CM2052 Course Blog

A Transmedia Case Study: Pirates of the Caribbean

Assignment 1

Larissa Wezenberg (368309) and Julia de Vogel 366816

TEM (CM2052)

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,

Retrieved from: http://www.forbes.com/sites/dorothypomerantz/2013/09/10/disney-hits-pause-button-on-pirates-of-the-caribbean-5/

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)


8 comments on “A Transmedia Case Study: Pirates of the Caribbean

  1. Marit Hoeks
    September 21, 2013

    I have always loved PotC, so it is quite interesting for me to read what the transmedia campaign actually excisted out of precisely. Although I thought I knew quite some of the things, I definitely didn’t know that it all started with a ride and that there were novels available!

  2. Lisa Unterreiner
    September 22, 2013

    Although I am not the biggest PotC fan, I have to say that the franchise is very impressive and it is a well-considered concept. I didn’t know for example that there is a PotC ride and that this is what started the hype. It must be very profitable for Disneyland since the movies came out and all the other related products were available, since it is a must-see and must-have for fans.

  3. Takia Ksatryo
    September 23, 2013

    The franchise of PotC is really impressive, I must say so too. It covers a diverse range of products and services like the amusement ride to action figures. Who knew that PotC started way back then, and is still continuing in their production today, such as the ongoing film series. It is also interesting how PotC is a world in its own, with each character and series having their own story which makes it funner for us as audience and/or consumers!

  4. Jason C. Teetz
    September 23, 2013

    I found it very interesting to read about the fact that the entire franchise actually grew from a popular ride. I have been to the Walt Disney World/Magic Kingdom in Florida multiple times when I was younger, and never, until now, did it occur to me that this ride existed/was related. Anyhow, now that you have pointed it out it makes sense to me and I wonder why it never came to me. Furthermore, as a fan of PotC (at least the first and second movie, that is) I enjoyed reading your essay and getting a deeper insight on some of the marketing aspects.

  5. Eveline Maertens
    September 23, 2013

    I love the Pirates of the Caribbean movie as it contains humor, suspense, action, love etc. It holds so many different emotions that it is hard for the movie not to attract many consumers. However, as i was reading this assignments i had a feeling that the main platform of transmedia for many people is the movie. But what i found interesting was that in this case the attraction ride actually came before the movie and that the movie was based on it. It is interesting to realize how much media actually is transmedia without always knowing about it. I really enjoyed reading your assignment.

  6. Intissar Ouari
    September 23, 2013

    I have seen the movies of Potc several times, but I never used another media platform to enjoy the story. It is very interesting to read about the entire Potc franchise, as I was really suprised to read that the story of that Potc all began with the ride. It is, indeed, very applicable in this case to state that you do not need one media platform to understand the other. (As, of course, you do not have to enter the ride to fully understand the movies or read the novels)

  7. Aniruddh Mukhopadhyay
    September 23, 2013

    Like most others, I found it really surprising that the idea behind the PotC franchise actually came from a pirate-themed ride in Disneyland. It is quite interesting to see such a wide range of products offered by this franchise like eye-patches, swords, Jack Sparrow-outfits, video games, novels, action figures, card games, board games, etc. This franchise has indeed utilized diverse media channels and platforms, which in turn has contributed to the overall narrative of PotC.

    I had been to Disneyland Paris last winter and found an exclusive section based on the PotC theme. There was also a pirate- ship. It was quite fun! The PotC franchise has an alternative virtual world which is quite interesting to look at. I am now really looking forward to experience the PotC rides in Disneyland California. By using all the different platforms, the PotC franchise has created a magical universe of its own which can be enjoyed as a whole, or each individual product can be tried out separately.

  8. Rūta Ziabkutė
    September 23, 2013

    What honestly surprises me the most, is that this essay made me realise even more how these huge franchises were made of basically nothing… Knowing that a world-wide product of transmedia such as the PotC started out as a ride at the Disney park is a huge surprise. When you realise what can creative minds think of after staring at a pirate-themed ride for 2 hours (I’m guessing..) is just miraculous. I guess it all began with a “Hey, you know what? I think this would make a good movie!” And then it got out of hand.. Large scale actors, amazing stunt work, a fascinating franchise of pirates, wooden legs and movie sequels is just a pure artwork of what people can make out of an idea of pirates. Was an interesting read and great example, guys!

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