Week 5, Lecture 2 We are here to look at some specific examples of transmedia storytelling. Before we begin discussing production, we will look at the important parts of the planning process through some successful case models. The most successful model is transmedia content centering around films and games. In the first part of the lecture, we will focus on films. There’s a film called The Avengers (2012). This film is mentioned frequently when talking about transmedia content. The story is set in the worldview of myths, especially the Nordic mythology and touches upon the stories of several heroes.
It features a detailed introduction of the worldview and the characters: How each hero was born is laid out already, but there is no set framework for specific incidents, goals for each era, and what the characters plan to do. Each platform covers a certain hero being at a certain stage in a certain setting, making the story diverse enough that each story does not interrupt one another.
In fact, it becomes the background for a different franchise altogether: that of Iron Man. Iron Man was a movie on its own, made into a series of films in the 2000s. The development of each chapter helps the story of the Iron Man character to move forward independently, eventually appearing as an important character in The Avengers and as a minor one in The Incredible Hulk (2008) franchise. The character also appeared in a webtoon for a while, and in games. Each appearance has a sound storyline, but none of them are co-dependent. The Hulk character has been developed into a series with its own individual story, but it can also be part of the Avengers story line any time.
If there were a disaster on Earth, then all the Avengers characters would come together. If there’s an environmental or terrorist crisis, that would be another opportunity for them to assemble. Each character in this worldview has such distinct traits that they can be included in a certain setting with unlimited responses and action, so even if one story crosses over to different content to be remade, that does not mean it can no longer be made into a film or a game. Put simply, the worldview, characters, and storyline are developed infinitely. My second example focuses more on character or plot. What are some transmedia franchises that focus on plot?
It would be in the setting of a film, such as The Matrix (1999), which obviously has a very important worldview. Once a storyline surrounding saving humanity was established, the film delves further into what happens underground, what kind of relationship Neo builds with the Oracle, and more. With the plot-focused framework maintained, the subsequent films were produced in liaison with one another. Even after the second and third film , there’s no reason to stop. There could be stories of the next generation or the ancestors of the principle characters, comparable to the Star Wars franchise.
The sequels don’t have to be limited to films, either; it can also expand to games, novels, or even go online, to the realm of blogs or as a hugely successful webtoon. Films are much more advantaged in transmedia content because they cover a wider range of effects from visual, auditory, and narrative components, providing a rich worldview. In the past, films or story-focused literature had enough space to present the core idea, which allowed offshoot stories, and media fitted for those subplots. One last example of character-focused stories would be the successful transmedia franchise that started with the film Transformers (2007).
The background world of this content is certainly intriguing: In addition to philosophical elements and recurring main characters, the story is able to focus more on the human stories in the films while revolving around the robot characters in the games. For the toy and stationery industry, the robot characters are far more attractive, whether they are central to the film’s plot line or not. What’s more, the notion of a transforming car and the philosophy behind it could even go so far as being an extension of Kafka’s metamorphosis. The film’s premise could be the basis of a book, or it could provide a setting for a series of mythical novels.
This is an essential component of transmedia storytelling: a story that moves in a completely unconventional direction. It wasn’t like it started from a story and then transferred to contents. For Mega Trone it was the exact opposite. Transformer did not exist as a novel; it was a movie first, and then its philosophy and related novels were spotlighted, highlighting a separate part of the original narrative. The three pillars namely, the worldview, the core story, and the main characters aim to establish multi-platforming, meaning that they are designed to be open stories that can be developed into different media. They do not own one another but serve as an entry point to the next installment of the franchise.
These worlds have a life of their own, so another creator can approach the content through a different medium such as clothes, stationery, or even furniture. As such, it is completely natural to cross over to a different medium, and these franchises complement each other in doing so.