Proposal:

The most general way I can put my proposal is like so:

Looking at the gauge of success that comes with Science-Fiction franchises that involve merchandising and if this ruins or improves the franchise in future iterations (and in the eyes of who does this happen?)

I want to look at Science-Fiction franchises that came into existence because of the marketing potential that came with it. There are a wide assortment of examples in this vein of Science-Fiction, most of these marketed texts come from more recent years (the 1960’s and 1970’s). Disney, which now has it’s hands on a lot of Science-Fiction Independent Products (IPs), is one of the early examples of merchandising their products, dating back all the way to 1928 after their release of Mickey Mouse in Steamboat Willie. Star Wars (1977) and E.T. The Extraterrestrial (1982) are some of the earliest examples of marketing potential that came from Science-Fiction; albeit being the first of it’s kind, the stories of these films are universally praised and are considered masterpieces of their time.

With more modern examples of this merchandising that happens with films, television shows and video games, more of the fandom reacts more volatile towards the creators of the films, thinking they are more about money rather than storytelling. Take for example Star Wars, the first 3 films that were made (known as Episode IV, V, & VI) were glorified by fans while the prequels to these films (Episode I, II, & III) are seen as exploitations of younger audiences in order to get more marketability. Children, in the eyes of investors and possibly the creative heads of these projects, are seen as a viable target demographic to bring in since children are more impressionable and willing to want to buy products associated with the IP. Disney, who now owns Star Wars, sees this potential with its acquisition of the IP. The newest Star Wars films and the amount of content that is quickly being pushed out with it (already planning five more movies, which are to come out subsequently every year, on top of all the products that are catered to these films) presents the dilemma of what the point of making these films. The original Star Wars was crafted to tell a compelling science-fiction space opera that was layered with many influences to other films and IPs, whereas now Star Wars looks to be a means of exciting the fan base in order to sell products to them and milk them out of more money.

At the same time, there are IPs that are heavily marketed but still get praise from their fans, namely a series called Warhammer 40,000. Warhammer 40,000, created by Games Workshop, started out as a tabletop game similar to Risk, but set in the distant future of 40,000AD and layered with deep lore and story embedded into it; as an example, the original Warhammer 40,000 rulebook is 400+ pages and most of it is background description of each possible faction you can play as. The game was made in 1987 and has slowly evolved and has had a niche cult following, which brought about enough support to add more lore into the universe (through the continuous release of new books) and even video games that fall in line with the lore. Fans of this series, even though they are fully aware of being exploited by the price of this hobby (the “Daemonettes on Steeds of Slaanesh”, which are only five figures used for the tabletop game is $45 for example), still go back to it and support Games Workshop. Looking into forums, people clamor to this game series because of how rich in story and lore the universe presents itself; there is a sense of “endless possibilities” of where the franchise can go and expansion of lore is always welcomed and accepted by Games Workshop. At the same time, this extensive world-building seems to also put people off by it, since it is difficult to jump into and is seen as merely a underground fandom of “nerds”. But the fans, which is the focus for this proposal, sees Warhammer 40,000 as a success and it’s mostly in part because of the direction and attention taken to story-telling rather than blatantly trying to appeal to a targeted demographic (the tagline of “for in the grim dark future there is only war” doesn’t necessarily strike an attempt at drawing children in lieu of other demographics).

Star Wars and Warhammer 40,000 are merely two examples of this type of marketability that companies look for in fandoms. Other examples that come to mind that fall under Commercialized Science-Fiction include the cinematic universe of Marvel, compared to the comics and Netflix shows; where fans of the comic series feel like the cinematic universe is merely a means of marketing the superheroes and losing out on compelling storytelling that is evident in the comics (with lose of details and important points from the comics). You have Transformers, compared to the original show that was explicitly made because of the toy line and to its revival in cinema more recently; younger fans who grew up with the show and toys feel like there is a disconnect with the films, in an ironic sense because they fell into Hasbro’s intention of appealing to younger audiences through the original show while the movies paint the Transformers in a more dark/serious/dramatic tone to try and tell a more compelling story (at least for the first film in the series). And lastly Doctor Who, which was a failing BBC show that got a revival more recently because of the inclusion of different demographics and the marketability of the IP; this is a particularly interesting example because they not only are able to market their IP to younger audiences, they also brought in the young adult market and is just generally well-received by most people despite the fandom and merchandising that happens as a result of it (at the same time, are they involved with this marketing or is it just a result of telling good stories and making an interesting show…).

I want to look into a few things while doing my research into this particular topic, including:

  • When in the process of producing the IP is merchandising incorporated?
  • Is the marketing potential of an IP inherently the reason for making the ‘text’ for these IPs?
  • What is the factor that determines if an IP is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ in the eyes of fans?
  • Should success be determined from what fans feel about the series or the marketing potential and growth that came from the IP?
  • Is there something lost or gained from this focus on marketing; is there a balance that needs to be made when making a IP with compelling story and marketability?

Hopefully I can get these questions answered and if this is a viable proposal for the Archive Project.

Sources:

Disney and Commercialization

Warhammer 40K Forum

Marines Playing Warhammer & Background Info

General Movie Merchandising and Practices

History of Merchandising in Films

Games Workshop Online Store (to look at prices of Warhammer figurines)

Reflection:

When revising my proposal, there were a couple of things I considered both from the professor and my two peer reviewers. I obviously had to choose one of the two possible topics I presented in the draft and got a lot more information about my topic in regards to actually getting online sources to help with my idea (which I was surprised that it was not as difficult as I would have suspected, I thought the scope of my project may have been too narrow to the point of not finding information about it from other people).

The first thing I needed to consider fixing was specifically picking one of the topics out of the two I proposed initially. Although my peers liked the second proposal in regards to Western Science-Fiction influences in Japanese culture, I went with what the professor felt more strongly about and the one we initially agreed on; it’s true that I think a lot more people would be able to relate with my second topic (since a lot of my generation watch anime), but even if I went with it I still felt it would be way too broad anyway, since there are so many anime and manga that pretty much every topic has been covered in Japanese media. The second suggestion, also, just came out of the whim and was not fully backed up or researched as much as my first topic (the one I’m sticking with). Moreover, I think not as many people looked into this specific topic of commercially driven science-fiction franchises and it’s affects on it’s fans, so it would be interesting to see what I could find on this. (Being a person who doesn’t see why someone is overtly a fan, I have an interesting perspective on the matter as well [and when I say I’m not “overtly a fan” of anything, I don’t clamor and get hyped just because of the name that’s attached to it, I usually just wait for the main product]).

The second thing I needed to touch up on my draft is actually finding sources to back up my claims, which I inferred about of stuff but it turned out to be mostly right anyway. I found sources ranging from critical reflections of general child commercialization, to merchandising that’s done with cinema, to just forum posts that encapsulated fan approvals and perspectives on their likes/dislikes and factual evidence (as noted with the Warhammer 40,000 forum & the Games Workshop store link). The second and third paragraph talked a lot about what I researched, whereas the fourth paragraph (when I listed off more examples) is not noted the sources, but is intended to be researched more since each one of them have their own unique case to this project that I had in mind; I will be looking into these IPs in more detail with concrete sources, but I threw them out there to show that my argument wasn’t just limited to just two different franchises.

Hopefully it comes out good (and the proposal is clear in what I want to do)!