‘Toy Story 3’ Viral Videos: Fake Ads Appeal to ’80s Nostalgia

YouTube user GaikokujinJoe1 recently posted an old VHS recording of a commercial for a fuzzy Japanese toy. “From when I was living in Japan back in the day,” he noted. Another ad for the same toy, called Lots-o’-Huggin’ Bear, was broadcast in the U.S. “circa 1983,” according to its title.

These classic “Huggin’ Toys” brand ads, however, are fakes – part of a meticulously crafted viral video effort promoting Disney Pixar’s Toy Story 3, set to open in June. The technique mimics the elaborate viral campaigns for superhero-themed flicks that have grown in popularity.

All he wants is a little love and he’ll be your friend forever,” says the ad announcer, as a little girl – sans front teeth – squeezes the raspberry colored stuffed bear and curls up in bed. The ad, which employs all the trappings of early ’80s toy ads, from the kids birthday party to the backyard swing scene, even includes the requisite jingle. “He makes me smile, there’s nothing to compare to my lotso lotso lotso huggin’ bear,’ a chorus of children sings gleefully.

The perfect touch: there’s even VHS tape static crawling along the bottom of the screen as the video streams.

The videos – particularly the one made to look like it ran during cartoon shows in 1983 in the U.S. – are generating lots of buzz on Twitter and entertainment blogs. In just one day, views for that video grew from around 555,000 to over 702,000. The less-widely distributed campaign video, a phony Japanese TV spot for the cuddly toy – more than doubled its views since yesterday, hitting nearly 79,000 views this morning.

The U.S.-themed video was posted April 19, to the MrCrazycommercials YouTube channel, which features an array of real ads for actual products that are memorable to people who grew up in the ’80s – the same people who now have young children of their own who are a target audience for the upcoming movie. “I totally had one of these growing up. I don’t even know what happened to it. My mom probably put it in the attic. I don’t like going in there, so it’s as good as gone,” wrote MrCrazy about the videotaped ad.

GaikokujinJoe (a play on the name the Japanese often give to foreign tourists) posted his Huggin’-Bear ad a week later, this Monday. “Wanted to post it when I saw the other one going around,” he explained. A clue that GaikokujinJoe is in on the Toy Story 3 marketing act is evident in the YouTube users who have favorited his channel. Ilovelucyclassics uses Toy Story’s Mr. Potato Head character as an avatar image, and features a clip from the upcoming film in which Barbie and Ken dolls meet for the first time. Ilovelucy has also favorited a video of the Randy Newman song used in the Toy Story 3 trailer.

The viral video effort is reminiscent of the intricate online campaigns created for comics-inspired films such as Warner Bros. flicks “The Dark Knight,” “Watchmen,” and more recently Iron Man 2 from Paramount Pictures. The campaigns seem to work best when audiences are already familiar with movie characters or themes – either through a comics series or previous films.

A question on the minds of many Toy Story fans is which other new character will get similar treatment? They’ll no doubt be poking around the Web seeking entertaining content featuring a hedgehog dressed in lederhosen, Mr. Pricklepants, or Buttercup, the unicorn.

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