Cars That Almost Were: 2019 Mazda Shazam

The Mazda symbol in a storm next to DC's Shazam! in live auto news

For the better part of two decades, the scope of comic-based entertainment seems to have grown exponentially…arguably to the point of oversaturation. From feature films to programs featured on streaming services, there has been no shortage of material. Formatted to be as palatable to the general audience as it is to fanatical enthusiasts, this content aims to create visibility for the properties, both individually and as a whole, and somehow in live auto news.

Well, on April 5th the DC Comics universe will be expanded with the release of the highly-anticipated film SHAZAM or (as true fans know it) the ‘actual’ Captain Marvel. No offense to Marvel Comics’ March 8th film release featuring Brie Larson, but DC’s Captain Marvel came out first, introduced in late 1939 versus Marvel’s character of the same name which was debuted in 1967. But to eliminate any confusion, DC comics chose to rebrand their character under the ‘magic phrase’ that gave him his power, “Shazam!”.

Side by side of DC's Shazam and Marvel's Captain Marvel
(Left) DC’s version of Captain Marvel renamed ‘Shazam’ (Right) Marvel’s hero of the same name.

Which segues perfectly into the discussion of cross-marketing. Due to the overwhelming success of these films, companies of all shapes and forms line up around the proverbial block to get their share of the films’ advertising potential. From fast-food restaurants to household snacks, there is no shortage of property-themed products served up by retailers. But even automakers get in on the fun, be it by negotiating to have their vehicles take center stage in the film itself or by offering themed Special Edition variants of their existing lineup. And therein lies the brunt of this story.

What many people don’t realize is automotive cross-marketing requires a certain amount of preparation by the automakers themselves, allowing them to pitch a fully-realized idea to the cinematic powers-that-be. In some cases, it even calls for the production of a single, fully-functional concept vehicle (regardless of whether or not the deal goes through).

Such was the case for iconic automaker Mazda, who made an early play with Warner Bros., New Line Cinema, The Safran Company and DC Films. The partnership would have been three-fold with (i) Mazda offering a financial stake in the film’s production (ii) the film featuring Mazda vehicles in a significant capacity, and (iii) a limited edition release of (what else?) the Mazda Shazam.

Like the titular character, the pitch called for the car to be marketed as having godlike abilities, derived from the immortal elders: Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles and Mercury. Speed. Strength. Power. An iconic design. On paper, the idea proved compelling. But in reality, there were two major obstacles that prevented the Mazda Shazam from becoming a reality.

A young Billy Baston character from the movie Shazam
Asher Angel as young Billy Batson, alter-ego of ‘Shazam’ (aka Captain Marvel)

First came concern that the film’s main character is a 14-year old boy. Despite his magical ability to transform into a grown, adult male – the depiction of a child driving a car proved troublesome to certain parenting groups who felt it might inspire a safety risk to the lemming-like TidePod generation. The only other alternative was to make it the vehicle of the film’s villain, Dr. Thaddeus Sivana – which diminished its superhero appeal.

(Left) Akira Marumoto, President of Mazda and (Right) Geoff Johns, President of DC Entertainment side by side
(Left) Akira Marumoto, President of Mazda and (Right) Geoff Johns, President of DC Entertainment

The second consideration was that Mazda just wasn’t able to convince the filmmakers that any of their offerings had legitimate godlike appeal. According to insiders, there were some discussions regarding the MX-5 Miata, but they were quelled pretty quickly since the 2019 film release would line up with Mazda’s release of the vehicle’s 30th Anniversary Special Edition.

So, moviegoers should not expect to see Mazda vehicles play a major role in the film, and car-buyers should not expect to line-up in the hopes of claiming a 2019 Mazda Shazam. And since no-one would have done either of those things anyway, we can just chalk it up to another Hollywood deal that never came to fruition.


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