Going the Extra Mile – Transmedia Storytelling

Das_MittelElton Lin is a CS college student from Alhambra that is enamored by different tactics toy companies engage in to ascribe integrity to their properties. He spent so long chasing a childhood fictional narrative by Mattel that he found a real and uplifting story buried beneath it. 

 

The superior man understands what is right; the inferior man understands what will sell – Confucius

Companies should never have to compromise their integrity in a bid for survival. Unfortunately, some do. In this day and age, toy companies grapple to find a common thread with the hordes of children much more interested in handheld electronics. It is true that companies must prioritize earning profits in order to stay afloat, but keeping the masses pleased rings equally true. It is universally understood that toy companies prioritize catering to the younger demographic, but consequently, older fans may struggle to indulge in the brand as well. With the rise of 3rd party offerings or zealous customizers filling the void for fans, retention of brand loyalty has never been tougher.

As such, it makes it all the more gratifying when a company goes the extra mile and delivers universally enjoyable content through a multitude of platforms. Such a labor of love can be explored through the lens of transmedia storytelling.

So what is transmedia? Think back to a favorite childhood series of yours. Did you get to watch your heroes on TV, then go out to the stores to buy action figures of them? Spend your free time visiting official websites or fansites such as the one you’re currently on to brush up on your knowledge about their universe? What about playing video games or comics that weren’t necessarily canon to their source material? How about fast food or in-store promos? If you answered yes to any of these, you had been met with transmedia, the practice of telling a story across different platforms.

But adopting transmedia is no walk in the park. Great transmedia calls for capabilities of:

-expansion. Being able to carry a story through new mediums as well as reach the target audience is crucial to transmedia.

-engagement. Consumers will not only be enraptured by the fictional world, but also come to relate to characters and examine their own human condition.

-embellishment. Fictional worlds must be convincing to their audiences. The more a universe is fleshed out, the more chances the audience can perceive the universe and its ideals as feasible.

-order. The storylines must follow a pattern with how it is accessed through different digital mediums.

-opinions. It is important for creators not to neglect any of their characters by allowing the audience to witness characters evolve through unique feelings to situations and daily life.

-operation. Every message is another piece of the puzzle that ties into the storyline. The creators, what did they leave for us?

In short, transmedia storytelling challenges creators to put out content on a new plane of superiority in the most unique configurations / re-imaginings of the brand’s identity. Famous examples: a company all about plastic construction toys branched out their mythology and storytelling capability with a theme of unworldly mechs, and a company with unworldly mechs painted a new direction through robots that turned into organic animals.

 

Everything must be able to fall back on another. An overarching theme must manifest, which will contribute to the brand’s image. Obviously, it is important that the message reflects positively on how consumers perceive the brand.

Hot Wheels is recognized by its consumers for its presence/domination on the store shelves.

The message may be prevalent in some contexts. Who can forget the owner of the slogan “Just Do It” as well as its highly aspirational message? Or even “I’m Lovin’ It”, the shot at good vibes through pop culture? But what happens if a company’s brand suffers from an existential crisis or a search for new meaning? What can personify a brand entity and reinvigorate it? How do you continue a legacy of that caliber?

In 2002, Hot Wheels was faced with such a dilemma. The company was thinking of how to celebrate its upcoming 35th anniversary. What started out as a challenge became one of Hot Wheels’s most wholehearted attempts into the analysis and redefinition of its own identity. Back down they didn’t. Hot Wheels went in guns blazing with the mythology of Highway 35 World Race and AcceleRacers (see the respective hobbyDB Highway 35 World Race & AcceleRacers pages for how much investment these series got). The creatives at Hot Wheels took what could have been a disaster into a demonstration of spirit. Not only did Hot Wheels reclaim its identity but also earned new merits. Hot Wheels roared on with new life and an extension of its legacy.

Highway 35 and AcceleRacers, bless them, have been gone for more than 10 years. So what’s the worth in dredging up the past? Why do people still demand its renewal? What’s the point of me getting on my knees and begging hobbyDB to allow me a guest post on their blog?

Simply put, series like these are the bread and butter for the path towards adulthood. Series like these merit the attention and praise for being testaments to creative storytelling and concept development. People think back fondly to Highway 35 and AcceleRacers because those were milestones in Hot Wheels history, times where Hot Wheels became more than just their cars.

These type of series continue to play a part in this uncertain future, where minds like Genndy Tartakovsky do not believe current Western animation is at its full potential. But most importantly, they persist as icons of hope. They strike a void that cannot be otherwise filled, and allow us to grow even when our minds are at ease. They serve as bildungsromans, the guiding lights towards our catharses and the search for value in our everyday lives.

Throughout the years, they’ve always remained larger than life.

Who knew that something disguised as a kid-friendly TV series could conceal so much meaning?

To watch the full video on which this article is based, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWjNOrLhPqI

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