Welcome to Jim Hill Media - Entertainment News : Theme Parks Movies Television

Disney XD uses out-of-the-box thinking to promote out-of-this-world TV movie

Jim Hill

Jim's musings on the history of and rumors about movies, TV shows, books and theme parks including Disneyland, Walt Disney World. Universal Orlando and Universal Studios Hollywood.

Disney XD uses out-of-the-box thinking to promote out-of-this-world TV movie

Rate This
  • Comments 3
It happened this past July. After another long day at Comic-Con, my daughter and I had just exited the San Diego Convention Center. We were trudging across those trolley tracks in the usual crush of conventioneers when Alice suddenly stopped and pointed at something off to the side. “Do you see that, Dad?,” she exclaimed. “Isn’t that cool?”

I briefly glanced over at what my daughter was pointing at. Through the crowd, I saw yellow caution tape blocking off a small section of sidewalk in the Gaslamp Quarter. There were obvious signs of construction just on the other side of that tape. I turned back to Alice and said “What’s so cool about a water main breaking?”

A surprise painting at San Diego Comic Con 2009
Photo by Nancy Stadler

With much theatricality, my daughter rolled her eyes and then said “Look again, Dad. Closer this time.”

So I looked back and then realized what I had originally thought was a freshly dug hole in the concrete was actually a photo-realistic street painting. One that had been evidently done by acclaimed artist Kurt Wenner.

An amazing street painting by Kirt Wenner at San Diego Comic Con 2009
  Photo by Nancy Stadler

What’s more, even that yellow caution tape was not what it seemed to be. Please note the writing on this tape: DisneyXD.com/Skyrunners.

The tape surrounding the sidewalk painting revealed the Skyrunners logo
Photo by Nancy Stadler

As Alice and I marveled at the detail work on this street painting, a would-be Men in Black suddenly appeared at my elbow. “I’m Special Agent Slater from the NSSC,” this stern figure intoned. “I’m leading the field investigation here. Were you in the vicinity at the time of the incident?”

“ ‘Incident’ ?,” I replied. “What incident? What supposedly happened here?”

“I’m sorry. I’m not at liberty to divulge that information to civilians,” Special Agent Slater stated.

Alice then leaned over the yellow caution tape to get a closer look at this amazing street painting. Special Agent Slater quickly moved over to her. “I’m sorry, ma’m. But you’re going to have to step back,” he continued. “But only authorized personnel are allowed to enter the crash site.”

“ ‘Crash site !?,” I chortled. “Are you saying that this hole in the ground was caused by … “

Special Agent Slater suddenly wheeled on me. “That’s classified information, Mister! On a strictly need-to-know basis. And you two don’t really need to know what went on here earlier today. Allegedly.”

As Alice and I laughed at this neat bit of street theater, Special Agent Slater finished up by whipping out a faux business card. “Thanks for your time today. Should you notice anything out of the ordinary during your stay in San Diego, feel free to contact our field office.”

A business card souvenir from Sand diego Comic Con

This is how The Walt Disney Company initially got the word out about “Skyrunners,” Disney XD's first original TV movie (which -- FYI -- debuts next Friday on that channel at 5 p.m. ET/PT). Kurt Wenner’s street painting as well as Special Agent Slater’s street theater were just the grass roots portion of a five month-long promotional campaign that Disney officials hoped would have a real story arc.

“We knew that we had to do something really special here,” explained Richard Loomis, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Creative at Disney Channel Worldwide. “We wanted to capture people’s attention. Make sure that Disney XD viewers knew that something special was on its way.”

Kelly Blatz and Joey Pollari run from a scary shadow in the woods in DisneyXD Skyrunners
(L to R) Kelly Blatz and Joey Pollari stars in “Skyrunners,” the
first original TV movie for Disney XD. Photo by Bob D’Amico.
Copyright 2009 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Which is why – on the heels on that San Diego street painting – this series of viral videos began popping up on YouTube in August. Each of these 30 second spots featured idealized Disney XD viewers – a tween-age boy at football practice or a girl guitar player in a garage band for example – who’d just experienced something out-of-this-world.

Now each of these clips ended with a voiceover that said “For the latest developments, please go to DisneyXD.com/Skyrunners.” And when viewers actually typed in this web address, they suddenly found themselves face-to-face with the organization that supposedly employed Special Agent Slater; the NSSC or National Space Security Command. Which – in the world of "Skyrunners" -- is this super-secret arm of the government whose motto is “Protecting Earth By Exploring Space.”

