At the risk of mixing franchises, “Star Wars” looks destined to be the hammer Disney wields to synergistically bolster fortunes across its far-flung empire during the build-up to its launch, as Monday’s premiere of the trailer during an ESPN telecast attests.
The notion of media conglomerates using their assets to buck each other up is hardly new, particularly in the context of a major movie release. In June, for example, Comcast orchestrated a multi-network roadblock telecast of “Jurassic Park” to help trumpet the arrival of “Jurassic World,” including promotional footage.
What’s different in this case is “The Force Awakens” possesses such a huge well-spring of interest that the movie hardly appears to need any additional hype. Yet for sister Disney properties — especially those locked in competitive races, such as “Good Morning America,” ABC News and “Jimmy Kimmel Live” — enhanced access to “Star Wars” talent and material might be enough to actually favorably move the ratings needle. While that doesn’t necessarily qualify as a Death Star, for such programs — heading into the November sweeps, no less — the Force could become a not-so-secret weapon, making other intra-studio tie-ins look like mere Padawans by comparison.
Already, Disney has taken steps to incorporate “Star Wars” into its theme parks in advance of the J.J. Abrams-directed movie’s December release, augmenting the Space Mountain and Star Tours rides. Yet in regard to leveraging the film to its advantage, that promises to be just the tip of the iceberg. (Disclosure: My wife works for a division of Disney.)
Disney’s various networks are an obvious platform to capitalize on the all-in-the-family relationship, and the studio hasn’t exactly been bashful about leveraging those connections in the past. ABC, for example, has aired specials devoted to the making of “Frozen” and Marvel’s anniversary as well as original “Toy Story” tales, with an upcoming extravaganza devoted to Disneyland’s 60th anniversary.
The cast of the “Avengers” sequel also assembled on “Kimmel,” a program that has become more of an afterthought in the late-night conversation since Stephen Colbert (a major “Star Wars” fan, incidentally, who has a good relationship with Abrams) made his CBS debut in September.Kimmel — who has happily traded off the drawing power of ABC hits like “Scandal” — will get into the act early with a “Star Wars”-themed Halloween episode.
“GMA” is another logical beneficiary, having previously joined with web unit Maker Studios to help unveil the new toy line being marketed in connection with the film, with merchandising having always been seen as a vital aspect of the Lucasfilm acquisition. Disney XD — the children’s cable channel devoted to boys — already has a regular “Star Wars” presence with the series “Rebels.” The animated program recently began its second season and will run new episodes leading up to the movie.
A Disney rep didn’t respond to a request for comment regarding its promotional plans. After the trailer’s premiere, though, “The Daily Show’s” Trevor Noah gave the studio points for ingenuity, quipping, “They made the nerd community sit through two hours of football to watch it.” Given that millions apparently tuned in for precisely that reason, in terms of temporarily adding a bit more Disney-owned fare to their diets, “Star Wars” fans should prepare to be Force-fed.