The Utah State Fair mascots promise the 150th is pretty much going to be the best fair ever.
With quirky movie icon Napoleon Dynamite promoting the 2005 State Fair with buddy Pedro on billboards, buses, radio and television, fair organizers promise the fair will stay true to their spokesman: "Sweet."
The Fairpark is to open at 3 p.m. today with a ribbon-cutting by Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. scheduled at 5 p.m. near the sesquicentennial exhibit. The historical exhibit features photos, ribbons and memories from fairs past. Despite the 150th status, it's Napoleon Dynamite, not historical significance, that's perking up national attention.
"That film is such a phenomenon. This whole ad campaign has become a phenomenon as well," said Denise Stanger, fair marketing director. "Honestly, I thought it would be popular, but I didn't realize the national attention it would stir. It's taking a life of its own."
National media are focusing on the ads — from a column in USA Today to an article in AdWeek. Using similar taglines, costumes and the original actors Jon Heder (Napoleon) and Efren Ramirez (Pedro), the radio and television spots have become a particular favorite.
Napoleon starts one television commercial by revisiting fair rides that weren't so great. "In days of yore, the Utah State Fair didn't have sweet rides. Like the Scrambler, RockoPlane, the Octopus. . . . Instead, they had the box of wonders." Pedro then duct tapes Napoleon into a cardboard box and rolls him through a field, over a fence and down a set of bleachers. "This is pretty much the worst ride ever!" he whines.
Fans will recognize Napoleon's trademark pencil drawings, doodled on lined paper. They might even recognize the fair theme, "All your wildest dreams will come true," the slogan of Pedro's class president election campaign in the movie.
The ads have had special appeal to 14- to 24-year-olds, the target demographic of fair directors.
"We want those young adults and teens to get excited about the fair this year," said Rick Frenette, fair general manager. "When you've been around 150 years, you have to do something different to generate excitement. We do have a lot of the same old things, but we do have a lot of new, exciting and modern things. This advertising campaign shows we have progressed with time."
The fair's campaign is especially successfully because of the popularity of the movie in Idaho, where the movie was made, and Utah, where most of the crew met at Brigham Young University. The cult status of the movie and its characters is what drives the ads, Frenette said.
Filmed in July and August of 2003 on an estimated budget of $400,000, "Napoleon Dynamite" was a huge hit at the Sundance Film Festival and Fox Searchlight picked the movie up as its distributor. The movie opened on six screens across the United States in June 2004 and made a little over $160,000. But by the time the movie stopped showing in theaters eight months later, it had grossed over $44.5 million and played on thousands of screens across the United States, Australia, United Kingdom, Spain and Iceland.
Although its theater debut was more than a year ago, the movie is still achieving widespread popularity through DVD rentals and sales.
"My goals, one, was not to screw it up because there's a certain amount of 'Napoleon Dynamite' that goes around, especially in Utah and Idaho. People feel a kinship to it. And number two, make it as funny as possible and keep it consistent as possible," said Bryan Lefler, a Bountiful resident who directed the commercials and was the story board artist and script supervisor for the film. BOWG Ad Agency in Salt Lake City conceived the idea, wrote the campaign and produced the commercials.
Lefler, who is friends with movie directors Jared and Jerusha Hess, said after the Hesses gave their stamp of approval on filming the commercial, they asked Lefler to be the director because he knows the Napoleon character. The three television spots were filmed in one day.
Excited about the national attention the commercials are receiving, Lefler said using Napoleon Dynamite as the 150th fair theme was a great idea.
"I think it's the greatest move they ever could have done. Nothing says Utah and Idaho like Napoleon Dynamite," he said, adding the ads will "definitely" attract a younger crowd. "I think it's just going to be an influx (of youth). I think it will be a big, big crowd this year."
The entertainment guide, program and poster, featuring Napoleon Dynamite dancing and holding a rooster, are even being sold on eBay. But the fair material is a small part of a growing collection of Napoleon souvenirs. "Vote for Pedro" T-shirts can be found at Wal-Mart, funtalking.com sells a Napoleon talking doll and everything from themed stickers, pens and note pads to lip gloss, wristbands and shoelaces can be found at trendy store Hot Topic.
The movie was nominated for 21 awards and won six, three at the MTV movie awards, where the film walked about with best musical performance, breakthrough male and best movie.
Lefler said he's not surprised it became so popular — there are currently over 150,000 fan club members. Actually, he said he thought it would make more money.
"I don't know why it's such a mystery to people out in L.A.," he said, referring to movie makers. "You make a product that's acceptable to kids age 4 to 90 years old. It's something that revolves around being good to friends and being good to family."
The feel-good theme and lovable characters are what made the movie a success.
"It's fun to watch in this day of war and peril. It's all about people loving each other. And I think ultimately, that's what it comes down to. . . . You can only make so many movies about killing people and the different ways to kill people. There's so much death in movies now. But the overall consensus of people throughout middle America is they want movies that are fun, where people get along or work out differences to bring about a good result."