Agent Armstrong, played by Conrad Coates, can be seen on the Skyrunners web site
Copyright 2009 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Of course, in order to learn more about the NSSC, you had to go poking around this Disney XD website. Figure out ways to raise your security clearance in order to gain access to encrypted videos & files that were stored at this site. And if you did that ... Over time, you were eventually allowed to view a series of press conferences led by Agent Armstrong (Conrad Coates from ABC Family’s “Kyle XY”). Which – just like with that street painting and those 30 second viral videos on YouTube – provided more clues about what was really going on here, gave you more of "Skyrunner" 's backstory.

Mind you, in addition to this story-driven promotion for Disney XD's first original TV movie, Loomis & his team did use some more tried-and-true methods to help get the word out about "Skyrunners." Among them was releasing a music video from the pop alternate rock band Capra. Which just happens to be fronted by "Skyrunners" star Kelly Blatz. They also made the first part of this original TV movie available for downloading for free over at iTunes.

But more often than not, Richard and his staff at Marketing and Creative genuinely tried to be creative when it came to the marketing & promotion of "Skyrunners." Which explains the app that Disney XD had Google develop. Which allows you to crash land a virtual UFO right in front of your house.

You can see a virtual UFO land near your house in this ad campaign for DisneyXD's Skyrunners
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Of course, what’s kind of ironic about all this is that – even as Loomis and his team were putting all of this time & energy into developing and then executing this innovative & interactive promotional campaign for Disney XD's first original TV movie – they were also looking at what lies beyond "Skyrunners." Which is why -- when this new TV movie debuts on Disney XD on November 27th at 5 p.m. ET/PT -- "Skyrunners" will be paired with a full episode preview of this channel’s next series, “I’m in the Band.” Which doesn’t officially debut on Disney XD ‘til January 2010.

"When you work in Marketing, it's never about one thing," Richard explained. "You always have to take the macro view. Look for opportunities to get people to sample the next project that you're getting ready to launch."

And -- at first glance -- "Skyrunners" does seem like an odd choice when it comes to being paired with "I'm in the Band." But then again, given that many of the characters featured in this soon-to-debut Disney XD sitcom actually look like they stepped out of a UFO ... Maybe Loomis and his team at Disney Channel Worldwide, Marketing and Creative really are on to something here.

I'm the Band
(L to R) Stephen Full, Greg Baker, Logan Miller and Steven Valentine from Disney
XD’s soon-to-debut series, “I’m in the Band.” Photo by Jaimie Trueblood.
Copyright 2009 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

So what do you folks think? Will all of these out-of-the-box marketing choices really help pull in an audience for “Skyrunners,” Disney XD’s out-of-this-world original TV movie?

Your thoughts?

Tis the season. If you’d like to show your appreciation for all the great stories that you’ve read here at JimHillMedia over the years, you can do so by clicking on the above banner before you begin your next Amazon.com shopping spree. If you do that … Well, JHM then gets a teeny tiny chunk of whatever you spend.

Happy Holidays!

Blog - Post Feedback Form
Your comment has been posted.   Close
Thank you, your comment requires moderation so it may take a while to appear.   Close
Leave a Comment
  • * Please enter your name
  • * Please enter a comment
  • Post
  • I hadn't heard of this production before (not really the demographic) but I did notice the free first part available on iTunes tonight.  If I had more room on the hard drive, I'd have gotten it right away without any more information because it looked interesting and was free.  I thought that was a great bit of marketing, but those street paintings were amazing, and the live interaction is really cool too!

  • I saw the commercial on TV the other day for "Skyrunners"- it doesn't look bad, and I usually watch the Disney Channel Original Movies, so maybe I'll check it out.

    But the real reason I'm posting is because, the other day, Jim mentioned how there's a possibility of Aerosmith being taken out of the Rock 'N Roller Coaster...and replaced by "I'm In the Band"...yeah, by the looks of that picture, I don't think so...I know- don't judge a book by it's cover, but wow, yeah, no.  I just don't think so.  Plus, even if the show is a huge hit with younger boys, would they really transform the ride based on that show?  That doesn't have much appeal to most of the WDW visitors, I think.

  • Your story was featured in DisMarks! Here is the link to vote it up and promote it: http://dismarks.com/Media/Jim_Hill_Disney_XD_uses_out_of_the_box_thinking_to_promote_out_of_this_world_TV_movie

Page 1 of 1 (3 items)