Opinion: Fox’s Marketing Campaign for ‘Dawn Treader’

By fantasia_kitty

There’s been a lot of feedback on our forum and news story comments on Fox’s marketing campaign for The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Mainly, how poor it was based on how the movie is doing in theaters. But is that really Fox’s fault? I’ve typed up my own thoughts on Fox’s marketing campaign.


The Dawn Treader at Cleveland Point - Picture sent to us by ellz_bellz

There were a few things that Fox did I thought were truly brilliant. First, when they opened up The Spit and the Cleveland Point filming locations in Australia to the public eye. Watching the Dawn Treader being built on the opposite side of the world, and even though I wasn’t there, getting to see the daily progress of the sets being built and then filming on them was just so very cool! This was easily when I was most excited about The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

The second superb thing they did, and in my humble opinion the best piece of marketing anyone has done for any of the movies, was Operation Narnia. It may not have been the best draw for the movie perhaps, but the concept of it was truly Narnian — reaching out to children in need. Fox did Lewis proud here I think!

My third favorite thing they did was transforming The Matthew into the Dawn Treader and sailing her around England with children from several countries on board! icarus was lucky enough to get to see her, and Paul Martin at NarniaFans.com got to sail on her! Really very cool!

Other things I felt they did well. I felt the timing in which they released their individual marketing pieces (ie posters, trailers) for Dawn Treader was good. It certainly wasn’t like the Prince Caspian marketing fiasco when Disney started building excitement and anticipation really early on and then dropped off the face of the earth for a few months, and the blasted everybody in the face with an overabundance of news two months before the movie came out. For those following the Dawn Treader news, there was a good, steady build of excitement.

I felt worldwide advertising for Dawn Treader was superior to Prince Caspian. I don’t remember getting very much in the way at all of worldwide spy reports on that movie’s marketing, but we got quite a lot for Dawn Treader. The Regent Street Christmas Lights celebration was especially fun.


Advertising to the faith community. Better than Prince Caspian, not as good The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. They tried, but I’m not sure the faith community responded.

I’ll give the online marketing an ok in my book. The official website was fun. Towards the end Fox did pretty well putting out trailers and video clips on various movie websites. IMDb got some very nice advertisements for that site. But I’m still waiting for the production to do an official website that releases NEWS. It’s been a long time now but does anyone remember the official Lord of the Rings website? The Narnia movies desperately needed (and still need) a site like that one.

After filming wrapped up at Cleveland Point, Fox really clamped down on the news. You may have noticed the lack of exclusive interviews from the fansites this time around? Well it wasn’t for a lack of trying. We simply weren’t allowed to post anything. On one hand I can understand that because you don’t want film details too early, but on the other hand, you start to get the feeling that the production isn’t excited or doesn’t care about their film.


Well I really felt like there were a few places Fox missed some golden opportunities for marketing. The number one thing that stood out to me was missing Comic-Con 2010. Why was there nothing there? I just didn’t get that. Especially when they showed up at some other place (I forget where now) with some kind of display a couple weeks later. Could they have not had something ready for Comic-Con just a few weeks before?

And then the two killer things:  Merchandise being the first. Oy. I understand that Fox doesn’t do as much merchandising as Disney. And maybe the Prince Caspian merchandising failed so miserably at bringing in money that Fox didn’t even want to try, I don’t know. But after claiming to return to making a movie for kids, there sure was a lack of stuff to draw children’s eyes — and in turn beg the parents to take them to see the movie. And I know so many people that would have killed for a Dawn Treader replica.

And then finally, the quality of the marketing pieces. The first teaser poster aside, I don’t know what they were thinking? I mean, I just didn’t get it. To release so many official posters of an obviously incomplete Dawn Treader. And the international poster has the sail backwards. Billboards with one character’s clothing overlapping onto another one’s head. Very, very sloppy. And I just did not understand why as those are fairly easy fixes to make. But they didn’t, and in bookstores in Europe you can purchase The Voyage of the Dawn Treader with an incomplete sail printed right on the cover.


But at the end of the day, looking back at the full marketing campaign, I have to give Fox full marks for at least doing everything they needed to do. Not high marks for quality no, but they told people the movie was coming. I may have a lot of people disagree with me perhaps, but in my middle-of-nowhere town, I saw posters, I saw a theater stand, I saw books and magazines in bookstores, and I saw a couple of commercials on TV. So outside of NarniaWeb and the internet, I knew this movie was coming.

To address something I’ve been seeing all over this site that I know is going to come up again…
“Yeah, but my brother/sister/mom/kids/uncle/cousins/best friend/pet monkey had no idea this movie was coming out til it was in theaters!”
… to which I sit back in my chair and smile wryly. Really? My family and friends knew Dawn Treader was coming out the moment it was greenlit and I never stopped babbling about it til it hit theaters. I still haven’t, actually.

