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Disney film promotion spotted on Web

Make no bones about it: Disney is turning to the Internet to promote its upcoming live-action feature film 101 Dalmatians, the latest in a series of such promotions.

Make no bones about it: Disney (DIS) is turning to the Internet to promote its upcoming live-action feature film 101 Dalmatians, the most ambitious in a series of such promotions.

Today, Disney Online and Buena Vista Pictures will promote its high-tech movie with an appropriately whizzy online promotion. The Web site comes complete with "virtual" puppies, a sweepstakes that will "unleash" 101 prizes each week, movie tickets "on the spot," games, and puzzles.

Movie sites are not new; Paramount and Warner Brothers, among others, already host sites. They are growing in popularity as a cost-effective way to promote show biz.

The new Disney site is much more interactive than most. For example, it allows you to "paint" a puppy using Web paint-shop program. Another fun feature: "dress-up Cruella" (as in the sinister Cruella De Vil).

These promotional Web sites also make good business sense for Hollywood. They allow companies to collect data on Web site visitors through initiatives such as sweepstakes. They are also a less costly means of distributing promotional materials than through established channels.

The Disney site also directs users to the Disney Store to buy movie tickets, and offers the ability to buy movie tickets online.

The film itself is touted as having plenty of high-tech wizardry. LucasFilm's Industrial Light and Magic was called on to make computer-animated puppies, so Disney didn't have to bring 101 live ones onto the set. Making puppies look real is one of ILM's biggest challenges to date; its previous experience was with bigger, less cuddly animals such as the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park.