THE film is set for release. The talent has been lined up. Now all that’s needed is millions of bums on seats.
Up to 100 film critics and journalists from around the world will be flown into Scotland at the end of May for a lavish, four-day “junket”to promote the new Disney-Pixar animation Brave. All expenses are being paid for the trip where the critics will be put up at one of the city’s top hotels, the Balmoral, and treated to archery classes, clan fighting events, a trip to Edinburgh Castle and a lavish private dinner at five-star Prestonfield House.
In return, they will be expected to interview stars of the film and give glowing reports about the upcoming movie, set in a mythical Scotland.
Disney’s last film, John Carter, a science fiction action movie based on the character created by Edgar Rice Burroughs with a budget of $250 million (£164m), on a par with Avatar, was a box office flop in America, and is believed to have generated a big overall loss for the studio after splits with cinema owners and marketing executives. Brave, made by Pixar Animation Studios, which was bought by Disney in 2006, is therefore being viewed as a hugely-important movie for the world-famous company. An industry insider said: “This is a really important film for Disney. John Carter flopped and was a massive disappointment, so they’re throwing everything they have at this. Meanwhile, Pixar really need a hit as their last movie, Cars 2, didn’t do great business. Brave is a huge deal as a Disney-Pixar film.”
The schedule released by the studio for the “global junket” describes the Balmoral – where rooms cost around £230 a night, as “the junket hotel”, promises a “Brave dinner and activities at Prestonfield House” and says it will treat TV media to a “clan fighting and archery opportunity”. TV crews and movie critics will be flown in from the US, Japan and all over Europe to interview “the talent”.
The film, which premieres at the Edinburgh Film Festival in June, is expected to be this summer’s Hollywood cartoon blockbuster. A fairy story set in 11th-century Scotland, it follows the fortunes of Merida, a red-haired Scottish Disney princess and accomplished archer, played by Scots actress Kelly Macdonald. The film also stars Billy Connolly as King Fergus and Kevin McKidd, who takes on the dual roles of Lord MacGuffin and Young MacGuffin, and Emma Thompson, who plays Queen Elinor.
Although ‘junkets’ – where members of the press are gathered in a luxury hotel in order to interview the stars of an upcoming film – are common in the movie world, even by lavish Hollywood standards the junket for Brave stands out, film critics say.
“This is actually quite a rare thing now because the film industry has cut back on all this sort of stuff in the last few years,” said the insider. “Studios used to spend millions making a big deal of the film, creating a lot of interest and awareness and selling the film by getting good coverage. They would spend a lot of money flying people out to exotic places for luxury junkets.
“But it happens a lot less these days, so the fact they’re pushing the boat out for this tells you how big a deal it is to Disney.”
Studios will typically hire out several floors of a hotel to conduct strictly monitored interviews with “the talent”.
“It’s quite heavily policed,” said another industry insider. “People in headsets herd everyone around – it’s like an action movie in itself and very highly co-ordinated.”
Journalists will often receive “goodie bags” of film-related merchandise. “There will be a big slap up feed at Prestonfield House, with champagne and lots of Scottish delicacies,” said the industry insider. “There will probably be a ceilidh, the kind of night that will help really promote Scotland.”
The national tourism agency, VisitScotland, is also involved in planning the event. In March, it announced it had teamed up with Disney in a £7m campaign to promote the country, and the film, which it is hoped could take as much as $1 billion at the box office worldwide.
Tricia Wilber, of the Walt Disney Company, said at the time: “It’s fitting to create a global campaign with VisitScotland to further bring to life the iconic Scottish landscapes and folklore that inspired the film.”
Studios like to try to ensure that their big-budget films are received well. In April, a group of ‘mommy’ bloggers were treated to a similar experience at Pixar’s animation studios in San Francisco, where they were taught archery, given a bagpipe lesson and received a class in “Kilts 101”.
Another insider said: “They got all these experiences that would set the scene for Brave so that they would go off and blog about what fun it is and how interesting Scotland seems and that Brave seems like a really cool movie to take your kids to – which is exactly what the bloggers did of course.”
A spokesman for VisitScotland said: “The release of Disney-Pixar’s Brave represents a fantastic opportunity for Scottish tourism, particularly with the European premiere taking place in Edinburgh next month. We have been working closely with Disney to bring the world’s media to Scotland, which will be another excellent chance to put Edinburgh and Scotland in the global spotlight.”
A spokesperson for Disney said: “It will be a global junket with journalists from all over the world. It’s still in the early stages of planning so we cannot confirm anything at this stage.”