So I think that speaks volumes, if the top fans of the Narnia movies, who visit this site, are not talking about the Dawn Treader movie with their closest friends and family. Yeah, I think that says quite a lot. And I don’t see how the blame for that can be laid on Fox’s marketing department. That ball would be in the filmmaker’s court because they’re not making movies that people find worth talking about.

So there are my thoughts, and we would love to hear yours, so feel free to post in the comments section below or on the forum here.

131 Responses

  1. Moonwood says:

    Oh, and I almost forgot–the republican party is the ***re of Babylon.
    you pollute this site with your propaganda
    I will not return here, even to see your response
    Over, and out.

  2. High Queene Shelly Belly says:

    I agree, not even the bottom line, basic regular stuff. very odd. almost like an independent flick

  3. High Queene Shelly Belly says:

    shucks, just when it was getting juicy. (JUST KIDDING!!!!!!!!!!!!)

  4. Hey Pepper: Sorry for the lateness of my response, but this forum doesn't inform me when new comments are made (or my settings are off).

    I didn't mean to imply that Lucy wasn't likable. She is. It's just that few adult viewers are going to be interested in following the continuing adventures of a ten year old girl. Peter needed to be more likable. Even though it's an ensemble cast, Edmund is on the "dark side" for much of the film, so whoever played Peter had to be a strong actor and someone audiences bonded to. No offence to his fans, but the general consensus among the average viewer seems to be that Mosely was out of his depth, not just a mediocre actor, but not right for the part. He certainly wasn't my conception of Peter at all (though I grew to like him in PC). I thought the BBC version came closer (and I saw that afterwards, so it's not a nostalgia thing).

    Just my .02. More below.

  5. Lewis Tolkien: Let me address your points individually:

    <<1. Tracking surveys have already shown that interest in this film was almost evenly divided between men and women and between adults and children. When I saw the film there were actually significantly more adults in the audience than children.>>

    I think that's as it should be. Family film has a bad connotation as if it means "for kids." Star Wars was a family film. Even the LOTR trilogy were technically family films, since they were PG-13 rate.

    <<2. I’m an adult and I liked Lucy in LWW (better, in fact, than Lucy in PC or VDT).>>

    That's fine. Opinions differ. See my comment above (which hopefully explains what I meant).

    <<3. The people who like that silly cartoon of LWW better than the theatrically released film are very far and few between. Most people have a bias in favor of what they grew up with. That’s why so many like those cheap, slow BCC films too. Your brother is merely showing a common tendency to prefer the familiar from childhood over the new. I can’t see how anyone who did not see the cartoon when they were young could possibly prefer it to the movie version.>>

    Actually, he's not alone. I've polled several friends and family members. All of them prefer the animated version, and some of them own it on DVD and have seen it recently. I do think Michael G. Lewis's soundtrack is infinitely superior (actually it's one of the best fantasy soundtracks out there). It's extrememly moving and, yet, otherworldly. The cartoon is also more faithful to the book in terms of narration, plot, etc. And there's a feeling to it that certain shows in the '70s had that a glossy, overly produced modern film just can't capture with. It's hard to describe, but it's not just nostalgia. '70s fantasy and horror have a certain surrealistic element that's perfect for the genre.

    <<4. If LWW was so dreadful, why were the DVD sales so good? Wouldn’t word of mouth have killed DVD profits? Why was its run in the theaters so long? I agree that LWW could have been a better film than it ended up being and I was never terribly impressed with Adamson or the actors. However, I like that adaptation significantly better than the most recent two. And, importantly to me, they were much more accurate to the events and the mood of the book. I think they would have done well to cut back on the big battle a bit though and to cut the overall run-time too, since it did drag on a bit.>>

    Well, I never said dreadful. In fact, I agree with you. It's mediocre. But I own the DVD nonetheless, and people I know like it. I like parts of it. But it could and should've been SO much better. You're right that Adamson was out of his depth. The film needed a surer hand, stronger casting (see my comments above), greater scope and vision. A first film of a series is pivotal to build a fanbase for a series. The fact that the numbers were cut in half for PC was not a failing of PC, but of TLTWATW to make that audience want to come back. Frankly, I'm surprised that Disney didn't seek out a more experienced director. That said, I think Adamson upped his game tremendously with PC, though that one has its flaws too (Caspian's accent — who on earth thought that was a good idea?! Your lead should never sound cheesy.) But by then, the damage was done. You've lost half your audience. I understand Disney trying to market to an older crowd, but then they botched that by putting up against huge films. And the purists didn't help with their "Suspian" fixation. Fact is, if you're going to make Caspian older in the first place–and if he's not gay–then he's going to be interested in Susan, who's described as "beautiful" in the book, and who's a single queen (Caspian's in line to be king — how perfect a match that would be in his mind). If people want to take Adamson to task for making Caspian older, I get that. But not for some sweet, innocent attraction that culminated in a blink-and-you'll-miss it kiss. To me that was ridiculous, and underscores the reason most fans are disregarded by filmmakers and studios.

