They're Just Drawn That Way: Top Four Product Placements in Animated Films.

Believe it or not, product placements in animated films are not uncommon. Sure, sometimes the names of the companies represented will be bent into a pun to match the spirit of the film’s universe, but they recognizable nonetheless. Of course, we would never select the topic of product placements in animated films if we didn’t have a HERO placement for an example, so we will give ourselves honorable mention for the Panda Express exposure in Adam Sandler’s Eight Crazy Nights and the Hamnesty International mention in Angry Birds. Many other brands appeared in these films as well (arguably, the very premise of Angry Birds, being a game product adapted to film, could be considered branded entertainment)… but not as many as in the films in our top four!

SHARKS TALE

While many believe the entire film was a product placement for a box office bomb or just a Nemo rip off best never found, it did participate unflinchingly in product placement. In the film’s underwater world parodies of commercials are presented liberally. For instance, Coca-Cola appears as Coral-Cola, Old Navy into Old Wavy, The Gap into The Gup, Krispy Kreme into Kelpy Kreme (certainly the most disgusting concept!) and on and on. Most of the spoof titles are pretty clever and are made more so by their distinctive logos being adjusted to fit their revised names. These parody logos are every bit as effective as the official logos would have been, in fact maybe more so; they beg deeper analysis and engender good will for the brands.

ZOOTOPIA

Zoo you think there should be a limit to the number of time puns on the word zoo can appear in a film? Well, zoo you? Well, the producers thought it was a perfectly zootable practice. Unlike Sharks Tale, Zootopia doesn’t just grab a name and play with it; it must be zoo’d up really good, proving that there is room for artistic variation with product placements in animated films. So, the puns were once again uncaged, but this time they were zooper-sized. News is viewed on ZNN, an Uber billboard advertises ZUBER, and a search engine called, Zoogle delivers information. While these aren’t works of genius, they are another fun component of a well-loved film.

ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS

Okay, it could be argued that Alvin and the Chipmunks is not an animated film because it centers on its CGI animated stars engaging in the real world. BUT (caps for emphasis) the product placement in this film is SO (same) overwhelming that it would be a crime not to extoll its brand-flaunting virtues. In fact, there are so many that, as a product placement agency, we must stand when speaking its name. Instead of trying to form the brands into sentences, we believe this one merits a top ten list.

1. Utz Potato Chips
2. VTouch Touch and Teach World Book
3. Sprint Phone
4. Staples Center (sports arena, Los Angeles)
5. Roland Amplifier
6. Rawlings Football
7. Nike Sneakers, Shirts, etc.
8. Iphone
9. Gatorade
10. Vizio TV

And that’s actually not all of them! They may just be funny little rodents, but the Chipmunks know how to monetize a production like nobody’s business!

TOY STORY

Truth be told, Pixar isn’t really big on product placement. For instance, in Cars, the studio allowed only one as the character Sally is referred to as a Porsche. But in the Toy Story films, nostalgia won out and legacy toy brands got serious play. So, while Woody and the other leads were created for the film, there were plenty of roles for great toys. Don Rickles was perfectly cast as the voice of a character with a name he could easily have used as an insult to someone else, Mr. Potato Head. Etch was the nickname for Etch-O-Sketch. Mr. Spell is based on a popular 1970s Speak & Spell toy similar to See ‘n Say, and, like Etch, is unable to speak, so the educational animal toy’s arrow spins whenever he gets emotional. The Troll Doll, Barbie and Slinky Dog round out a cast that probably only appeared together in the back of the 70’s Sears Christmas Catalogue.

HONORABLE MENTION

BEE MOVIE

Yes, this Jerry Seinfeld-produced foray into cartoonland did have a very notable product placement; Cinnabon is verbally reference by the Seinfeld-voiced Barry B. Benson as the greatness humanity can achieve! This is odd considering bees do not qualify as “humanity,” but what the hell. And that bee all that you can be message is amplified when Barry collapses in a sugary euphoria inside a brilliantly rendered Cinnabon box. But that’s not why the film is receiving an honorable mention here.

The Bee Movie exposure being sort of honored herein didn’t even take place within the film! It occurred on the 2008 Oscars broadcast! As Matthew Broderick was presenting at the podium, Barry B. Benson appeared by television magic and we not only plugged the critically meh’d film, he stung Broderick! The film wasn’t even nominated in the animation category. The award would actually go to Ratatouille, which featured a lovable rat that was perfectly capable of sinking its teeth into Broderick. How could this happen? As a DreamWorks picture, Bee Movie boasted the power-twin producing combo of Seinfeld and Spielberg. You tell them no.

On the other hand, the evening’s low point had to be yet another shameless plug for Jerry Seinfeld’s Bee Movie. Oh, how I hoped a giant flyswatter would come thwacking down when that over-hyped black-and-yellow beast took his spot atop the Oscar podium. I mean, Bee Movie wasn’t among the nominees for Best Animated Feature, so why didn’t the Academy give eventual winner Ratatouille the “animated presenter” spot instead? Or even one of those surfing penguins? When I can’t get a chuckle from reliving Matthew Broderick’s painful Election sting, then something is definitely rotten on the Oscar stage.

Product placement agencies do not receive as many animated scripts as we do live action, but it doesn’t make the benefits of integrated brand placement any less valuable. Generally wholesome and frequently viewed by the whole family, cartoons provide a perfect venue for a wide variety of products to be showcased. Congratulations to all of our winners.