Movie Article

Green Screen

Animated films from American Express -- The credit card company gets their name in theatres by sponsoring animated shorts

Now that audiences' boos have nearly chased commercials from movie screens, how can a company camouflage its ads there? American Express thinks it finally has the boo-proof answer: Show animated shorts followed by a flash of the company's slogan.

Since Labor Day, AmEx has run a series of short films before each movie on every one of Cineplex Odeon's 1,690 screens. In Luxo Jr., a parent lamp taught a baby lamp how to play ball. Now showing is Quasi Maestro, in which Claymation figures goof up a holiday carol.

AmEx resorted to whimsy after it got catcalls for advertising on the big screen. It then tried a made-for-the-movies ad full of tropical vistas. The hisses persisted. But now, with its clever, unthreatening shorts, AmEx can seem Medici-like for sponsoring art, even though it is not commissioning original work. While Luxo Jr. has actually received a smattering of applause, Maestro, excerpted from an annual CBS Christmas special, has received mixed reviews in the theaters. Either way, what AmEx is saying about advertising comes through loud and clear: You can't leave home without it.

Originally posted Dec 07, 1990 Published in issue #43 Dec 07, 1990 Order article reprints