Why Disney's New "Oz" Movie Is Succeeding at the Box Office: Storytelling and Marketing Insights From Jeff Gomez of Starlight Runner


A March 15th, 2013 interview with Jeff Gomez in Forbes is a must read for New World storytellers.

Here is a key excerpt from what Jeff Gomez had to say about the audience's response to the new Oz story (I've italicized comments by Jeff Gomez that I think are especially useful for indie filmmakers):

"I liken much of the movies and literature for kids and teens in the past couple of decades to strapping yourself into a haunted house ride at the amusement park. The hero or heroine is in a cart on rails, exposed to some scary scenes, but never truly in mortal jeopardy, and never really having to resort to cleverness, tenacity or deeply painful decision-making to solve the problem."

"But I think theme park ride narratives are starting to become tiresome to young people for a few reasons. First, we are all now capable of learning about what’s going on a lot faster and easier than ever before. Even if parents are attempting to shield their kids from harsh realities, more and more young people have little windows in their pockets that show them exactly what’s going on in the world."

And here is an excerpt where Jeff Gomez discusses the business model that supports this kind of creativity:

"The beauty of [Disney CEO Bob] Iger’s recent studio acquisitions is that they are not being completely assimilated into Disney Studios in Burbank. Instead he’s effectively granted them continuing autonomy. Pixar is making its movies. Marvel is doing the same. Lucasfilm will, too. So the central studio is not enormously taxed, but the content hungry global marketing and distribution machine at the heart of the company will continue to receive high quality product. What’s not to like? The rest is an issue of scheduling, and few studios do that better than Disney."

"On the other hand, Disney has a spotty record when it comes to successful multi-platform rollouts, or what Starlight Runner calls transmedia storytelling. Had the studio worked more diligently to introduce kids to the rich story world of Barsoom, rather than flood the Disney Channel with behind-the-scenes content that actually deconstructed the fiction, they might have gotten a some better box office for John Carter at least in the first few weeks of release.

But I think you’re going to see that change, and transmedia from Disney will get stronger. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has boasted pretty good concerted multi-platform content. When there were discrepancies, particularly on the Disney side (such as the animated TV shows and some of the toys), Kevin Feige of Marvel Studios stepped in and made changes. Now we’re going to see an Avengers animated series that is far more in line with the movies. There’ll be a S.H.I.E.L.D. live-action TV show set in the same universe as the Marvel movies. Even the new live venue Marvel Heroes extravaganza will fall in sync with the sensibilities of the films.

My bet is that [co-founder of Amblin in 1981 and co-chair of Lucasfilm since 2012] Kathleen Kennedy will be doing the same with Star Wars. She understands that young people are more sophisticated than ever and want consistency. They want a feeling of persistence and reality to the worlds they love. Anything less means that the stewards of the brand don’t care about the story world, and by extension don’t care about the audience. So you’ll see closer ties between Lucasfilm and Disney as Kennedy’s team scrutinizes everything from the licensing to the digital marketing to the theme park attractions to make certain this new super-narrative plays out in concert.

If [Marvel's CEO Kevin] Feige and [Lucasfilm's Kathleen] Kennedy play their cards right, elements like new attractions at Disney World will be planned well in advance and arrive faster, because you’re absolutely right when you say there is an expectation on the part of fans that new movie developments will be reflected across all media and in the theme parks. It took years for Disney to update the Pirates of the Caribbean ride to include Jack Sparrow and other characters from the films. They will have to work mightily to close that gap or they will forever be perceived as outdated and kids will go home ever so slightly disappointed.

Transmedia planning—which is what this is called—combines art, storytelling, pinpoint timing, commitment, and a stunning amount of cooperation and coordination. That’s a rare combination, but it’s something that the Digital Age is now demanding of us all."

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