I’ve been attending the Cartoon 360 forum in Barcelona the past couple of days, listening to an taking part in pitches and discussions on a number of animation series with “360” or “transmedia” elements attached. There have been projects of every kind – epic animated films from Russia, series looking to help children and people living in dire circumstances (Scotland), grandmothers-as-secret-agents from Poland and so on.
The scope when it comes to how these are extended over platforms also vary wildly. There are projects that create their full story arch for TV, add a website and an app and feel that is enough, and then there are more creative ones looking into AR, VR, real life events etc, to add to the narrative.
Looking at the discussions and the talks here it is clear that there will be some time before everyone is playing the same ball game on the same pitch with the same goal in mind. It will also take some time to even get everyone involved to change into the requisite playing kit, as many are extremely comfortable in whatever they’re wearing right now.
The challenge is that the audience will not wait – and does not wait – for anyone to change into anything. If no one turns up on the pitch to start playing, our spectators are very used to climbing onto the pitch and start playing themselves. Once that has happened, it will be very difficult to establish any kind of control over the game, and the only solution might be to start a new game on a new pitch somewhere else, and try to get the audience to follow along over there.
I wrote a post a couple of months ago regarding “Five focus areas for successful multiplatform storytelling”. I strongly believe that many of the very established players in the entertainment media geared towards children could benefit from developing these areas – namely sustainability | fluidity | validation | structure | clear goals.
I would also add a sixth area – collaboration. When looking at the pitches here and listening to the discussions around them it feels like many are enticed by the possibilities available in the “new media” world. Then, when it comes to bringing the possibilities in touch with ones own projects, it quickly starts to feel very complicated and perhaps not worth the effort. The key thing is that it is definitely worth it – we just need to find collaborators that can complement the skills and the content we bring to the table. What would take me hours upon hours and a lot of Googling and swearing to program, my coder-brother can fix in minutes, and the same goes for AR solutions, social media campaigning etc.
At the same time, these are exciting times to tell stories. The possibilities open to us as storytellers are of a magnitude no one else have ever experienced. The dangers of going astray are apparent, but the maps showing us safe areas and preferred roads to traverse are becoming more and more detailed by the day. It’s going to be a fun ride!