Ever since 2009, Disney has dominated the film and television market from underneath the Marvel Cinematic Universe banner. It is with this in mind that the Disney is now synonymous with Hollywood and often considered as the pioneer for bringing popular fantasy and cartoon characters to the silver screen.
Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe is not the first project to recreate fantasy stories for film and television, however, as famous series’ such as Star Trek and Stargate initially paved the way for such developments. These shows also established a template for showcasing complicated worlds with multiple narratives, all within an engaging, fantasy setting.
Let’s take Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek as an example. It is arguably the seminal cross-over franchise, even though it was a slow-burner in terms of gaining credibility and popularity among viewers. Debuting in 1966, it combined a focus on the prevalent social issues of the time with an engaging and thrilling fantasy narrative. This initially provided something of a shock to the system for viewers, as it effectively transcended genres and lacked a single focus for individuals to identify with.
As the show diversified with a new, animated series in 1973 and a second phase production run in 1977, however, it won an army of cult followers and laid the foundations for future genre-busting franchises. This eventually culminated with the launch of multiple Star Trek motion pictures, with films released throughout the 1980’s before being reinvested with ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ as we approached the new millennium. The success of this franchise underlines the potential that cross-genre programming has in the contemporary market, especially if brands intend to win over a new generation of fans and establish a cinematic universe.
While the success of franchises such as Star Trek may have created a template for brands such as Disney to follow, however, the latter have partnered with Marvel to expand to an entirely new level. So rather than simply transcending television genres and creating a cinematic universe, Disney and Marvel have also broken down the boundaries of modern media and entertainment channels to present their characters to a wider audience. From console and desktop games which have sold thousands to the most profitable Marvel slots, these modern franchises operate across multiple channels and outlets.
This creates far more lucrative and impactful franchises, and will now set the example for similar brands and studios to follow. Just as Paramount and MGM built their success on the appeal of iconic characters and franchises, Disney and Marvel have capitalised on technological advancement to expand further and engage fans through new channels. This has also opened up brand new money making opportunities, enabling companies to optimise their level of profitability over time. It also guarantees a greater legacy for individual stories and characters, with Disney and Marvel in particular able to reach out to a brand new demographic of adult fans.