Thursday, November 7, 2013

Toy Story and Transmedia Storytelling

According to Henry Jenkins, "multimedia and transmedia assume very different roles for its spectators, consumers and producers."  While multimedia is depicting a message with the use of different content forms such as video, audio and text, transmedia storytelling is the concept of promoting one brand or story across multiple platforms. These brands and stories usually consist of content that appeal to consumers. The most popular industry that uses transmedia storytelling would probably be the movie/film making industry, because in most cases, their products turn into apps, video games, television shows, comic books, etc. and particularly represents the media conglomerate it belongs to.

As it says in Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide, "Media convergence makes the flow of content across multiple media different platforms inevitable... Everything about the structure of the modern entertainment industry was designed with this single idea in mind -- the construction and enhancement of entertainment franchises" (Jenkins, 106). 

In my search of finding a story that was told through multiple different platforms, I found Toy Story, which is a computer-animated film that was produced by Pixar and released by Disney in 1995.  As Pixar's first motion picture that made $350 million worldwide, the flow of content in different platforms such as video games, comic books, facebook pages, theme parks and books was inevitable. Toy Story is an example of transmedia because it not only assumed roles for its spectators (the people that viewed the very first film) but also its consumers and producers through these platforms that helped further sustain the brand. 

Located in three Disney theme parks is the Toy Story Midway Mania, which is a platform of telling the story. This is an interactive 4D theme park attraction that offers Toy Story fans and consumers a virtual 4D shooting gallery of carnival games. Another platform that was introduced were video games for different consoles such as the Wii, PS3 and the XBOX. These platforms assumed the role of consumers because instead of just being "spectators" or viewers of the film, they are now experiencing what they saw in the film. They have now become part of the "Toy Story" image.

Fans became producers when Personal Toy Story books and "Create Your Comic" Toy Story books were introduced. This strategy engaged participation because now fans are not just consumers of Toy Story, they are now also the producers of Toy Story. Fans were also able to view an official Toy Story Facebook page, where they can post movie quotes, get links to pages of different characters from the movie, as well as receive promotional videos. These different platforms assumed the role of content creators or content providers for the Toy Story brand. They were allowed to add or change the storyline however they pleased. Not only did these platforms create new content for Toy Story but it also helped build and expand the brand further.

From movies and video games to theme parks and books, Toy Story has become Pixar's most popular film and features most uses of different mediums. What's even more interesting is that Toy Story is a platform of storytelling within itself. It used different, classic toys in the movie such as Mr. Potato Head, the Army Men and Etch-a-Sketch. Toy Story helped promote these toys to consumers and expand these toy brands. Unlike the film Toy Story, other Pixar films such as WALL-E, Ratatouille and The Incredibles did not reach other media platforms. These films simply lived in its medium as films. All in all, Toy Story is an example of transmedia storytelling because the quality of each medium used helped strengthen the relationship between the brand and the consumer which then enhanced its popularity.

Jenkins, Henry. Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New York University    
             Press. 2006

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