    <<5. Why should every film be made to appeal to teenagers? I’m absolutely tired of it. I would like more family-friendly films, regardless of whether some 15-year-old boy would find it "cool" or not.>>

    I agree with that. And in fact, I hate that trend in Hollywood. I was thrilled that I barely saw any in the theater when I saw VofDT. They're usually the ones who can't shut up, keep opening and closing their cell-phones, and are a general nuisance. So, no, I don't think the film should be geared at that audience. That said, I don't think Narnia is for little kids either. This lack of an easy demographic is what makes the marketing people at Disney and Fox pull their hair out. These studios have become so corporate-minded, rigidly-thinking, unimaginative and machinelike, that they don't know what to do with a film of this nature. They had the same problem with Where the Wild Things Are, or even Bridge to Terabithia. These are films for all-ages, and not the cynical-minded (which is where 15-30 male demographic in the U.S. stands, for the most part).

    <<6. I actually hope they don’t raise the budget for the next film. Not only would it be harder to make money on it (insuring a likely premature end to the series), it would probably cause the film makers to focus more on SFX than the story. I think the ridiculously large budget for PC is one of the reason’s why Lewis’s story got lost in the actual film.>>

    That's an interesting perspective. It all depends on the filmmaker, though. A George Lucas, who's far more slanted towards technical aspects than things like narrative, characterization and dialogue, is going to skewer the film a certain way. Alfonse Cuaron, Del Toro and Christopher Nolan, for example, know enough to give a story heart, and great characters, and layers of depth. For them, a larger budget just means a better looking film, one that has greater realism and breath. Audiences now expect photorealism from their special effects, and are less tolerant of flaws in that dept.

    <<7. I, as an adult, thought that LWW with it’s crucifixion scene and general violence was darker than Toy Story 3, which was a great cartoon, but still more cute in my opinion than "dark" or profound.>>

    You may be right, and yet Toy Story 3 feels darker and more profound. Of course, it's a story about facing our mortality. In contrast, Aslan's sacrifice in Adamson's LWW feels out of place b/c the rest of the film is lacking any kind of gravitas. The awe of just the mention of Aslan is missing. Lewis' amazing dialogue is missing (not entirely, of course, but in large swathes). The creature designs were subpar. And Narnia, as a place, is practically unseen (and what is seen feels a little bit like it was designed in a studio-setting somewhere in California). The sometimes weak acting (including some terrible voice acting for the creatures) doesn't help either. And Tilda Swinton and the all-too recognizable Deep Roy as her dwarf just lacked the presence, power and viciousness of the White Witch, IMO. Without a STRONG villain, you don't have a palpable threat. Maybe it's just me, but I think as brilliant as she is as an actress, she was yet another miscast actor.

    <<8. I’d also like to see another director, who is a bigger name and who has more experience with live-action fantasy films. Del Toro would be great, but he’s already said he won’t do the Narnia films because he doesn’t like the Christian elements in them.>>

    I didn't know that! What a shame! Alfsonse Cuaron would be great if he doesn't have hangups about Christian themes.

    <<Since they seem intent on not filming C.S. Lewis’s version of these stories anyway, I would love to see someone truly innovative like Terry Gilliam take the helm. He can make a good film on a small budget too (he did The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus for only a little over $30 million I believe). If they are going to go with a more conventional, less innovative director anyway, then I hope to God they actually stick to Lewis’s story, because it’s bound to be better than what they can come up with.>>

    I agree. Fantasy cannot have conventional direction. It needs both innovation and faithfulness to the story. It's a tough balance, but it can be done.

    <<9. I agree with your assessments of what needs to be done with Jill and Puddleglum.>>

    Thanks! Hopefully, we'll see what happens!

    <<10. Overall, I as an adult liked the first film significantly better than the last two, though PC and VDT are not bad films in and of themselves.>>

    I loved VDT. In fact, I was shocked that the director managed to capture a certain "feel" that the prior two films only had in small doses. We'll see what I think when I see it a second time this week. Overall, they're all enjoyable, and the series deserves to be made in full. I think they suffer in part b/c of the stupid culture wars in the U.S., with two extreme polarized sides constantly sniping at each other. I also think that this is culture that loves the lowest-common denominator in human behavior, so films that lack edgy sex and violence don't cut it for a lot of people. (Of course, there's a place in art for both sex and violence. But the demographic I'm referring to isn't interested in art, but exploitation, which deserves no place in society).

