THE PUBLICIST: Universal gets a big hand for its Hulking promotion efforts

After my April 21 column on Disneyland's PR operation, a member of the opposite camp asked me why I hadn't checked out the Universal Studios theme park.

After my April 21 column on Disneyland's PR operation, a member of the opposite camp asked me why I hadn't checked out the Universal Studios theme park.

"Do you have a new Winnie the Pooh ride, too?" I hopefully inquired. Alas, no. But in the interest of fair play, I visited the park, which I'd been to only once before, years ago. Dispensing with a PR escort, I took a self-guided stroll. There's a price to pay for stealthy investigation - mainly the $47 dollar entrance fee. Sheez, that's what you pay to get into the Magic Kingdom! And they have way more rides. So far, Mouse 1, Hulk 0. I say Hulk because Universal is currently awash in the green gargantuan merchandising. The movie studio is releasing a film based on the cartoon character in June, and cross-promotion with the theme park is off the hook. Toys, posters, action figures, etc. The most popular item seems to be a large green hand, which, if applied with sufficient force to an opposing object, emits an audible bashing sound. Trouble is, achieving "sufficient force" required the enthusiastic eight-year-old I observed to punch his little brother four times (in increasingly harder thrusts) before the desired sound was solicited. The eventual successful slug sent the poor tyke sprawling. Helping the kid to his feet, I asked him and his pugilistic bro if they were excited about the film. They were. Couldn't wait, in fact. They recited incredibly detailed and incredibly boring stories of their favorite Hulk comics until their mother finally, mercifully, arrived, severely testing my ability to resist unleashing the hammerin' Hulk hand upside her head. Universal has already released a movie photo of Hulk to the media, eschewing the old P.T. Barnum adage to always make audiences pay first if they want to see the two-headed lady. Instead, they chose a "whet the appetite" strategy, which should do just fine for Hulk. Audiences will surely line up around the block. I, meanwhile, escaped waiting in line at the theme park - thanks to a sparse cold-weather crowd - and hit all seven attractions in less than half a day, including the back-lot tour. (If you've never visited a movie set, it may hold some interest; otherwise just go on Jurassic Park twice. It's a hoot.) Although Universal's food is the best of any theme park, the limited number of attractions doesn't justify the steep admission. My advice is to buy the kids some of those fun but dangerous Hulk hands and then take them to Disneyland.
  • Lawrence Mitchell Garrison is an LA-based freelance publicist and writer

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