The Wizard of Oz: Transmedia Pioneer?

We’re not in Kansas any more…

Recently, as I tromped thru the weeds online I found an interesting conversation circulating around L.Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz as the first case of transmedia storytelling. Interesting….

I love pretty much anything Wizard of Oz (well, almost everything… certain films shall go unnamed), and this piqued my interest like a hammer to the head. What a neat idea- considering the literal plethora of Oz literature piled high on bookshelves the world over, the myriad of films, plays, comic books, spin –off’s, characters, etc.

I got to wondering why this hasn’t surfaced before, this idea something as widely known, loved and expansive as the Land of Oz hadn’t been exemplified as a Transmedia Story?

Apparently, I had some homework to do.

Wikipedia states “In Transmedia storytelling content becomes invasive and fully permeates the audience’s lifestyle. A transmedia project develops storytelling across multiple forms of media in order to have different “entry points” in the story; entry-points with a unique and independent lifespan but with a definite role in the big narrative scheme.”

Henry Jenkins, (author of Convergence Culture, former director of the MIT Comparative Media Studies Program, and the man credited with coining the term ‘Transmedia Storytelling’), has this to say on his wonderful blog; “Transmedia storytelling represents a process where integral elements of a fiction get dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience. Ideally, each medium makes it own unique contribution to the unfolding of the story. So, for example, in The Matrix franchise, key bits of information are conveyed through three live action films, a series of animated shorts, two collections of comic book stories, and several video games. There is no one single source or ur-text where one can turn to gain all of the information needed to comprehend the Matrix universe.”

Certainly, there are over 40 books in the Oz series, as well as numerous plays, board games, dolls, films and of course, television movies. Reportedly there are at least 19 Oz productions in development! But, does this make it a transmedia story?

Transmedia Expert Jeff Gomez (of Starlight Runner Entertainment) defines transmedia as “the art of conveying messages themes or story lines to mass audiences through the artful and well planned use of multiple media platforms.”

To me, the essence of transmedia would be a story expressed across several platforms in a pre-determined, unified method to  include books, comics, graphic novels, web, film, television, social networks, street performances, live events, ‘Easter Egg Hunts‘, etc. All with the intention of creating a defined, immersive experience for which an audience could interact, and then share their experiences with others. By definition, I feel the transmedia experience should broaden the experience, as opposed to duplicating the story via successive methods.  Making use of promotional potential with cross-platform methodology doesn’t make a property transmedia, IMHO. The way I see it, each platform would be a door into the story universe, as opposed to a series of mirrors, simply reflecting story arcs, characters, etc.

Of course, at the time L. Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz came to being, technology was not what it is today- and in that, Baum, his estate and later, other ‘Oz Historians’, made use of pretty much every medium available for delivering Oz goodness into the hands of eager fans and followers. But were these efforts really part of a pre-conceived plan to present the Oz Universe as a cohesive story world, connecting over multiple platforms?

Merely ‘re-imagining’ the basic story ideas over successive entries via multiple modes of delivery/ consumption may amount to an expansion of the property, certainly, but in my humble opinion a ‘lateral spread’ is limited in comparison to a ‘deeper’ audience interactive experience true transmedia efforts would provide.

What do you think?  -M

One thought on “The Wizard of Oz: Transmedia Pioneer?

  1. Again Marc, thanks for another fine read. ‘Oz goodness’ indeed. Tell me; when are you going to release another one of your super-genius films?

    Looking forward…

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