platinum.

*Dec. 1992-present: Crowd Control. On Dec. 21, the Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park in Florida unveiled ''Aladdin's Royal Caravan.'' To a recording of ''Prince Ali,'' the daily parade marches along streets lined with shops that — surprise! — carry Aladdin merchandise.

*April 30, 1993: Teaser Tapes. Disney will release a $12.99 videotape entitled Sing-Along Songs: ''Friend Like Me,'' containing three Aladdin tunes (one a reprise). Of course, in all likelihood the whole movie will be on cassette within the year for about $18, so many parents will shell out twice. But then, when you fall for an Arabian thief, you should expect to have your pocket picked.

Originally posted Mar 12, 1993 Published in issue #161 Mar 12, 1993 Order article reprints
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