By: Emily Dilworth
We all know Disney: it is perhaps the biggest and most successful children’s entertainment franchise in the world. Some of us love it, and others think it’s a monumental brainwashing tool for children and adults alike. However you feel about it, Disney’s use of multiple media has transformed the way people view Disney stories, and this method has made them a whole lot of money.
Take for example a classic Disney Princess movie: The Little Mermaid. The Little Mermaid franchise has produced 3 movies, a TV show, a series of shorts (short films), a Broadway musical, 8 video games, 3 comic series, 12 pre-teen novels, a young adult novel, and countless children’s books to date. There are also multiple Little Mermaid-themed attractions at Disney Theme Parks across the globe, as well as an extensive line of toys. Although the original movie was first released in November of 1989, if you ask children today who their favorite princess is, someone is bound to answer “Ariel”.
In Convergence Culture, Henry Jenkins says that “offering new levels of insight and experience refreshes the franchise and sustains consumer loyalty” (Jenkins 96). This is definitely true for Disney movies such as The Little Mermaid. In addition to all of these types of media being produced, Disney also re-released The Little Mermaid in theaters in 2013, and advertised what they called “Second Screen Live”: a whole new way to view and interact with the movie. Audience members were encouraged bring their tablets to the theater, where they could experience the movie in a whole new way through an app. The app synced with the movie screening, and allowed audience members to become part of the movie on their devices. The app also housed games, a sing-along option to watch the movie with lyrics, and real time score keeping. Although Disney had released second screenings of movies before, such as the Wizard of Oz and Bambi, The Little Mermaid was the first Disney movie to offer an interactive app to use during the movie.
“Second Screen Live” is just one of the many tactics Disney uses to “keep the magic alive”, and it’s one of the reasons movies released so long ago, such as The Little Mermaid, are still popular today. These movies have crossed generations of designers, producers, and audience members, and the improvement of more efficient technology has allowed the original 1989 animated movie to turn into a whole new experience for viewers.
But what does all of that have to do with publishing?
A whole lot more than you might think. While the bulk of Disney’s franchise is visual media, such as movies, TV shows, and video games, they’ve also produced numerous books for a variety of ages. I, along with many other book nerds, will always choose a paper version of a book rather than a multi-media experience. But the emergence of modern technology has created this trend of using multiple media platforms to tell a story. And in the case of Disney, the digital platforms often serve as the primary advertisement for corresponding print stories. While we’ve seen these trends mostly with young readers, one cannot ignore the looming idea that the screen may come to completely replace print culture in the years to come.
Has Disney already begun this transition? Or will the print book live another day?
“Searching for the Origami Unicorn .” Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide, by Henry Jenkins, New York University Press, 2006, pp. 93–130.
Wolfe, Bryan M. “Disney Wants You To Bring Your IPad To ‘The Little Mermaid’ In Theaters.” AppAdvice, AppAdvice, 11 Sept. 2013, appadvice.com/appnn/2013/09/disney-wants-you-to-bring-your-ipad-to-the-little-mermaid-in-theaters.