Fim: Snow White and the Huntsman
Total Products Spotted: 0
Standout Placement: N/A
Most Memorable Placement (positive): N/A
Most Memorable Placement (negative): N/A
Overall Product Placement Integration Grade (1-10): N/A
Comments: As the third major retelling of the Snow White story in the last year hits the screen, is it any surprise studios like Disney are moving to create fairy tales over which complete copyright control can be exercised?
"We’re going to greenlight films with consumer products potential."
That is a recent statement from Philippe Daumann, the CEO of Viacom, regarding Paramount studios' aim to make films with a "focus on profitability." Obviously, money made from putting butts in seats is only one of Hollywood's profit lines in the modern age. Viacom's CEO added that the studio intends to “turbocharge" its development of animation properties. As one user on Deadline's story commented, "This is great news! Back to the good old days when Paramount truly made movies to sell products. Who can forget The Godfather bed sheets and Apocalypse Now energy drink."
What does this have to do with this week's new #1 film, Snow White and the Huntsman? Disney is losing its hold on Snow White, and the story's "consumer products potential."
The classic Disney film Snow White is 75 years old. That's not as aged as the 200 years the fairy tale itself claims, but it's still no spring chicken.
In the last few months, no fewer than three major works of TV and film have re-imagined Snow White. ABC's TV series Once Upon a Time uses Snow White's beef with the evil queen as its central plot point.
Then there was Julia Robert's Mirror Mirror, a sort of mirthful Bollywood take on the whole tale.
And, of course, there is this week's angsty, Twilightened Snow White (and the Huntsman!). The latest retellings of the sleeping princess come a year after a modernized, teen retelling of the classic Red Riding Hood (by the producers behind Twilight, no less).
The classic Disney films of the past were hits, but in the modern era of controlling an entertainment brand from concept to Costco shelf, studios working with concepts, no matter how classic, in the the public domain risk their investments becoming diluted by competitors.
A perfect example of just how much Disney "owned" the Snow White space is one audience member's recent review of Snow White and the Huntsman. In it, the writer complains that "I can’t get over that we’re watching Snow White and there’s not a character named Sneezy. You’ve got the best monikered buddy team in fairy tale history and if you’re going to throw that away, you better have something good to replace it with."
Sneezy, Grumpy, Dopey and the gang was of course a Disney creation, and not part of the original Brothers Grimm tale, "Schneewittchen und die sieben Zwerge." In 1912, when the fairy tale debuted as a Broadway production, the dwarves had names such as Whick, Quee, Glick and Plick.
But Disney does not "own" Snow White beyond the cherubic, rated-G specific Snow White of the 1937 Disney film. This means that after Disney spent years and making the take a classic, others are free to cash in on the legend.
For example, Mirror Mirror partnered with HSN to sell, amongst other things, Mirror Mirror-branded lip gloss. Disney sells Snow White Princess lip gloss.
Meanwhile, Snow White and the Huntsman not only partnered with Benefit Cosmetics for tie-in products, but also with Spirit Halloween supplies. Spirit, of course, also sells costumes of Disney's version of Snow White. Competing Snow White and the Huntsman costumes will be here in the fall. It does not help to clarify matters that Kristen Stewart, star of the Snow White and the Huntsman film, did a photo shoot not long ago dressed as the Disney version of Snow White.
Disney's long stranglehold on the Snow White narrative, it seems, has been challenged.
Is it any surprise that one day before the release of Snow White and the Huntsman, Disney World shuttered its Snow White ride? The empire must protect its princesses.
Launched just 12 years ago, Disney's "Princesses" brand has become a booming line in the Mouse's Consumer Products division. Princesses is now worth north of $30 billion. In 2010, Disney's Princess recorded sales of $1.7 billion, more than any other line of licensed merchandise. Star Wars came in second—second!—with $1.4 billion. No wonder George Lucas announced he is retiring, Darth Vader has been bested by the Little Mermaid.
The Princesses' latest addition is Sofia the First. Hitting shelves in 2012, Sofia "marks the first time a Disney series has just taken money directly from parents' wallets centered on a princess as a little girl."
It is not enough to own one's own ideas in a trademarked form, a studio musty also protect those ideas from dilution. Enter the master of film-based consumer products: Disney's Pixar.
When Pixar created Toy Story, it used a lot of loved, well known, classic toy brands to fill out the story. But as main protagonists, Pixar created Woody and Buzz, unique characters… trademarkable characters. The studio did likewise for the Cars franchise, basing the Cars characters on real world automobile models, but giving them enough characteristics to make them protectable properties. The Cars merchandising line is worth billions of dollars more than the films have made at the box office. In the two weeks following the release of the film's sequel in 2011, it was estimated that Cars-branded merchandise has topped $600 million.
And up next for Pixar? Not the retelling of a classic fairy tale like Disney's recent Repunzel yarn, Tangled, but instead an original tale of Scottish Princess Merida in the upcoming film Brave.
Set for release June 22, Brave merchandise is already flooding store shelves.
For all of the products in the last decade of top films, visit the Brandcameo product placement database.