Brand Strategy

Disney Pixar’s ‘Turning Red’ finds a friend in Firefox

The power of the red panda prompted the companies to team up.
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Firefox, Disney Pixar

· 4 min read

Red pandas, the reddish-brown mammals native to southwestern China, are sometimes known as “firefoxes.” So it was a particularly memorable day this summer when employees at Mozilla, the company known for the web browser Firefox, saw a trailer for the upcoming Disney Pixar film Turning Red, in which a girl transforms into a red panda when experiencing strong emotions.

In fact, the team “completely freaked out” when they saw the trailer, recalled Lindsey Shepard, chief marketing officer of Mozilla. While Firefox’s browser logo, named Foxy, is decidedly fox-like, the company has long embraced both the fox and the red panda as mascots.

“Everyone was like, jaws dropped, ‘OMG. A red panda!’” Shepard told Marketing Brew. “We just knew we had to reach out and see if we could get something going.”

After months of partnership, Firefox and Disney Pixar are rolling out a dual marketing push ahead of Disney+’s exclusive streaming premiere of Turning Red on March 11.

US users can visit a custom website that jointly promotes the upcoming film and Firefox’s various functionalities. There, users can watch a video designed in tandem with the Disney Pixar animation team that encourages people to use Firefox when they use the web.

Plus, 500 fans have a chance to win a free month of Disney+, and a boy-band name generator introduces readers to Firefox’s privacy policy. And if fans use Firefox, they can customize their web browsers’ colors and looks to match with the film’s major characters.

True Colors site


The unconventional, interactive promotion is designed to help introduce Firefox to new users at the same time that it drives attention to Disney+, which, at nearly 130 million subscribers worldwide, is a core focus for the company. At Firefox, it will also kick off the beginning of a months-long effort to grow its user base.

“We are thinking about the collaboration with Disney Pixar as the beginning of a new way of connecting with our followers,” Shepard said.

The Disney contingent

Firefox’s partnership with Disney Pixar is an opportunity for the internet company to win over people who may not be as well-versed in privacy and technology as the browser’s core user base. Firefox averaged more than 25 million monthly active users in the US in February, according to internal data, and the company, which only accounts for about 4% of browser market share, is keen on growing its user base this year. Shepard is betting that families who are fans of Turning Red may resonate with the campaign’s messages of online safety.

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“What our research tells us is that these sorts of folks are really invested in things like independence and data sovereignty and privacy online, and making sure that their kids don’t get caught up in some of the darker, grosser places on the web,” Shepard said. “When we think about this collaboration with Disney, it can help us reach and attract whole new audiences that haven’t necessarily heard about us.”

It’s not just parents: Firefox is also interested in reaching out to younger viewers. “We want to bring our Mozilla ethos to the new generation—a new generation of Disney Pixar fans who value individual expression—and give them the tools they need to be their true selves in online spaces,” Shepard said.

This isn’t the first time that Disney, which declined interview requests for this story, has partnered with a browser. In 2013, the company struck a deal with Google Chrome to create a 3D-animated interactive web experience promoting the theatrical release of Oz: The Great and Powerful.

Balancing act

To reach audiences, Firefox and Disney Pixar are promoting the partnership on streaming and connected TV platforms like Hulu, Roku, and YouTube, social platforms like Instagram, and audio platforms such as Spotify. Other promotions include display banners on parent-centric blogs. But there are some places the ad won’t run.

“We found with our audiences that one of the sort of places that they tend to engage in is in true crime shows, but we don't necessarily want to have our super fun Pixar video embedded in a show about murder,” Shepard said.

The collaboration meant developing marketing that met Disney Pixar’s expectations and developing creative ways to reach users without undercutting Firefox’s commitment to privacy and non-intrusive advertising. It also meant carefully advertising on Instagram and Facebook, of which Mozilla has been critical, using polls, carousels, and creator content.

“We had to think about how to do it in a way that felt really true to us,” Shepard explained. “Firefox has always been independent, so we didn't want to just have it be a traditional plug-and-play collaboration.”

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