Oren Aviv

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Marketing the feature-length action cartoon "The Incredibles" with a PG rating wasn't a sure bet, despite being the latest computer-generated opus from Walt Disney Co.'s hit factory Pixar Animation Studios. Sure, there was built-in want-to-see based on earlier animated Pixar triumphs "Toy Story" and "Finding Nemo." But Oren Aviv, 43, president of Buena Vista Pictures Marketing, could take nothing for granted. "I had to convince moviegoers that real human characters playing superheroes were as interesting, cool, fun and compelling as `X-Men' and `Spider-Man 2,' " he says.

The best way to accomplish that, in Mr. Aviv's opinion: Play up the humor, the element that connects audiences of all ages, incomes and ethnicities. Based on "The Incredibles"' $70.5 million opening weekend, Mr. Aviv's judgment proved sound. His team also lined up numerous promotional partners: SBC Communications, McDonald's Corp. and Procter & Gamble Co., plus others, with combined spending reaching an estimated value of $200 million, by Disney estimates. A year before "The Incredibles"' Nov. 5, 2004 release, audiences caught a glimpse of the movie's laughs in an engaging trailer. In an original sequence, an out-of-shape Mr. Incredible struggled to pack his paunch into his old superhero suit, belt buckle flying. That set up the movie's high-concept premise, plus created a buzz of anticipation. Closer to the release, the Mouse House-synergy machine kicked in, with sibling companies ABC, Disney Channel and ESPN running interstitial promos and sneak peaks.

Mr. Aviv's team broke through the clutter of holiday-film-release hype with a clever twist on conventional movie promotion. No stars to promote the film? No problem. Disney set up "a virtual press junket," and got celebrity interviewers in on the joke. Access Hollywood's Nancy O'Dell and others earnestly quizzed the cartoon Mr. Incredible, Elastigirl, Frozone and Edna "E" Mode about their performances and personal lives.

Promotional partners received custom animation in marketing materials. For example, kid superhero Dash Incredible zipped around the globe to snap his own photo of the Great Wall of China, then shipped it home over SBC Communications' Yahoo DSL Internet connections, in the telecommunications company's family-targeted TV campaign, handled by Omnicom Group's GSD&M, Austin, Texas. Publicis Groupe's Leo Burnett USA produced movie-themed Happy Meal spots for McDonald's. Publicis' Starcom MediaVest Group, handles Disney's media. As always, the movie's creative excellence was the real motor behind worldwide grosses of around $631 million ("The Incredibles" went on to win Oscars for animated feature film and sound editing for 2004).

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