If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.
At least, that was the thinking behind a maverick theatrical trailer that DreamWorks Animation concocted for The Boss Baby, the upcoming animated film about a domineering, briefcase-toting infant voiced by Alec Baldwin.
Over the weekend, DreamWorks Animation unveiled the custom-made, theatrical trailer for Boss Baby before rival Disney's Beauty and the Beast. As audiences settled in to watch Beauty, they first got a look at cartoon versions of Lumiere, the candlestick, and Cogsworth, the mantel clock, two of the characters from Disney's live-action adaptation of the classic 1991 animated musical.
The camera then pulled back to reveal that Lumiere and Cogsworth are toys that Boss Baby is playing with as he addresses the captive Beauty and the Beast audience. "Look, you've all made an excellent decision to come see this movie today," Boss Baby says to the audience. "You're clearly shrewd, so let me lay this out for you. On March 31, my movie, DreamWorks' The Boss Baby will be coming out." The trailer then segues into scenes from that upcoming film.
For one studio to reference another studio's movie so directly is unconventional, to say the least.
But DreamWorks Animation knew Beauty and the Beast was going to be big, so it came up with the idea to ride Beauty's coattails months ago and animate the specially designed trailer.
DWA, the company that Jeffrey Katzenberg sold last year to NBCUniversal, wasn't wrong in its hunch. Beauty opened to a record-breaking $170 million at the North American box office and $350 million globally.
"You normally don't do a new theatrical piece two weeks out, or a custom piece targeting another property. Usually, the payoff, or final trailer debuts, some three months before a movie's release," says Jim Gallagher, DWA's marketing chief. "We really wanted to take advantage of Beauty and the Beast and talk directly to our audience in a way they were not expecting."
Boss Baby, the final DWA title that Fox will handle, hits theaters March 31.
On Monday morning, DWA will release a spot online that's slightly different from the one playing before Beauty and the Beast in theaters over the weekend.
Read more: 'The Boss Baby': Film Review