Since starting university in 2013, a big interest of mine has been audience engagement with media, and ‘transmedia narratives’. According to media and fan culture guru Henry Jenkins (2007):
“Transmedia storytelling represents a process where integral elements of a fiction get dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience. Ideally, each medium makes it own unique contribution to the unfolding of the story.”
In simpler terms, transmedia storytelling is the technique of telling a single story or story experience across multiple platforms and formats. A perfect example of this is the Harry Potter franchise. This post is inspired by the recent announcement that the full script for the upcoming West End show, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, will be released as a book.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child as Transmedia Storytelling
There are so many things that makes Harry Potter probably one of the most successful franchises in the world, especially in terms of transmedia storytelling. With books, films, tourist attractions (in Leavesden and Orlando, and soon also coming to Hollywood), interactive websites (Pottermore) and a vast array of merchandise, J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world is always expanding. From the release of the first book, The Philosopher’s Stone, in 2001 to the release of the final film adaptation, The Deathly Hallows: Part 2, in 2011, the franchise has attracted a massive fanbase all over the world. There is then the addition of extra books like Quidditch Through the Ages, The Tales of Beedle the Bard and of course, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (which also has a major film adaptation, starring Eddie Redmayne, coming this year).
So, with the announcements recently of the new West End show Harry Potter & The Cursed Child and the release of a hardback book of the scripts for both Part I and II, what does this mean for the broadening of the franchise and its ever-expanding narrative?
The two-part play sees Harry Potter as a father and an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic. It will tell the “untold part” of the boy wizard’s story, including the story of the lives of his murdered parents, Rowling has said.
“The story will pick up 19 years after Harry was last seen in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, waving his two eldest children off to Hogwarts.” (BBC, 2016)
When the tickets went on sale for both parts of The Cursed Child last year, they sold out in minutes with people queuing for hours to even access the website. Obviously, with the show being based in London’s West End and with tickets costing as much as £130 for a seat for both parts of the show, there are fans worldwide who will be unable to witness it. It is for this reason that the release of the scripts is a great way for fans to keep up to date with the story without seeing the show themselves.
As someone who is unable to see the show myself, I was hugely disappointed that there would be a whole development to the story and the wizarding world that I’d miss out on. Now, with this announcement, I am excited by the fact that I’ll still be able to keep up to date with the story!
In terms of the development of the narrative and the franchise, it’s an exciting time for the wizarding world and its flurry of fans worldwide. I can’t wait to see what happens next.
- ‘Transmedia Storytelling 101’ – Henry Jenkins (2007): http://henryjenkins.org/2007/03/transmedia_storytelling_101.html
- ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child to be eighth book’ – BBC (2016): http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-35539552
- ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child to open in 2016’ – BBC (2015): http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-33283158
- ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ – IMDB: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-33283158