Friday, 27 June 2008

What would Mr Tumnus say?

I came across something off on the my way into work yesterday. Not groundbreaking in anyway, just a bit… well odd.

It was an advert for the new instalment of Disney’s Narnia series – Prince Caspian… and weirdly it had a couple of Soduko puzzles slapped in the middle.

You’ll have to forgive me for not including am image – I’ll try and track one down.

The idea seems to be to get people engaging more with the ad – in the simplest terms spending more time with the ad. A bit odd, but fair enough I guess.
In addition to the puzzle the ad encourages readers to solve simple questions related to the movie to give them a head start on the puzzles. Fair enough again.

As I said, fair enough.

It’s an interesting way to use advertising space and could encourage you to spend more time with it. I’m just a bit baffled by where the idea came from and how it ties in to any strategic thought about the movie…

As innovations go it’s hardly earth shattering but I kind of like the (near idiotic) simplicity of it.


Anyway, I was thinking about Narnia the other day. And the problems Disney is having getting the franchise to catch fire.
Quite apart from the merits of the movie itself I think there is a big issue with the peculiar fantasy rules that hold Narnia together – work with me here.

Most fantasy worlds are set up by a scene that shows the world described in terms of our own real one – In Lord of the Rings, for example Hobbiton is a very peaceful English village with Gas lamps and pipes and a mail service, The Temaraire series starts out on a Napoleonic transport ship..

LOTR has the advantage of being a self contained world. Hogwarts runs alongside our own, with the same time frame. Narnia however lives alongside our own but its timescale works differently. In Narnia you face entry restrictions.
Children over a certain age aren’t allowed back in – and this raises issues for Disney:

Firstly it needs to find new stars every couple of films or so – which might have certain cost benefits (see my post the other day about the downturn and Hollywood). But poses marketing problems of having to create more hype than an established star would merit.

Secondly there’s no opportunity for kids to grow up with the movies.
Harry Potter works well because Rowling wrote the books to be enjoyed by a gradually ageing audience. The older you get, the more adult Harry and his adventures get. With Narnia though the audiences are going to get older, whilst the main stars, and the themes won’t.
Which of course means that the marketing needs to pull a whole new audience in for every film.

There are solutions of course. Age it up - I gather there’s a scene added to Prince Caspian with Susan kissing the aspiring royal… which clearly isn’t in the book. And the battle scenes look darker too.
What next? Are we on a slippery slope? Will we have sex in the Voyage of the Dawn Treader? I doubt it, and frankly it’s a bit beside the point.

The actual point is that Hollywood has latched on to a beloved franchise in the hope of creating ongoing revenues for years to come… the problem being that the fantasy world its built on, isn’t built with this kind of monetisation in mind.

Maybe Disney should risk all and develop a stand alone fantasy film franchise. Put their money where their mouths are… Maybe they should, but they won’t. All of which means we are, I think, doomed to see adaptations brought to the big screen – but with sexy bits and battle scenes added.

What would Mr Tumnus say?

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