Oren Aviv, President

Internationally promoted from start, 'Narnia' draws blue chip partners like Unilever, McDonald's

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The stage was set for a battle of the beasts, but few Hollywood watchers put their money on the king of the jungle to win out over the two-ton gorilla at the holiday box office.

When the dust settled, the $65.5 million opening weekend for "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe" surprised even its studio, Disney, while NBC Universal's Universal Pictures was left licking its wounds with less-than-expected results for "King Kong." "Narnia" went on to pull in $719 million worldwide, while "Kong" stalled at $547 million.

Credit the built-in fan base for the beloved C.S. Lewis novel, or the Oscar-winning visual effects team, or the relatable kid heroes, says Oren Aviv, 44, president of Disney's Buena Vista Pictures Marketing. The Disney pedigree didn't hurt, but the real spark could've been the first-of-its-kind global roadblock that garnered 260 million impressions for the family film across Walt Disney Co.'s media conglomerate, AOL's high-traffic sites and Verizon mobile platforms. The roadblock blasted out the trailer, showcasing Aslan the lion and other characters, to more than 30 countries simultaneously.

"It jumpstarted the campaign," Mr. Aviv says. "We were playing to the millions of people who love the books, and introducing the property to those who weren't as familiar."

To further instill the "Narnia" message, McDonald's, General Mills, Georgia-Pacific, Unilever and other marketers linked with Disney for a $100 million promotional push. Those programs, by studio mandate, emphasized the movie's literary heritage. McDonald's doled out pop-up books along with the toys in its Happy Meals, and tie-in newbie Georgia-Pacific showed kids reading "Narnia" in its TV spots.

Much media attention was focused on the Christian overtones of the film and Disney's outreach in that area. Mr. Aviv says that the faith community was one of many targets, including schools, youth organizations, family groups, Latinos and Web junkies. In the end, it proved to be a true four-quadrant movie, appealing to nearly every demographic group.

"That's not marketing," Mr. Aviv says. "People just really responded to this film."

Selected for: 'Narnia'

* Danced a fine line with Christian connection without creating a backlash.