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Archive for the ‘Standees’ Category

Commercial Printing: The Raw Power of Movie Standees

Monday, January 2nd, 2023

Photo purchased from …

For almost a decade, along with our other gigs, my fiancee and I installed standees at movie theaters.

First of all, what is a standee (we asked the same question over ten years ago)? A standee is, more often than not, a physical environment made out of cardboard, with commercial printing press sheets laminated to corrugated board or chipboard, and usually involving the die cutting and spot gluing of the assorted pieces. Standees arrive at movie theaters in boxes weighing up to 100 lbs, with all of their flat, unassembled components stacked in the shipping cartons.

The job of a standee is to sell the movie. The job of the standee installer is to read the multi-page assembly instructions; to assemble all the pieces into movie characters using tabs, slots, bolts, and nuts; and to attach all of the movie characters to the printed backgrounds, creating environments that will inspire viewers, elicit a desire to participate (many of the standees move in response to viewer interaction), and ultimately buy tickets to the movie.

These standees are often accompanied by banners, posters (called one-sheets), or other large format print media.

As you can see, standees are very much dependent on the marriage of marketing, graphic design, and offset and digital custom printing.

Given our current midterm election season and the upcoming presidential election in two years, I thought it timely to discuss two political standees, one that moved and talked when its motion sensor was triggered and one that was actually a “photo-op” character at a family gathering for one of our art therapy bosses.

The Talking Political Candidates Standee

The first standee included two separate political candidates. (I googled the film just now and couldn’t find its title. It was current in or around the year 2015.) They were die cut male images in suits with cardboard easels to hold them up. As I recall, when you got up close, a motion sensor triggered a solid state recording attached to a speaker, so both of the characters could talk. In addition, as I recall, there were small motors and plastic gears and other assemblies that caused at least one and probably more of the political candidates’ arms to move.

It was actually quite complicated, and the assembly directions were imprecise, so we struggled with the installation. However, it was memorable for a number of reasons:

  1. First of all, the majority of standees do not move. They are static environments in which you can imagine yourself along with the characters. But since there usually is no movement, those standees that do incorporate moving parts add to the realism of the promotional piece (which is actually a cardboard or paperboard sculpture of sorts). This is true even if the characters are just cartoon images.
  2. Standees are 3D physical entities, unlike posters. They depend on the rules and principles of physics. If, for example, the standee is top heavy, it will fall over. On a more complex level, if the standee incorporates movement, it will in many cases have a very elaborate mechanism comprising gears, belts, and moving supports to ensure multiple weeks’ worth of its repetitive motion. Observing how these movie standees have been conceived (presumably using both high-end computer aided design and computer aided manufacturing software) can be intriguing because of the mechanical logic and acumen involved in the standees’ successful operation.
  3. From the position of a commercial printing vendor, these standees can be intriguing because of all the custom printing and finishing operations that go into their construction. For instance, 4-color offset printing on (presumably 100# gloss text) press stock is only the beginning. This base imaging material is then laminated to corrugated board and then die cut in such a way that standee installers can break away the scrap, leaving silhouettes of movie characters that can be added to backgrounds built from much larger box-like structures cobbled together with metal screws, nuts, and die cut tabs and slots. In some cases additional corrugated board supports have been spot glued onto the various pieces to allow them to stand up and/or stand out from the background imagery that is also made of 4-color press sheets laminated to corrugated board.
  4. From the position of a student of marketing, it is intriguing to see how standees capture the attention and interest of passersby. Granted, some standees are specifically designed to be photo booths. In effect, you can step into the environment and have your photo taken with the movie characters. I think the standees pique the interest and entice the inner child of even the oldest adults. In my experience, the best marketing or advertising work does just this, by telling a story that brings adults and children out of their day-to-day routine if only for a short time.

Barack Obama: The Second Political Standee

The second political standee was a static one. That is, unlike the two political candidates with the motion-sensor operated voice box and moving arms, this standee was merely a die cut image of Barack Obama with a cardboard easel to hold it upright. It didn’t move.

The Obama statue was an addition to a family gathering hosted by our boss at one of the venues for our art therapy classes for the autistic. It was a primarily African-American group, and everyone wanted their picture taken with Barack Obama. My fiancee and I spent the evening taking photos of our boss’ family members and custom printing hard copies on a dye sublimation printer. We made a lot of people happy.

What made the photos intriguing was the transformation of Obama from a flat image on a cardboard easel to a participant in the photos. He was exactly the right height, and the reality of his image as a flat standee vanished when the camera collapsed an otherwise three dimensional collection of people into a flat photo. Obama looked just as real as our boss’ family members (and vice versa). That was the magic. It looked like everyone was getting their picture taken with the real former president.

