Spider-Man weaves through United Airlines’ newest safety video
For a story on USA TODAY, I was invited to be on set during part of the filming for United Airlines’ new safety demonstration video featuring Spider-Man – and friends.
Here’s the story, And the video.
“Spider-Man: Far From Home” won’t be in movie theaters until July 2 but, starting today, fans of the webbed wonder (and of hidden film references known as Easter eggs) will be able to see Spider-Man in action in United Airlines’ newest inflight safety demonstration video.
United Airlines, Sony and Marvel worked together to weave the Federal Aviation Administration’s required safety instructions into a fast-paced, short (4:44) film starring Spider-Man, a trio of villains, and some of Spider-Man’s friends.
“We’ve kept the worlds of Spider-Man and United safety
separate, but together,” said Daniel Cuellar, Director of Global Advertising
for United, “Crew members, as always, are doing the demos and giving
instructions, but there’s an underlying fun Spider-Man aspect to it.”
And some cool special effects.
“That’s the benefit of partnering with Sony,” said United’s Vice President of Marketing, Mark Krolick. “We were able to make this safety video with movie theater-style production and effects. It’s not something we usually have the opportunity to do and I think our customers will appreciate the higher production value.”
And, United hopes, pay attention in a world where airlines try to out-do each other with engaging safety videos.
“There is plenty of evidence that learning is more effective when there is play and fun involved, and these videos follow a trend of gamification and entertainment of information,” said Sabrina Habib, a professor of Visual Communications at the University of South Carolina.
Spoiler alert: here’s the plot of United’s new Spider-Man-themed safety video
In United’s new safety video, villains cause trouble at the corner store owned by Mr. Delmar (played by Hemky Madera). Spider-Man happens to be nearby and springs into action. He chases the goons into a movie theater, to a park fountain, and down a dark alley; captures them all; and leaves them neatly wrapped up in a web with a handwritten note for the authorities that says “All Yours! Gotta Fly. Spider-Man.”
If you pay attention, you’ll notice a framed photo of the late comic book writer and Marvel super hero creator Stan Lee in the store. That’s Spider-Man movie character Eugene “Flash” Thompson (played by Toni Revolori) helping to demonstrate safety instructions about putting electronic devices into airplane mode.
And, while you may not know who they are, some of the extras in the video are people who bid their MileagePlus miles for a chance to be part of the project.
Spider-Man’s alter ego, Peter Parker, has a best friend, Ned (played by Jacob Batalon) who is in-line outside a movie theater when Spider-Man streaks by chasing a goon into the theater. They race by a man walking down the sidewalk, played by none other than United Airlines’ CEO Oscar Munoz.
“Wow, that must be some good movie,” says man-on-the street Munoz
“Yeah, I hear the best friend’s hilarious,” replies Ned.
During filming of the street scene outside the classic Palace Theatre in downtown Los Angeles this past January, Munoz was having fun bantering with the production crew and was patient and good-natured about the multiple takes.
Off the set, there was an upcoming earnings report and the impact the partial government shutdown was having on the airline industry to think about, but Munoz felt taking time to do this safety video cameo was important.
Besides being fun for him to do, “It brings an awareness that while United is incredibly serious about issues of safety and operational reliability,” said Munoz, “Were are the also the ‘The Friendly Skies’ and we want to be friendly and fun. I think this gives us that narrative.”
How did United Airlines rope Spider-Man into a safety video appearance?
United is not only an official airline sponsor for the new Spider-Man movie; one of its airplanes has a cameo in the film.
In “Spider-Man: Far From Home.” Peter Parker and his high school classmates go on a class trip to Europe, stopping in London, Venice, Prague and a few other places. United flew a 777-200, retrofitted with the Polaris business cabin, to London for a week of shooting.
“There are lots of different scenes of the kids going over and coming back.” said United’s global advertising director Daniel Cuellar, “Peter Parker has one very rich friend who’s flying in Polaris while everyone else is flying in economy. So there’s lots of great footage of the aircraft. And when the kids come home from Europe, they filmed in Newark Airport as well.”
United’s “Spider-Man: Far From Home” tie-in goes beyond the safety video and the aircraft cameo in the film.
Starting in June, travelers in United’s Polaris business class will get a Spider-Man-themed amenity kit, in red or blue, which includes a Spidey-branded eye mask and socks, alongside tissues and other branded personal care items.
The airline is also inviting MileagePlus members to bid award miles for a chance to attend the “Spider-Man: Far from Home” premiere in Los Angeles on June 26 or to use award miles to attend pre-release screenings in seven of the airline’s hub cities.