Why Is Pixar’s ‘UP’ Using Bait-and-Switch Advertising?

Published 6 years ago by , Updated June 6th, 2009 at 10:15 pm,

“Hilarious?” Really? That’s the word that best sums up the experience of seeing UP?

The rest of the TV spot was just as misleading, only showing scenes of the talking dogs running around acting silly and saying silly things. Anybody who has seen UP knows that silly humor occupies about 10% (or less) of the film’s runtime – so why are Disney/Pixar STILL trying to market it that way when they’ve ALREADY succeed in both the critical and commercial levels with UP? Granted that selling the movie as a comedic adventure initially got many of us into the theater, and helped Disney/Pixar rake in a hefty wad of cash – however that misleading advertising also caused a bit of a backlash from upset parents, and really, when you think about it, wasn’t it mostly the beautiful story of love and loss that earned UP such high critical praise in the first place?

pixars up talking dog Why Is Pixars UP Using Bait and Switch Advertising?

For those readers who think it’s pointless for me to complain about false advertising in Hollywood, let me make an important distinction: I’m 100% accustomed to studios manipulating advertising to make crappy movies seem better than they are. I’m not naive – hell I’m among the biggest cynics there out there. To me, selling snake-oil as a cure-all is practically the American Way. What concerns me about these cases of The Road and UP is that, in a way, these two examples represent a reversal of the usual trickery: Hollywood trying to sell us great movies as dumbed-down versions of themselves.

Has the American public really become so low-brow? Both UP and The Road have already been mentioned in the same sentence as the word “Oscar” for their moving stories and fantastic quality, yet respectively they’re being touted to the public as a post-apocalyptic thriller and a kids’ adventure? I get that the goal of this Hollywood game is to rake in as much cash as possible, but since when did top-quality films (that already have the potential for mass appeal beyond the snooty art-house crowd) need to be dressed-down in order to be successful? Can you imagine if The Dark Knight trailers, posters or TV spots had tried to sell Heath Ledger’s Joker as a comedic foil, just because the late actor’s Oscar-winning performance was “too dark?” If that had been the case, something tells me I wouldn’t have been the only pissed-off blogger on the block.

Bottom line: Excellent films should be touted for the full-scope of their excellence. Period. Seeing excellent films being sold by any other merit is (for me) like being trapped in Ayn Rand’s worst nightmare. Cinematic excellence should not be viewed a financial hindrance – the very notion is absurd to me, no matter how much you might want to argue about Oscar-nominated films that made pennies at the box office. Not an excuse.

[UPDATE] The great irony here is: if Disney/Pixar were to start advertising UP as being a “moving” and “beautiful” film that “adults need to see,” that selling point, combined with all the positive critical and general word of mouth, would likely help UP appeal to a vastly wider demographic who still think the film is just for kids. Reaching that wider demographic would ultimately help sell more tickets and fill more theater seats! This misleading advertising, I believe, is actually hindering their chance$ for bigger payday. So, greed supporters, show me where the logic is in that.

In the case of UP, maybe it’s big bad Disney that is the bad influence; maybe Pixar also shares in the blame. Truthfully I don’t know enough to know who to point the finger at, only that somebody needs to point the finger.

Well, consider it pointed.

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  1. Im thinking Disney is to blame here. They obviously partnered with pixar to put their name on everthing pixar makes, in order to rake in more cash and for more name recognition (my opinion).

    now im not sure if it is disney’s marketing but i bet disney is definetly pushing for the advertising to be aimed at kids because thats what many of their films are aimed at, kids, (not to mention increasing the audience size to increase profits). im not saying that pixar doesn’t make films for kids, but alot of their messages in movies are very mature (I kind of thought The Incredibles had this characteristic as well).

    I think if it was up to pixar, they would market this movie for its true nature because they obviously made the movie that way for a reason…

  2. @LACreoleman..

    Great, now you’ve done it. You mentioned Old Yeller. We’ll be getting a “reboot” or “remake” now within a year. 😛

  3. I thought it was a great movie as did my 4 year old and 8 year old nephew and niece. They got a little sad when they realized the mans wife had died but they dealt with it fine. There’s nothing wrong with kids experiencing that (remember Bambi…we all survived). The trailer showed everything it needed to. I mean really?!? You actually feel there needs to be a “Oh and there might be a sad part too everyone!” disclaimer. It’s rated PG…thats Parental Guidance guys. You just scolded parents in the beginning of this article about knowing what the movie is about before taking their kids. No one was out to dupe anyone into seeing this. The movie was primarily funny. The fact that there was some touching parts also is fantastic and our kids should be exposed to more movies of this calibur with this content. You should all be praising the movie and not whining about the trailer.