And then he saw the film.
"Literally, [after] 10 seconds of footage, I knew I was seeing something very special," said Mr. Dicker. "I screened 15 minutes of footage, then went directly to the telephone to call some of our marketing partners and said, `Stop the presses, you're not going to believe what I just saw.' I sold programs to Burger King and Nestle that afternoon."
Then came Frito-Lay, Coca-Cola Co.'s Minute Maid brand and Payless ShoeSource. Together, they were committing $125 million in media and promotional support, with another $20 million in marketing support from Disney. Then the formidable Disney marketing machine got revved up: the Disney Channel added a TV special to its programming slate; Buena Vista Home Video added "Toy Story" spots to the 7 million "Cinderella" videos; and Walt Disney World in Orlando started planning for a daily "Toy Story" parade. Then Buena Vista Pictures Marketing got into the act with a World Wide Web site (http://www.toystory.com) and a $1.3 million "Toy Story Funhouse" in Los Angeles featuring three floors of exhibits and live entertainment.
In tapping Frito-Lay as a first-time partner, Disney has cornered prominent display in grocery stores nationwide. The salty snack marketer doesn't often team up with Hollywood but was convinced "Toy Story" would be the hit of the holidays, said a spokeswoman.
Still, "Toy Story," which Disney will release on Nov. 22, is regarded by many as a gamble. It is, after all, a computer-animated film, not the usual Disney classically hand-painted celluloid. In fact, it doesn't even come from Disney; the film was produced by Pixar, the Oscar-winning animation house owned by Apple Computer co-founder Steven Jobs.
The gamble is neatly summarized by Pixar itself in its stock offering prospectus filed with Securities & Exchange Commission:
"While `Toy Story' is being promoted and marketed by Disney, it has a different look, theme and musical style than Disney's other recent animated films, and there can be no assurance that it will have the same audience appeal as Disney's other animated films."
This will be a test, then, of Disney's much-vaunted marketing prowess. The film's success will hinge on its appeal with kids, specifically boys. Fortunately for Disney, there will be few movies competing for their attention during the holiday season, save the Warner Bros. comedy "Ace Ventura 2: When Nature Calls" and Sony Corp.'s special effects adventure "Jumanji."
"Toy Story's" premise-that a boy's toys come to life whenever his back is turned-seems like a can't-miss with the male segment of the Toys "R" Us crowd. Disney's initial outdoor and print ad assault has emphasized the two lead characters: Woody, a pull-string talking cowboy, and Buzz Lightyear, a superhero action figure. Subsequent ads have showcased the film's supporting toy stars, from Mr. Potato Head to those ubiquitous little green army men.
But the early focus on new characters like Woody and older icons like Mr. Potato Head was also intended to set the stage for a massive TV blitz, which began last week with a 60-second spot on Mr. Allen's "Home Improvement" on ABC.
"We wanted to make a big, bold splash with the early ads to familiarize the audience with the new toys and reacquaint them with the old," said Dick Cook, president of Buena Vista Pictures Distribution & Marketing and architect of the "Toy Story" marketing push. "Now we'll use them to market to various segments: boys, girls, adults, families."
Tie-in partners are playing the toy card, too. Burger King Corp., with a $45 million effort, will give away six different premium toys in its Kids Meals, including a Mr. Potato Head that required a licensing deal with Hasbro. The toymaker will get a royalty based on the number of Mr. Potato Head meals sold.
BK is also selling plush hand puppets, aimed at adults and kids, for $1.99 with the purchase of an Extra Value Meal. BK will support with eight TV spots from Ammirati & Puris/Lintas, New York, breaking Nov. 16. Alcone Sims O'Brien, Irvine, Calif., is handling the promo.
Minute Maid is squeezing toys into its juice cans. Minute Maid has created "Toy Story" four-packs, in which one of the cans is clear and contains a toy. The marketer will support with TV and print in 10 markets from Lowe & Partners/SMS, New York.
But "Toy Story" promotions aren't exclusively for boys: "We wanted to use our partners' wide variety of products to reach as broad an audience as possible," Mr. Dicker said.
To that end, Minute Maid will drop a "Toy Story" free standing insert on Nov. 19 that touts a sweepstakes in which the grand prize is a trip for four to Walt Disney World. Payless is giving away a book with purchase that includes an original "Toy Story" story for kids and coupons for related "Toy Story" stuff and other products for adults.
Like any other multifaceted Disney entertainment event, there's more than just a movie yo yie into. Frito-Lay will employ insert on Nov. 19 that touts a sweepstakes in which the grand prize is a trip for four to Walt Disney World. Payless is giving away a book with
purchase that includes an original "Toy Story" story for kids and
coupons for related "Toy Story" stuff and other products for adults.
Like any other multifaceted Disney entertainment event, there's more than
just a movie to tie into. Frito-Lay will employ four snack brands to plug
four mail-in rebate offers for ancillary "Toy Story" merchandise.
For these marketers, tying into "Toy Story" wasn't as much of a gamble
as Pixar makes it out to be.
"Disney has a proven ability to get a broad audience into its movies,"
said John Clendening, VP-Minute Maid business team. "`Toy Story' appeals
to us because it's for kids, but adults will enjoy it as well."
Still, the rule of thumb in Hollywood is that promotions should thrive
independent of a film's performance. Except for Frito-Lay, most of these
promotions have that potential, especially Minute Maid, with its
innovative premium offer and Walt Disney World sweepstakes. Minute Maid is
the dominant player in frozen juice, but its frozen orange juice product
is down 30% since 1991, so it needs a jolt from "Toy Story," Mr.
Walt Disney Records stands to gain from "Toy Story," too, using the
film to tout its new website (http://www.disney.com/records), promoting
Disney's catalog of soundtracks. Walt Disney Records is marketing the
"Toy Story" soundtrack, composed by Randy Newman, and the Wal-Mart
exclusive "Toy Story Play Pack" that includes a tape, read-along
storybook, and play-along toys.
There is one marketing resource that Disney is not exploiting: the star
power of Messrs. Allen and Hanks. Disney doesn't typically tout its
celebrity voices in ads, and Mr. Cook said Disney intends to stick with
its long-held policy. Disney and Pixar have been derided by some for
making a 77-minute commercial for the toy industry. Disney executives
acknowledge that the film represents a gr