Yesterday, I saw Toy Story 3 and it was excellent. While not as good as the first or second films, it carried a heavy and important message about growing up, friendship and loyalty. With that being said, this is not a movie review of the animated feature.
Rather, I want to cover the very unique way Disney and Pixar marketed certain segments of the film to online audiences. Most notably, they have even gone so far as to allegedly create fake videos made to resemble actual 1980s commercials (with VHS distortion and all) depicting a leading character from the movie.
This one toy in the film, a big pink teddy bear that goes by the name “Lots-o’-Huggin’ Bear,” or “Lotso” for short, is getting a tremendous amount of coverage on viral video sites such as YouTube, because of the video posted below that was “discovered” and uploaded by an unknown YouTuber. Check it out and decide for yourself whether this is a real video from 1983 or something the animation studio cooked up to make their character, Lots-o’-Huggin’ Bear, more realistic. Here it is:
Okay, at first I was convinced that this was a real video featuring an actual toy. Let’s face it, 1983 was a little bit before my time, so I had no points of reference other than what I could dig up online, and that is exactly what I did.
It turns out that viewers with some “expert” knowledge on this matter have noted several inconsistencies within the video, such as:
There are no brand marks or logos relating to the manufacturer, which is unheard of in toy commercials of the time. Most companies like Mattel or Hasbro would reference their brand names numerous times in a single advertisement.
The lunch box of the girl walking out of the school bus is apparently ahead of its time, as the folks at Mashable noted.
There would be more sound distortion if this was in fact pulled from a VHS recording, which it looks like it was, based on the visual distortion and scratches at the bottom of the image.
The steps of the school bus are inconsistent with the early 1980s buses of the time. I have no idea how accurate this is, but make of it what you will.
The product in the advertisement appears to be “just teddy bear in a box” and it completely lacks any sort of special feature or gimmick which was the norm of 1980s toys. No buttons to push and no accessories were seen.
Finally, there are no legitimate records anywhere for the company “Huggin’ Toys” which is referenced in the commercial, except in one very particular spot outlined below.
After doing a quick Google search for Huggin’ Toys, this is the only significant thing I found:
This appears to be some sort of list of registered companies, and if you look closely, “HUGGIN TOYS” is registered or somehow connected with Disney Consumer Products. Also, the address given is that of Walt Disney Studios. Check out the original list and see for yourself.
Okay, if you’re still in doubt, let’s bring in the smoking gun. Three days prior to the Lots-o’-Huggin’ Bear video being uploaded by MrCrazycommercials on YouTube, the director of Toy Story 3, Lee Unkrich, tweeted about another video that was uploaded by the same user, MrCrazycommercials. Coincidence? I think not.
Finally, in this YouTube video about the Toy Story 3 product line, Executive Producer John Lasseter had this to say about Lotso:
If all of the above isn’t enough, a second video was also uploaded by another new YouTuber, featuring Lotso in a Japanese television spot. This is just as interesting as the first one and just as fake. Tell me what you think:
Oh, and if you didn’t notice, both videos were uploaded to YouTube by new users, exactly one week apart, April 19th and April 26th of this year. Neither account appears to have any recent activity either.
Okay, so you’re probably wondering why this is such a big deal. Well, frankly, it’s not. I personally don’t have a problem with a movie studio creating a fake 1980s commercial and passing it off as if it’s the real deal in order to promote a character from their film. In fact, I think this is great marketing. We’re talking about an animated movie and a big pink teddy bear here, not nuclear secrets.
In fact, I would bet that Disney and Pixar knew their fake commercial would get discussed and criticized and promoted. That’s the beauty of viral advertising. Take something with a little controversy, add a touch of mystery, mix well and you have a perfect vehicle for promoting your product! These folks knew we would remember (or remember not remembering) this big fluffy bear from the early ’80s. They were just stirring us up by trying a new method of marketing instead of going the plain old trailer route.
Oh, and there is an actual Lots-o’-Huggin’ Bear toy already available in stores. I’m sure it’ll be a hot item this year, especially with all the coverage over the commercials. The “deluxe film replica from Disney/Pixar’s digital data with movie accurate detailing,” speaks over 45 sayings and retails for about $60.
For their work, I say good job. They had many of us (including myself) fooled at first. It’s nice to see a studio go to such lengths to promote just one aspect of a film. If nothing more, this retro marketing campaign reminded us that we should always stay vigilant to things that seem out of place in the world of advertising.