The new trailer for next year's Dolittle, starring Robert Downey Jr., is clearly structured to look like a Disney movie, despite actually being from Universal Pictures. The upcoming film will mark Downey Jr.'s first major film to be released following Avengers: Endgame. That movie brought his 11-year run as Tony Stark to a conclusion. In contrast to the contemporary setting of the Eddie Murphy-starring Dr. Dolittle movies from the late 1990s and early 2000s, Dolittle is clearly hewing closer to the original Hugh Lofting books and the 1967 movie starring Rex Harrison by maintaining a Victorian-era backdrop.
With a huge $175 million budget, the Dolittle film is a massive undertaking, especially for a January release, having already seen its theatrical debut delayed multiple times, along with undergoing significant reshoots. With such a hefty investment on the table, it is understandable that Universal would want to put their best foot forward with the marketing for Dolittle, itself a shortened title from the original The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle. However, their method for doing so with the first Dolittle trailer is a curious one, in that the trailer clearly intends for viewers to associate Dolittle with Disney rather than Universal Pictures.
The lack of the Universal logo from the Dolittle trailer's opening is a little surprising for such a major studio tentpole, but the design of the trailer is also markedly similar to what is typically found today in Disney's marketing materials. The trailer itself presents Dolittle as something one would more readily expect to see in the summer or holiday movie seasons rather than the traditionally quiet month of January, though that can be largely attributed to the film's originally planned release in April 2019. Given the fact that Downey Jr. is closely associated with the Disney brand now - he was even crowned a Disney Legend at D23 Expo 2019 - it's understandable for a competing studio to capitalize on that fame.
Further indications of the marketing being patterned after Disney can be seen in the trailer referencing the involvement of producer Joe Roth, with Dolittle positioned as being "from the producer of Alice in Wonderland and Maleficent", both Disney releases (Roth is also a producer on Maleficent: Mistress of Evil.) Additionally, the trailer carries other similarities with traditional Disney marketing, notably in the decidedly Disney-style editing and listing of the movie's cast at the end. Furthermore, while the heavy presence of talking animals is inherent to the film, the design of the zoological cast of Dolittle is not unlike that of this summer's remake of The Lion King, with even the opening shot of a bird flying over a grassy plain near a river feeling akin to the celebration of Simba's birth at Pride Rock.
While Robert Downey Jr. is set to return to another of his iconic roles with the forthcoming Sherlock Holmes 3, Dolittle also makes it apparent that he's trying to take his career in new directions in what is now effectively his post-Marvel days. Dolittle is clearly a very ambitious undertaking, as seen with the extensive use of CGI in the trailer and the ensemble cast, many of them voicing the animals seen in the film, including Downey Jr.'s MCU co-star Tom Holland. As the movie's debut nears, additional marketing materials are sure to be released giving audiences a further glimpse at what the film has in store. However, with its official trailer, the marketing for Dolittle is clearly keen for viewers to mentally link the movie to Disney.
- Dolittle (2020) release date: Jan 17, 2020