For my discussion of a transmedia franchise, I chose Star Wars, a franchise I am very familiar with. Since the franchise’s inception in the 70’s from the mind of George Lucas, it has spread like wild fire to every available facet of interpretation whether literature, gaming, clothing just to list a few. It’s universe is constantly expanding with new input, whether from the head honcho Lucas himself, or commissioned writers, fan writers, off-shoot stories and other canon relating back to the concept of Star Wars, it’s a franchise that is aging well and far from being forced out.
Spreadability vs. Drillability
The Star Wars universe is an incredibly expansive, and rather malleable collective of narratives. That being said, it lends itself well to a person seeking a deep lore or overarching theme strewn across the tales. A person can follow what is ‘canon’ in the movies and leave it at that. A more inquisitive person can hunt up novels and information from various sites, like the star wars wiki, regarding specific characters in that canon that were significant, such as Han Solo’s backstory and his own tale. An even more inquisitive person can dig up a plethora of lore and information regarding even the most off-shoot character from the original story, one such is Boba Fett who has spawned his own cult following in the lore despite being initially portrayed as a ‘bad guy’; or even Darth Vader, who had his own trilogy made to showcase his growth and how he ended up where he is.
Continuity vs. Multiplicity
In a franchise as robust and lively as Star Wars, there will always be people who write what is considered fan fiction. Author driven stories on events and people they wanted to have happened rather than what had happened. The Star Wars universe is large enough to allow for people to even accommodate their own made up characters into the scheme of the franchise providing it sounds believable. Yet despite all these third party revisions and additions, the franchise as a whole has done incredibly well in maintaining a strict canon doctrine in relation to the main story from the original trilogy. There is a linear progression from the ancient times of the Old Republic to the Rebellion and it can be easily followed to further involve readers into the franchise.
Immersion vs. Extractability
Disney is a prime example of the immersing aspect of Star Wars, where they have an entire park dedicated to incorporating visitors into the Star Wars universe. There are rides, gifts, actors, and everything imaginable tailored in this theme park to let an average joe live in the Star Wars universe, if only until the park closes. The take away from Star Wars is that good always triumphs in the end. Likewise for all the bad in life, a person can always redeem themselves. These are two takeaway life lessons I have gotten as a fan myself, and the series in it’s entirety leaves a lot up for interpretation by fans as to what is important to them. Whether Boba Fett, the bounty hunter, is good because he catches criminals or bad because he kills innocents, it’s up to the perspective of the viewer and what they see in the situation.
I don’t think it needs to be stated about the expansiveness of the Star Wars universe, as the world building for this franchise is among the largest of all ongoing franchises. The theme park at Disney does an excellent job of this with one of their rides, where you co-pilot a runner vessel with CP3O and R2-D2, two main characters from Star Wars. It brings the experience outside the screen and lets you interact with them, although in a limited setting. Likewise with the numerous video games that have been released, they add more depth, vibrancy and life to the franchise and lesser known parts of the universe that flesh out the franchise, particularly with recent releases involving the ancient history of Star Wars in their Old Republic.
The Star Wars franchise was originally divided into three separate films, and since than has done well in spreading it’s message through every available outlet. One of the most prominent outlets in recent years has been through the use of video games in telling side stories and different narratives related to the canon trilogy, the most notable I can think of is Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. This game follows Darth Vader’s secret apprentice during titular moments and events in the original trilogy. Running parallel to this video game release was a series of books and comics about the Apprentice to further establish his story in the canon.
A prime example for this is again, Darth Vader’s secret Apprentice. In the video game starring the Apprentice, you play as him through various iconic moments in from the original Star Wars trilogy, fights and events that were seen from the perspective of the good guys are now seen from the bad guys. It sheds new light on sequences that transpired during the movies and further establishes others to fans. Likewise events that occurred during the canon timeline but occurred off screen are seen vividly for the first time and further embellish the main canon.
To keep a strict regularity on the canon and what is or isn’t canon, Lucas Arts, the company that owns Star Wars, are the final judges on what is canon. Media they label as canon becomes so despite wishes of fans. There are portals and other sites that allow fans to make their own ‘fanon’ but otherwise to keep the canon regulated and correct Lucas Arts has to approve it. To the best of my knowledge no fan made material has been included into the canon story wise, but plenty of fan made material has been incorporated into the franchise, such as Storm Trooper marches at conventions.