After tasting success with its localisation strategy for The Jungle Book in the summer of 2016, Disney India has gone all out to market the latest live-action flick The Lion King.
With a sharp focus on localisation beyond Hindi, and ramped-up investments for the India release, the film expects to attract more footfalls and set the cash registers ringing in the post-World Cup weekend. The efforts are paying off, given the movie has collected Rs 11 crore (net after tax) on the first day, setting it up for a good run at the box office.
“The Lion King is high on nostalgia for most of us, and that has translated to robust advance sales. The film has started strong and is set for a very healthy weekend. Simba won’t have to wait to be king of the Box Office this weekend,” says Kamal Gianchandani, CEO, PVR Pictures, and chief of Business Planning and Strategy.
While localisation is not a new phenomenon for studios, Disney has pushed the envelope this time, roping in bigger names for the voice cast, writing team, and singers. And you possibly cannot go bigger than Shah Rukh Khan (SRK) playing Mufasa in the Hindi version of the classic musical. The marketing spiel for the Hindi version has been around Khan’s inclusion as Pride Rock’s patriarch, and the debut of Aryan Khan, his son, as the voice of Simba. “The Lion King is a classic that epitomises Disney’s prowess of bringing heartwarming stories that are timeless and transcend generations. Now with the re-imagined version, our aim is to reach out to a wider audience; introducing the tale about a pride of lions to a whole new generation of audiences while forging a deeper connect with existing fans,” said Bikram Duggal, head - Studio Entertainment, Disney India.
“The movie is a pioneering blend of live-action filmmaking techniques and state-of-the-art virtual reality technology never seen before on celluloid.”
In 2016, The Jungle Book was released with a voice cast that included Priyanka Chopra, Irrfan Khan, Shefali Shah, Om Puri, and Nana Patekar. This time around, the voice cast includes Ashish Vidyarthi, Shreyas Talpade and Asrani along with the Khan father-son duo. The film has been released in around 2,150 screens across the country, with the Indian language versions having a slightly larger chunk of the shows.
The marketing juggernaut started with the announcement of the father-son duo playing their respective roles in the Hindi version, which was done using digital media. On the day of the India-Pakistan match on June 14, a photograph of SRK and his son donning the Team India jersey, with the names Mufasa (SRK) and Simba (Aryan) was released on various social media platforms. The picture went viral. The following day, Disney announced the inclusion of the two in the voice cast for the Hindi version.
The studio continued to market the voice cast through social media posts, with ticketing partners also using the Khan duo as the pitch towards the release of the film. Additionally, it used the synergies from the newly merged Star India broadcast vehicles. Promos of the movie were played on Star Plus, the network’s flagship Hindi general entertainment channel, and Star Bharat, also a Hindi entertainment channel, along with programme integrations on some occasions, across both channels.
Experts say localisation helps attract the audiences that may not be fluent in English, but have appetite for international content. Additionally, it helps widen the scope of distribution since Indian language shows find more takers in the non-metro markets (in some cases, the metro markets too), making it a more profitable proposition to run language dub shows of English movies.
The Lion King has been released in English, Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu with a dedicated voice cast for all three of the Indian languages. For the Telugu and Tamil version, Mufasa is voiced by popular Telugu actor P Ravi Shankar while the Tamil version’s Simba is voiced by Siddharth. While usually the songs are kept as is, this time the songs have been recreated for the language dubs as well.
Following the template of the global poster release, the India team also released posters with the voice cast in the three Indian languages. All this effort of course comes at a cost. From an estimated Rs 5-7 crore spent on India release for Hollywood films, studios are now spending up to Rs 25 crore for the release of Hollywood films in India.
On the other hand, the collections of Hollywood films have grown exponentially in the past few years. In fact, this year’s biggest movie at the Indian box office is Avengers: Endgame at Rs 365 crore.