Yesterday, I finally got around to seeing Beverly Hills Chihuahua, more out of a sense of professional obligation than anything else — and I was struck by how, before the film, there was a promo for Disney’s upcoming animated film Bolt, in which John Travolta and Miley Cyrus spoke directly to the camera, as themselves, to introduce two entire scenes from the movie (one of which seems to come from fairly late in the story arc).
This is the sort of promo that we see on DVDs all the time — if memory serves, Ben Stiller did a similar ad for the original Madagascar (2005) on the DVD for Shrek 2 (2004) — but I can’t recall seeing anything quite like this on the big screen before.
The nearest thing to a precedent that comes to mind is the original teaser for WALL·E, which featured talking-head footage of director Andrew Stanton — but only offered the briefest of glimpses of actual footage from the actual film.
Anyway, apparently I am not the only person who finds the Bolt promo a little unusual. John Horn and Patrick Goldstein, both writing for the Los Angeles Times, report that theatre owners are upset with Disney for running such a lengthy promo — thus eating into time that could have been available for other advertisers — and for getting the MPAA to classify the promo as a “short film”, complete with PG rating, rather than as an ad.
Disney says they won’t do it again, but who knows? Even if they abandon the practice, others might follow their lead.