To view the Utah State Fair ads, visit utahstatefair.com under "Napoleon's Sweet Ads."
The 150th Utah State Fair radio advertisements, featuring Napoleon Dynamite and his best friend Pedro, have generated national media attention. Here are transcripts from all five radio spots, available at utahstatefair.com.
Radio spot 1:
Napoleon Dynamite: This is Napoleon Dynamite speaking and his best friend Pedro.
Pedro: Hello everyone.
Napoleon Dynamite: Do you like fun? If yes, then visit the Utah State Fair for tons of spellbinding events. Like rodeos, demolition derbies, ultimate fighting...
Pedro: Are there ninjas?
Napoleon Dynamite: Heck yes! Ninjas are all around us, practicing their deadly art of invisibility. Why else do you think I constructed this killer pair of nunchucks?
Pedro: Those are corndogs on some string.
Napoleon Dynamite: Yeah, but the dang ninjas don't know that.
Pedro: Hey Napoleon, are there ninjas even in the rest room?
Napoleon Dynamite: Why, do you have to go?
Pedro: I can hold it.
Napoleon Dynamite: All your wildest dreams will come true at the Utah State Fair.
Pedro: Visit utahstatefair.com. Thank you.
Radio spot 2:
Napoleon Dynamite: Hi, you probably know me as Napoleon Dynamite and his best friend Pedro.
Napoleon Dynamite: At the Utah State Fair, you can witness pretty much the most amazing skills of the land. Like flower arranging skills, painting skills, quilting skills, cake baking skills...
Pedro: You can not eat the cakes.
Napoleon Dynamite: Huh?
Pedro: The cakes, they are not for eating.
Napoleon Dynamite: Did you eat one or something?
Pedro: Yes. A little bit.
Napoleon Dynamite: Dang.
Napoleon Dynamite: Pedro, those cakes are like a thousand days old.
Pedro: I feel pretty sweaty.
Napoleon Dynamite: At the Utah State Fair, all your wildest dreams will come true.
Pedro: Visit utahstatefair.com. I'm gonna' go home and lay down.
Napoleon Dynamite: K, see ya.
Radio spot 3:
Napoleon Dynamite: This is Napoleon Dynamite and his best friend Pedro.
Pedro: Hello everybody.
Napoleon Dynamite: Are you tired of state fairs that are the boringest in the history of time?
Napoleon Dynamite: Then come to the Utah State Fair. For one thing, it's the 150th Utah State Fair, which means it's been around since the age of the mighty thunder lizards.
Napoleon Dynamite: What the heck are you even talking about?
Pedro: That means a hundred and fifty years.
Napoleon Dynamite: Serious?
Napoleon Dynamite: That's pretty much the longest word I've ever heard spoken by a person.
Napoleon Dynamite: This is the sequntense... sescense.... ah, idiot!
Pedro: The Utah State Fair, all your wildest dreams will come true.
Napoleon Dynamite: Visit utahstatefair.com.
Radio spot 4:
Napoleon Dynamite: Dear diary: Today me and my legendary classic rock band set the night on fire with our killer guitar moves. To bad I can't go on tour with them, 'cuz of my job as a vampire hunter.
Pedro: Hey Napoleon, who are you talking too?
Napoleon Dynamite: Nobody, just start the commercial!
Pedro: OK. Come to the Utah State Fair for plenty of live entertainment.
Napoleon Dynamite: Dear diary: Pedro's trying to steal my thunder again.
Pedro: Now who are you talking to?
Napoleon Dynamite: Ahhhh!
Napoleon Dynamite: Dear diary: Pedro's trying to ruin my life!
Pedro: Hello diary. This is Pedro.
Napoleon Dynamite: Leave me alone. Gosh! All your wildest dreams will come true at the Utah State Fair.
Pedro: Visit utahstatefair.com.
Radio spot 5:
Pedro: (singing) Utah fair, Utah fair. The corndogs are beyond compare. The cows are sweet, the goats are mean, burritos filled with cheese and beans. The pigs say oink, the chickens cluck, the tilt-o-world, comes on a truck. The bull goes moo, the duck goes quack, Napoleon has got my back. I like to eat, the cakes and pies, my shoe just stepped in a surprise. (humming)
Napoleon Dynamite: Hey Pedro, what are you doing?
Pedro: Just thinking about the Utah State Fair.
Napoleon Dynamite: Can I try?
Pedro: I guess so.
Napoleon Dynamite: K. The Utah State Fair is really sweet. The cows will soon turn into meat.
Pedro: That's really good.
Napoleon Dynamite: It's probably the best poem I ever did.
Pedro: Probably. (singing) My name is Pedro and I'm here to say, that I am down with the FFA.
Napoleon Dynamite: Say and Napoleon too.
Pedro: And Napoleon is too.
Napoleon Dynamite: Sweet!
Pedro: The Utah State Fair. All of your wildest dreams will come true.