  6. HighQueenShellyBelly: Well said! I think that's true.


    <<I am also tired of film makers trying to conform every movie to the usual formula that every blockbuster movie has been doing for the past 5+ years. If they will just make a faithful adaption, it will appeal to most everyone.>>

    Potentially. It takes more than a "faithful" adaptation. The BBC versions are extremely faithful. But they're lacking certain things are important to a larger audience. That said, I would like to see faithfulness more than not. I think VDT has it where it counts. The green mist and kidnappings were necessary additions that don't take anything away from the film, except it's desultory nature (which may be what some of you like, but that's never going to meet the demands of a movie, which requires a through-line).

    <<One more point I want to make. "Dark" does not guarantee success. It works well for marketing right now, but once they see the film, it will still fail if it’s not a good movie. Just because LOTR or the Dark Knight were successful, doesn’t mean every movie right now has to be dark to compete with other movies today.

    LOTR wasn’t successful because it was dark. To say that would be very narrow-minded. LOTR is a masterpiece, a great piece of film.>>

    Darkness isn't the issue. Fantasy needs to have a grounding in both reality and surreality, and that includes naturally dark elements, like death and evil. There's no escaping that. Any attempt to cast a fantasy film without those elements is a movie for babies. The problem in this country is that you have hyper-sensitive, overreactive, undereducated parents who think that anything remotely scary or touching on serious issues is too intense for their coddled, sheltered kids. That's NOT how Tolkien or Lewis viewed their kids or the books they wrote for younger audiences.

    The other problem in this country is that you have a cynical, boorish, undereducated audience who can't handle anything that requires too much thought, depth or emotion.

    Any wonder that between these two groups, VDT is doing infinitely better in Europe!

    <<And in response to something thesithempire said, Narnia shouldn’t capture the magic of LOTR, because it’s not LOTR, it’s Narnia. If you want LOTR magic, you watch LOTR. This is a common problem filmmakers make.>>

    In fairness, I don't think I said that (and if I did, I certainly didn't mean it like that). Narnia is certainly a different world and feel than Middle-Earth. Narnia needs to have its own magic (and by that I don't mean special effects wizardry). I think VDT captured that. For me, at least. It's subjective. If I had been in a bad mood, or tired, or hungry, maybe it might've slipped by. I don't like to judge films on a single viewing, any more than I like to judge music. If it captures you that first time, that's great. But some things need time to grow in the mind and heart. Of course, we're not the most patient peoples in the world either.

    <<They want to mimic other franchises, but they should bring out what is original, unique and special about Narnia.>>

    The entertainment industry, as a whole, has gone down that path. You see it in music, literature and film, and that wasn't the case even thirty years ago, where uniqueness was strived for by artists and those in the business.

    Ultimately, if you want to show them that you care about originality and creativity, don't financially support the cookiee-cutter clones that Hollywood and the media largely churns out. Support smaller films and art that has something to say, and says it with genuine craft, talent and heart.

  7. martin the warrior says:

    we are not supposed to write a ten page report paper on VDT. 🙂

  8. No, I strongly prefer the artsy posters to what you describe. Narnia is not a kids franchise. It's an all-ages one, and in that it's based on a fantasy series, which does deal with somber issues, the marketing should reflect that. The first poster, I thought, looked terrible. The later ones, however, captured what I think they should: engender a sense of mystery about the voyage.

  9. Josh says:

    IMO the marketing for Dawn Treader was the worse marketing for a Narnia movie ever.

    1) The trailers and featurettes. Raise your hand if you go to Apple Trailers and just surf through all the upcoming releases. In my anticipation for Dawn Treader, I looked up all the movie trailers and featurettes I could find. What did I find?
    They were all the same thing, re-edited a bit! Three different trailers showing basically the same thing over and over again in different sequential order. Same for featurettes.

    2) The "Narnia" hook.
    What was the tagline in the trailer? "Return to Narnia/magic"? OK, so you're trying to get me excited about the next Narnia movie because…it's a Narnia movie?
    That was pretty much the only reason Fox gave us to go see this movie (that plus more VFX). The problem: that's not good enough. Sure I love Narnia but can you promise me you'll give me a good story? That I'll exit the theater satisfied? Ooh, that leads to number 3…

    3) No mystery (plus vagueness). I've already read the books. You've gotta interest me more than just showing me clips of what I already know PLUS this weird green mist that just makes me confused.

    Ultimately the trailer was bad. LWW's and PC's trailers were a lot better.

  10. High Queene Shelly Belly says:

    that's right, 15 pages would be better!

  11. High Queene Shelly Belly says:

    but how old are you, sithempire? and male?