Teaching ‘Tron’ and guarding ‘Pirates’? Brand consistency in transmedia age

Feb. 15, 2011 | 11:20 a.m.

Ben Fritz covers the business of show business for the Los Angeles Times; here’s his latest — a report on a consultant team that helps studios keep their flagship brands on a consistent course…

pirates Teaching Tron and guarding Pirates? Brand consistency in transmedia age

"Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" (Disney)

With their mania for film franchises, leading studios are behaving more like packaged goods marketers than the showmen of yore in pumping out movies, and appear more interested in taking direction from fanboys, brand managers and multimedia consultants.

pirates of the caribbean video game Teaching Tron and guarding Pirates? Brand consistency in transmedia age So the time appears ripe for consultants such as Jeff Gomez and Mark Pensavalle, co-founders of Starlight Runner Entertainment. Their job: To make sure that stories and characters remain consistent as a movie is reincarnated as, say, a TV series, a video game, a theme park attraction or an online virtual world.

Their specialty is called transmedia, a term with roots in academia that has become the latest buzzword for entertainment that spans multiple media platforms. Gomez and Pensavalle have worked on some of the industry’s highest-profile properties, including the movies “Tron: Legacy” and “Avatar” and the video game Halo.

“We think we have shown that different media are like instruments, and when you put them together, you can create moving symphonies,” said Gomez, who oversees the creative aspects while Pensavalle focuses on the business side.

Spinoff entertainment from movies isn’t new in Hollywood. Even “Lassie” was treated to endless sequels by MGM in the 1940s before being turned into a live show on the fair circuit, a radio series, a network TV series, a cable TV series, books, comics and a merchandizing bonanza that included a line of dog food.

In the past, such renditions and products were typically considered ancillary, to be licensed to the highest bidder. As a result, video games, comics, websites and movies would vary in the complexity of their storytelling, if they didn’t outright contradict what came before. But fans today, who can stay involved with stories and characters around the clock thanks to the Internet and mobile devices, are more sophisticated and less tolerant when it comes to deviations from the script…


— Ben Fritz


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