"Mulan" promises to be one of Disney's biggest marketing challenges ever, and its marketing minds are trying to decide how to sell the world on a musical based on a Chinese fable that features a female protagonist.
"This isn't going to be an easy sell," said Brett Dicker, Disney's senior VP-promotions. "But it deals with universal truths that we can all relate to. At the heart of every great Disney movie are the same core values: acceptance, honor, doing what's right."
POWER OF DISNEY BRAND
Mr. Dicker said the power of the Disney brand is what draws McDonald's and Nestle to promotional alliances and also is what drew Kodak.
"Disney still commands the leading position in the promotions world. And part of the reason [for that] has increasingly less to do with box-office performance but [more with] the overall amount of exposure it can create," said Michael Wolf, head of the media and entertainment practice at consultant Booz, Allen & Hamilton.
PROMOS WITH 'LEGS'
In 1994, Disney spoiled everyone with "The Lion King," a $1 billion brand that hasn't been matched by Disney's last three summertime animated features. "Pocahontas" and "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" topped $100 million at the box office; "Hercules" so far this summer has cleared $70 million.
"A promotion can be successful even if the film doesn't do well at the box office," said Steve Ross, senior VP-worldwide promotions, Twentieth Century Fox Licensing & Merchandising. "But the lesson we're learning from this summer is that we have to craft creative promotions for our partners so that they have the legs to withstand wave after wave of event films."
With promotion so important, it isn't any wonder Hollywood is plotting next year's summer strategies before this summer's event flicks have unspooled.
Sony Corp. is making noise for "Godzilla," pinning a trailer to this summer's "Men in Black." The studio also has finalized a $25 million tie-in with Taco Bell Corp. and is wrapping up talks with Hershey Chocolate USA and others.
'LOST IN SPACE' SUPPORT
New Line Cinema already has posters in movie theaters for its big-screen remake of the 1960s sci-fi series "Lost in Space" and is planning a fall promotion with the Sci-Fi Channel.
The biggest free-agent in the movie tie-in arena, Burger King Corp., is still without a summertime '98 property.
Reports that had the fast-feeder paired with Warner Bros.' "Superman Reborn" are erroneous, according to executives in Hollywood; and the movie has been moved back to fall 1998.
Burger King, hunting for an all-family property, has passed on Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp.'s non-musical remake of "Dr. Dolittle" starring Eddie Murphy, which is shooting for a PG-13 rating. Fox had pitched Burger King on "Dolittle" as part of a multiyear, multipicture package.
Burger King, which has long denied an attachment to "Superman Reborn," didn't return calls before press time.
WENDY'S GETS 'CAMELOT'
Warner Bros.' animated musical "The Quest for Camelot" may have appealed to Burger King, but that went to Wendy's International.
"Godzilla" is the front-runner to be next summer's "The Lost World: Jurassic Park," which so far this summer has grossed $220 million.
"Godzilla's" current trailer takes aim at that $1 billion Steven Spielberg franchise by showing Godzilla appearing to squash a museum-housed, Jurassic-age