Here’s what made this experience memorable, in my opinion:

  1. Many of our boss’ family members absolutely had to have their picture taken with the president. They loved Obama and they were proud of him, the first African-American president.
  2. This means that their inner child suspended belief for a moment, ignoring the fact that Obama was only a die cut photo laminated to corrugated board, with a cardboard easel spot glued to the die cut image to allow it to stand upright.
  3. This says a lot about marketing and psychology. People want to be affiliated with famous people, as well as with products and organizations, that reflect their own values. For the same reason that many of our boss’ family members attended the family reunion (perhaps a desire to be a part of something larger than themselves: the family), they also wanted to be photographed with even a cardboard standee of one of their personal heroes.
  4. I think this is the same reason people like seeing images of Batman and Superman (as noted in the photo at the top of this PIE Blog article). For the members of our boss’ family, Obama was a superhero as well.

The Takeaway

People are willing to suspend belief and to play. Perhaps virtual reality headsets are more high tech than standees, but the idea is the same. Immerse the viewer in an experience or environment that stimulates as many of the person’s senses as possible, and you, as a marketer, can make meaningful contact with the viewer. And as a designer, if you can bring this awareness into your graphic design projects (either 2D or 3D), you will go a long way in capturing the attention and piquing the interest of your audience.

Large Format Printing: A Huge Case-Bound Book

Tuesday, November 27th, 2018

I assembled and installed a large format print standee for the new Deadpool movie yesterday (called Once Upon a Deadpool). Interestingly, based on the title of the film, the standee is made to look exactly like a huge case-bound print book.

I don’t believe I’ve seen a book this large (just over 5 feet by 8 feet) since the 1960s (a huge book on the TV series Batman). What piqued my interest was its size, how closely it resembled a real case-bound print book, and the fact that both the spine and face trim (the pages) were crafted so as to curve. (Another way of saying this is that the faux book had a rounded spine, so the face trim of the pages also curved inward.) (more…)

Large Format Printing: The Standee’s Missing Piece

Friday, October 27th, 2017

Coming up with a solution to a problem on the spot is a blessing. Sometimes the insight comes; sometimes it doesn’t. But I was grateful last night as my fiancee and I assembled a new standee for Ghostbusters that I had a realization on the spot. It solved a problem and offered some awareness into the particulars of large format printing, die cutting, corrugated paperboard, and the printing process of flexography. (more…)

Large Format Printing: Creating “One-Off” Standees

Thursday, September 14th, 2017

My fiancee and I assembled a huge standee this week for the new Murder on the Orient Express movie. Essentially, it’s an exposed view of the interior of a passenger train car containing numerous movie characters. While we were engaged in the six-hour installation, a moviegoer came up to ask about this standee in particular and standees in general. She had an ice cream parlor, and she needed one copy of a standee for her shop. (more…)

Custom Printing: A Movie Standee Production Case Study

Wednesday, May 24th, 2017

After seven years of installing standees at movie theaters, I received contact information for a potential print brokering client who needed standees both printed and installed. This was an intriguing opportunity, since I have experience in buying and selling commercial printing, as well as an understanding of the marketing goals and graphic techniques involved in producing large format print signage. (more…)

Large Format Printing: Two More Unique Standees

Sunday, August 30th, 2015

I installed a rather unique standee (large format print) today with my fiancee. It’s for the new Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation film, and it spins. While doing the installation in the movie theater, I also saw a unique standee for The Good Dinosaur, a flat background wall out of which the silhouette of a dinosaur had been cut. Here are some thoughts on both, and on why I think they are more than just eye catching. (more…)

Thinking in Large Format Print : Striking Designs

Friday, July 24th, 2015

Having traveled in both the world of fine arts (my fiancee and I do art therapy with the autistic) and the graphic arts (as a designer, art director, and consultant, to name a few), I have come to firmly believe that a few principles of good design pertain to both. (more…)

Large Format Printing: Standee Gluing Options

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015

I was on my hands and knees today assembling a standee (large format printed promotional display) for a new movie. It was a simple standee, just a flat card with an easel, but as I was carefully folding the corrugated board that had been spot glued to the back of the flat card to accept the easel backing, I thought about the importance of glue. (more…)

Large Format Printing: Diecutting Intricacies of Standees

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

My fiancee and I installed a standee for Rio 2 tonight in a local theater. As I inserted all 57 screws, I came to appreciate the intricacy of its diecutting, scoring, and pattern gluing. Actually, it was more than intricate. It was precise. Everything that had been scored could be folded correctly, and everything drilled with holes for screws went together perfectly, too, in the almost three-hour assembly. (more…)

Commercial Printing: Keeping Diecutting Costs Down

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

My fiancee and I just installed a standee for 300: Rise of an Empire. It was large, complex, and surprisingly reminiscent of another large format print standee we had recently installed for The Hobbit. Not that the graphics were in any way similar. Rather, it was the structure of the standee that gave me a deja vu. (more…)


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