It’s weird enough in live action, but these secret ads get even more unsubtle when someone has to animate it all…
There’s a million reasons not to see the Minions movie, but my personal gripe is that I’ve seen enough of them already. No matter how good the movie is, or how much money it earns, The Minions movie have clearly set another even more obnoxious record… in advertising. And yet, as annoying as all of that is, we’re going to use the space below to showcase something similar, that’s somehow even more obnoxious (see the headline!).
Though nothing this insulting, thank God.
Now, cartoon characters hocking brands in commercials is hardly new, but product placement within cartoons doesn’t happen all that often. Actually, television has some clearly defined regulations against such things in children’s entertainment, and while films may not, doing so can be a tricky proposition. The great thing about animation is, when done well, it’s kinda built to last forever, seen by generation after generation. And nothing would date a movie more than an ancient Pepsi logo plastered next to an animated fox or a talking deer all in the name of making a quick buck. Plus, most brands (I imagine) would demand some authenticity, and that kind of accuracy can’t always be easily adapted to every art style… would you like to see why?
The Flintstones have been hocking products for longer than they’ve been making cartoons. But this ain’t what we’re talking about.
Look: I’m barely making any judgments here. In fact, I’m so numb to it that I literally do not notice product placements these days. Infusing live-action films with purchasable merchandise, subtle or otherwise, has become so ubiquitous it doesn’t even register unless it’s wagged in my face for a minute straight. But in animation? It may as well be written in fire across the sky!
DOESN’T COUNT: Toy Story – Mr. Potato Head
Let’s get this one out of the way because I don’t wanna see anyone calling it out in the comments. Mr. Potato Head has been a toy since 1940 (back when the potato was sold separately) and is on of Toy Story’s most beloved characters. But if legend is to be believed, Pixar asked to include him and not the other way around. That would be around the same time Mattel/Barbie famously turned Pixar down until the second movie got made.
I honestly believe what we’re looking at here was included organically, as specified by the writers and artists, and not via paid product placement. What’s my proof? Look closely at his eyes. Toy Story’s Potato Head is based on a retro’ 80s/early ’90s model of the toy containing two individual eye components. It’s part of a gag in the movie, yet at the time of release, Mr. Heads toy eyes consisted of single eye component (with two eyes) and still has primarily for two decades… So there? Whatever, let’s not mention it again, agreed? We need to move on to actual commercials.
7. Bee Movie – Cinnabon
Aside from being one of the weirder career moves made by a post-sitcom Jerry Seinfeld, Bee Movie is otherwise known as that one Dreamworks Animation film without sixteen sequels and a spinoff TV show. Not that any filmgoer ever asked for a follow-up, mind you, yet it’s still bizarre we never saw another one considering Bee Movie seemingly had no trouble landing co-financing.
Before you go heaping Better Call Saul with a praise over any pastry related corporate sponsorships, please give a nod to Bee Movie for blazing that sickeningly sweet trail, with Cinnabon used as a very, VERY specific reference to the greatness humanity can achieve. I wish I was joking. I mean seriously, look how much work was put into recreating that box and the caked on frosting.
6. The Chipmunk Adventure – Honey Nut Cheerios
As I’ve detailed several dozen times this year without provocation, The Chipmunks Adventure is way better than it should be. It’s unbelievably well animated, relies on almost zero parody, and instead of the usual excruciatingly high-pitched cover songs (though there’s still a few of those), Alvin and company perform several stellar original jams. But the money for that kind of production has got to come from somewhere, so why not a bee’s cereal?
Just like the rest of the movie’s “better than it should be” vibe, the level of detail on this box of Honey Nut Cheerios is ridiculous. You can even see the goddamned bee! For further proof that this is a paid product spot, note that these two images take place within seconds of another and the box of cereal magically teleports across the kitchen in order to receive more screen time. This is animation, people! Stuff doesn’t get accidentally left in frame.
5. Oliver & Company – Coca-Cola, Ryder, USA Today
Sure, the 1980s VHS clamshell case that contained Oliver and Company probably stored enough Duracell battery and Tropicana juice box coupons to choke a Wall Street paper shredder, but there was an even more sinister corporate synergy hidden within the tape itself…
Okay, that’s probably a bit of an overstatement. The House of Mouse’s retelling of Oliver Twist starring Billy Joel and a bunch of feral pets is special not just for being one of the few Disney films set in the (then-)modern day, it’s also the only theatrically released Disney cartoon production with (what looks to be) paid product placement. Now… Oliver and Company’s New York setting can excuse some of that. YES: There are/were massive Coke and Sony ads in Times Square, so I understand why that’s represented in the movie.
But USA Today? I can think of about half a dozen other publications, even ones that have survived the culling of print media and exist today, with the word “New York” on the masthead, let alone, I dunno, something actually based in Manhattan in the 1980s. For the record, USA Today is headquartered in Virginia. Oh, and that Ryder truck figures in way too prominently. Remember: That could’ve been any truck. Only one requires that much yellow paint, and yes, I’m willing to bet someone paid for it.
Monkeys, mice, and Adam Sandler await your revulsion on the next page.