Last October, Marvel Studios assembled 80 of its top stars and filmmakers in Atlanta, where the latest instalment of the Avengers franchise was being filmed, to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the Marvel Comics Universe.
There was a “class photo” to commemorate the occasion, showing Robert Downey Junior, who plays the superhero Iron Man, sitting front-and-centre.
However, when the celebration recently was moved to China, Downey found himself having to relinquish prime position to a group of local celebrities that had nothing to do with the superhero franchise.
Last Friday, the superhero star, along with Mark Ruffalo, Tom Holland and Tom Hiddleston, who play the characters The Hulk, Spiderman and Loki respectively, went to Shanghai Disney Resort to commemorate the same anniversary and promote Avengers: Infinity War, which is coming out next month in China.
But the gathering quickly turned into what Southern Metropolis Daily termed (perhaps with some exaggeration) “the biggest car crash in history”. Fans of the franchise were annoyed to find that the organisers had invited a group of seemingly random singers to the event. While it is not uncommon for foreign studios to hire local celebrities to promote their films in China, the Marvel cast was forced to stand awkwardly throughout a series of lengthy vocal performances (one of the singers, Zhang Jie, even took the opportunity to announce his new tour).
Event hostess, Natalie Wang, a former anchor for state broadcaster CCTV, offended more of the franchise’s fans when she asked the Hollywood A-listers to make space for all the singers on the main stage.
“Would you like to step a little bit to the side?” she asked the superhero cast before bringing the other performers on. But many misheard her as saying, “Would you mind stepping aside?” which led to criticism that she was being rude to the stars.
The response was angry enough for Wang to later issue a lengthy statement on her personal weibo explaining that she did not mean to offend anyone and complimented the Marvel actors for being so welcoming to the local artists.
However, when the group got together for a photo, Hong Kong singer Eason Chan ended up standing squarely in the centre of the shot, while Downey was pushed more towards the sides. That was considerably better than Tom Hiddleston, who ended up on the fringes of the line-up. Fans lit up social media to express their annoyance at this too and the hashtag “Marvel China promo team apology” quickly went viral.
Hoping to put the debacle behind it, Disney hosted a follow-up press conference to apologise to fans, saying that the complaints would trigger a review of its marketing strategies.
The studio also promised not to hire ‘irrelevant celebrities’ to promote its films in future.
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