Movie Tie-Ins

2001 Howard Johnson Odyssey

Did you know that Stanley Kubrick‘s 2001: A Space Odyssey was an expensive career brochure for space stewardesses that featured stunning visuals and a delightful, not-at-all-horrifying surprise ending that children love? It’s true! Just ask this amazing movie tie-in comic that Howard Johnson’s included in their children’s menu back in 1968 when the film premiered. The hospitality company also had some product placement in the movie itself, sponsoring a sparse, yet relaxing Earthlight Room (while somehow failing to secure the hotel sponsorship that went to Hilton). Once you stop throwing up, this kind of thing really makes you wonder if Kubrick ever saw this glorious monstrosity or whether he was carefully guarded from the more commercial grotesqueries that came with studio filmmaking. Obviously he swallowed the product placement while presenting it in a believable way (after all, brands aren’t simply going to disappear in the future), but this connect-the-dots delivery method may have been a bridge too far. The obvious question is why they’d market a slow-burn, existential mind-shredder to children in the first place. The better question is why they’d market a slow-burn, existential mind-shredder to children without turning HAL into a cheerful, cartoon robot pal. At any rate, this is the kind of cool stuff you get while following directors on Twitter. Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich shared this from the truly excellent Dreams of Space blog.

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Culture Warrior

Last week, we explored the concept of shoving products into movies, but there’s an equal and opposite marketing method where movies are shoved into product commercials – especially if the character is an iconic one. There’s a distinction to be made here about the difference between celebrities endorsing colognes and fictional characters doing it, although the line can definitely be blurred. Movie star endorsements are as old as the medium, whether it’s Buster Keaton slugging out the chalk for Simon Pure Beer, Charles Bronson going overboard with his self-sprinkling of Mandom, Arnold Schwarzenegger scream-laughing for a Japanese energy drink, or Abraham Lincoln selling us churros. And that doesn’t include all the normal, run-of-the-mill advertising where an actress loves a brand of make-up or a wrestler loves beef jerky. A human being selling out is one thing, but there’s something especially heinous about a character being used to market a product because it’s an element of art forced into a square hole of commercialism. Oftentimes its done without the creator’s consent (or consent is contractually taken away from the starting block). In most cases, the original actor doesn’t even have to be involved (for better or worse), especially if there’s a costume involved. In its rawest form, it’s the uglification of something we love. This list is light-years away from being complete, but it hopefully shows a well-rounded view of different types of movie characters in commercials throughout a few different time periods.

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This week, while not breaking my hands, I have been mostly considering the question of video game tie-ins. Largely born out of that commercialist need to squeeze every last cent out of a film’s appeal, 99% of what is released to this market isn’t even worth considering, but there are exceptions, and they do – I have come to believe – fall within the merchandise remit. For some reason, despite the easy relationship between gaming and cinema as two immersive, escapist mediums, certain cinephiles will always look unfavorably upon gamers as their sweaty, pasty siblings. Just ask Roger Ebert. That probably has a lot to do with the slap-dash way most tie-ins are put together, and also something to do with the way Hollywood consistently fails to make good films out of games as well. So in the interest of diversity, and because my love of gaming is almost as profound and pronounced as my cinematic obsession, I hereby offer three of the greatest tie-ins every released.

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published: 12.19.2014
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published: 12.18.2014
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published: 12.17.2014
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