Recently some high profile movies including, John Carter
of Mars and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have had their full titles cut short.
Now, I doubt people outside of Hollywood would, A: care and B: really take much notice of this. I’m not in the industry, but, I wouldn’t be surprised if a movie went through multiple name changes (amongst other things) before release.
The problem comes when the movies in question are beloved properties – and a name change is a big deal. In some cases this is more than a name change – it’s a brand change.
This has really come into the public conciousness over the past few months with ‘John Carter of Mars’ (already shortened from it’s original title of John Carter and the Princess of Mars*) being hacked down to just ‘John Carter’ . Official sources said it was due to public perception of the word Mars, there was speculation it was because Disney had been burned by the flop that was ‘Mars needs Moms’.
Disney were scared by the word Mars …really? I’m not so sure that’s the whole story, read on…
This week, ‘master of the blockbuster’ Michael Bay announced that ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ was being shortened to simply Ninja Turtles …what!?
Another beloved property shortened, for no REAL reason.**
Whatever you feel about Hollywood’s insistence on remaking/rebooting existing properties – changing the name of something that already exists, and already has a built-in fan base, makes zero sense. Witness the effect on poor old John Carter***
I think there are two reasons for this, the first is this – life in the 21st century is fast,busy and compressed. Everyone has a short attention span (still here?), everything is short and simple. Titles are shortened because it’s less to remember.
The second reason is a lot more specific, and related to the first, but no less awful…
I BLAME TWITTER
Everything needs to fit into those darned 140 characters… When you’re promoting a movie the last thing you want to do is waste valuable text real estate on superfluous characters (you know characters like ‘of Mars’ or Teenage Mutant’ )
So, obviously the best way to get around this is to shorten the movies title. Not only can you fit it into a tweet but it’s also a ready made hashtag and domain name.
Makes perfect sense …if you’re in marketing! (and I am)
While some short titles carry enormous weight ( Titanic, Lost etc..) , an artificially short title can seem lightweight and forgettable. The marketers (marketeers?) may argue that ‘John Carter’ is easier to remember than ‘John Carter of Mars’ … but is it? It’s just a name. How many new people have you been introduced too .. and an hour later have forgotten it? Now imagine you were introduced to them again… but this time they used their full name; “Hello, I’m Simon Jones of Venus”, I bet you’d remember it for a long time to come.
A shortened name makes it seem more of a disposable ‘thing’, so it carries less importance and you forget it as easily as you remembered it. ‘John Carter of Mars’ carries more weight, is more memorable and gives the movie a bit of context. Sadly though it doesn’t make a great hashtag.
On the flip-side of this, is the change from ‘The Avengers’ to the slightly longer, less serious ‘Avengers Assemble!’
Why? So it doesn’t get confused with this…
* That is a long title …I might have shortened it too.
** OK, apparently it’s partly because they’re now aliens and not mutants. Don’t get me started…
*** Currently just about breaking even