Tropic Thunder: Marketing Strategies and Websites

August 6, 2008–DreamWorks has removed its website simplejackmovie.com as a promoting tool of the studio’s comedy “Tropic Thunder” in response to criticism from disability rights advocates.

The site was created by the marketing department of Paramount, which releases all of DreamWorks’ films, as an homage to a character played by Ben Stiller’s Oscar-chasing actor character. In the film, which opens August 13, Stiller plays an actor known for his performance in a fictitious drama titled “Simple Jack,” a satire of Hollywood actors who play mentally challenged characters.

The site, which was aimed at boys and garnered fewer than 35,000 hits, featured a poster with Stiller and the tagline “Once upon a time…. there was a retard.”

Several groups, including the Special Olympics and the Down Syndrome Association of Los Angeles first contacted the studio Friday and set up a meeting with DreamWorks CEO Stacey Snider and other senior execs to discuss their concerns about the film. That meeting is scheduled to take place today.

DreamWorks decided to remove the site Monday night as a preemptive move. “We heard their concerns, and we understand that taken out of context, the site appeared to be insensitive to people with disabilities,” DreamWorks spokesman Chip Sullivan said.