Star Wars and Transmedia Possibilities
In 1977, the world was introduced to a story that happened a long time ago, and in a galaxy far, far away. Followed by six subsequent releases, these films took the world by storm generating record ticket sales never before seen in the history of cinema. People lined up and camped out on sidewalks waiting to buy tickets and each film was anticipated more than the last. Unless you’ve lived under a rock on Dagobah, or in a cave on Tatooine, chances are that you’ve seen at least one Star Wars film in your lifetime but beyond the films, Star Wars has transcended various media platforms and has become a part of millions of lives for nearly 40 years and counting.
Shortly after the release of Episode IV: A New Hope, comic books emerged with storylines for a multitude of different Star Wars characters from Chewbacca, and Han Solo, to Boba Fett and Darth Vader. These comic books answered many questions that fans of the films had developed, and provided insight into the origin of new characters that would appear in film sequels and prequels as well. In addition to comics, the Star Wars Novels, the first of which was entitled Star Wars: The Adventures of Luke Skywalker (released in 1976) have been wildly successful in continuing the saga between films. To date, there are over 225 Star Wars books in print, and over 125 million copies sold worldwide since the first film’s release in 1977, written by various authors some even by film creator George Lucas. [Alter, Alexandra. Wall Street Journal. July2013]
The concept of transmedia is the telling of a story through multiple forms of media, and this aspect of the Star Wars franchise is ever growing. The home video game explosion which began in the 1980’s brought the lights, sounds and action of the local arcade to everyone’s home. With Atari being to most popular gaming console of the day, they released the first Star Wars game. The graphics were simple by todays standards but gave the player an opportunity to take on the Empire all by themselves.
As technology advanced and players began to demand more from game manufacturers, so did the movie franchises. Seemingly every action film franchise had an accompanying video game and Star Wars was no different. The films began to show better special effects as time passed and the video games followed suit. Game consoles such as PlayStation and XBox revolutionized game systems with graphics and functionality never before seen. Some of these video games eventually proved to be more popular than the films themselves. Star Wars longevity however, has been quite impressive. The franchise has been able to withstand some missteps and questionable creative decisions (according to fans) such as Jar-Jar Binks and the Ewoks, and manage to keep on rolling.
Being embedded in so many different platforms of media has built in the fans a certain protective nature with regards to the franchise. It has become such an enormous part of their lives that they become very vocal if poor decisions are made.
Star Wars flooded into the children’s toy market as well. From action figures to spacecraft, hopeful children’s birthday and Christmas lists were sure to contain a few Star Wars toys, which were generally the most sought after of the season.
For decades, collectors have stockpiled toys and kept them in their original packaging to increase their value as time passes with vintage mint-in-box Millenium Falcons selling for as much as $350.00. Even the more obscure characters of the films and books were granted the honor of being cast as an action figure. Ponda Baba(aka “Walrus-Man”) whose only scene in the films was a short interaction with Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Mos Eisley Cantina on planet Tatooine in the first Star Wars film.
Star Wars has always been known for it’s slogan; “a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” but in the not too distant future and thanks to Disney, it may not be as far away as you once thought. In April of 2016, Disney will break ground on “Star Wars Land” at their Disneyland location in California and at their Hollywood Studios park in Orlando Florida. While no date of completion on the projects is available as of yet, it is expected to take a number of years before the ribbon cutting.
With Disney’s 4 billion dollar investment in the Star Wars franchise, and with transmedia possibilities growing by leaps and bounds, it is easily foreseeable that Star Wars Land could in fact contribute to the continuing story. With cinema quality scenery and a multitude of characters in costume at Star Wars Land, there could be additions to the story acted out live and commented on via social media. This could be easily achieved as Disney now owns all of the rights to Star Wars. Disney is renowned for squeezing every ounce of juice out of a particular franchise, and one can expect the story to continue to spread across many different realms of media in turn, giving birth to a whole new generation of fans.