CM2052 Course Blog
Larissa Wezenberg (368309) and Julia de Vogel 366816
20th of September, 2013
Word count: 876
A Transmedia Case Study: Pirates of the Caribbean
The goal of this essay is to explore a transmedia case study. We have chosen Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean (PotC). We will start by describing the primary medium, followed by the other platforms that were used. Then, we focus on the contributions per platform to see how they contributed to the overall narrative. Furthermore, we will look at how successful PotC actually was/is as a transmedia outlet. While concluding our essay, we will explain why PotC in general is such a good example of transmedia.
Platforms and their contribution
The striking thing about the entire PotC-franchise is that it started with a Pirate-themed ride in Disneyland (Booth, 2003). The attraction was first opened in 1967 at Disneyland California, three months after Walt Disney’s death (“Pirates of the Caribbean Attraction”, 2013). The first blockbuster movie of Pirates of the Caribbean, the Curse of the Black Pearl, was launched on June 28th 2003, based on this Disneyland-attraction. The Curse of the Black Pearl contributed to the overall narrative because it gave the already existing pirate-world of the attraction a main story and characters, with their own adventures to elaborate upon. Two more movies followed in 2006 and 2007, and then there was a sequel launched in 2011 that only dealt with Jack Sparrow (“Pirates of the Caribbean Film Series”, 2013). This gave the franchise more depth: we gained more knowledge about Jack’s life. The second sequel is now being planned, possibly being released in 2016 (Pirates of the Caribbean, nd).
An enormous amount of franchise products came into existence after the first movie, as well as after the next ones. There were numerous accessories released during the creation of all movies and sold under the official name of Pirates/Disney (eye-patches, swords, Jack Sparrow-outfits etc.). Furthermore, there is a PotC-video game, which contributes to the overall narrative because it is a prequel: it tells how Jack Sparrow escaped from an island after the betrayal of his crew (“Pirates of the Caribbean Video Game”, 2013). This game was released two days after the launch of the first movie (“Pirates of the Caribbean Tech Info”, nd). An unrelated version of the PotC game was released for mobile phones and the Game Boy Advance (“Pirates of the Caribbean Video Game”, 2013)
Another media platform in the franchise is print: there are several novels, that again have their separate contribution to the PotC-narrative, because they deal with Jack Sparrow’s teen years (before he becomes a pirate) (“Pirates of the Caribbean: Jack Sparrow”, 2013). Finally, there are card games, action figures, a special Monopoly edition, a board game, and many more products. Overall however, we see how every different product from a different platform contributes to the overall narrative by elaborating on and enhancing the world of PotC.
The four films of PotC are known for having a large global box office, being $3.7 billion. However, the movies, especially the last movie, have a high grossing globally and a lower performance domestically. The last PotC-sequel, released in 2011, earned $241 million in the U.S. and $802 million globally (Dorothy, 2013). On the premiere of Disney’s second film of PotC, Dead Man’s Chest, worldwide financial records were broken. The film ended up earning a worldwide box office of $1,066,179,725 (“Pirates of the Caribbean Film Series”, 2013). Even though the films did well, Disney now wants people to keep streaming into its parks because they are important for the franchise’s income as well (Dorothy, 2013). Disney’s parks e.g. sell accessories next to the PotC ride, which is a clever way of advertising PotC. The franchise in general has thus given Disney a large profit.
On the other hand, the PotC video games only seem to gain largely mediocre scores. The PC-videogame of PotC gained an average score of 66.7% (68% on the Xbox). The Game Boy Advance version was given a 5,5 by the Imagines Game, because the focus on sound and graphics did not make the game fun to play (“Pirates of the Caribbean Video Game”, 2013).
This paper has given us the opportunity to apply the theoretical aspects of transmedia to a real-life example. When we look at Jenkins (2007), it is confirmed that the PotC-franchise indeed is a very good example of transmedia. We can first of all see how the elements of this fictional 18th-century pirate-world are spread across multiple delivery channels (movie, ride, novels, game etc.), where each part has its own unique contribution to the narrative, as described earlier. Furthermore, Jenkins (2007) states that transmedia stories are not based on an individual character, but on a world. This is clearly visible in PotC: there are laws, hierarchies among the many characters (all with their own histories and stories). Finally, Jenkins (2007) explains that with transmedia, each individual product is accessible on its own terms. This goes up for PotC as well: you can go on the ride solely. Furthermore, it is no problem to play the video game without the ride or the movie. You can also watch the movie but never enter the ride. These characteristics of PotC thus make this highly successful franchise a good example of a transmedia story, which was very interesting to explore!
Booth, M. (2003, November 11th). Disney’s ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ opens slew of film possibilities involving theme parks. Denver Post. Retrieved from: http://global.factiva.com/ha/default.aspx
Dorothy, P. (2013). Disney hits pause button on ‘Pirates of the Caribbean 5’. Forbes,
Jenkins, H.(2007). ‘Transmedia Storytelling 101’
Pirates of the Caribbean Attraction (2013). In Wikipedia. Retrieved September 19, 2013, from
Pirates of the Caribbean Film Series (2013), In Wikipedia. Retrieved September 19, 2013, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pirates_of_the_Caribbean_(film_series)
Pirates of the Caribbean: Jack Sparrow (2013). In Wikipedia. Retrieved September 18, 2013, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pirates_of_the_Caribbean:_Jack_Sparrow
Pirates of the Caribbean Tech Info (n.d.). Retrieved September 19, 2013, from
Pirates of the Caribbean (the Curse of the Black Pearl), nd. In Internet Movie Database. Retrieved from: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0325980/
Pirates of the Caribbean Video Game (2013). In Wikipedia. Retrieved September 18, 2013, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pirates_of_the_Caribbean_(video_game)