Figure 1: “Pandora: The World of Avatar” (2018)
“In the business of entertainment design, you will come across people who will say, ‘Why can’t it just be fun?’ … there is a logical answer. Fun is cheap.” -Former Disney Imagineer Joe Rhode.
This is the paraphrased version of an opening statement from the legendary Disney Imagineer. His work was in the theme park industry, but I believe the speech he made on the cheapness of simply making entertainment “fun” on his Instagram relates to the entertainment industry as a whole. He goes on to explain,
“Theme parks are a form of communication between designers and audiences… They are relationships. People like worthy, invested, meaningful relationships… not cheap ones.”
This phrase can very much be applied to film, television, video games, literature, and music. How many previously popular IPs have we seen fail in entertainment as of late because they didn’t understand their audience? Did they take into consideration how it would impact them? Off the top of my head, I can name the failures of Terminator: Dark Fate, Halo Infinite, Solo, and Lightyear as prime examples. Doing just the bare minimum for entertainment to be “fun” and making established audiences feel cheated can absolutely tank franchises that were once seen as too big to fail. People saw these as the meager, disrespectful, and exploitative additions that they were, and those traits do not make for a lasting relationship.
An example of an IP with a strong brand and lasting power is the manga/anime One Piece. This is a ridiculously long series with several dozens of arcs to read through/watch. Despite the huge task of consuming so much content, the manga series is set to overtake Superman as the most bought comic series in the world, but it is also a story with so much content that has yet to reach its conclusion. Oda, the creator, has been very open with taking input from fans of all kinds of backgrounds of what they would like to see in the story and what the characters mean to them. Being personable to your audience can be felt in the finished product. This includes showing your audience you believe in their intelligence, understanding what the characters mean to them, and not taking them for granted. All things are demonstrated throughout One Piece, ensuring it will remain a strong IP for years to come.
We constantly see more revivals, sequels, remakes, and the like of classic IPs fail in recent memory because of the lack of a strong relationship with audiences. Studios believe naively that just because the IP has an established strong relationship, it won’t diminish no matter how much they show a misunderstanding of the IP. We all know this. However, I don’t think we, as aspiring storytellers, understand that this lack of care for an audience is rampant among rookies in the entertainment industry. When you create a story, characters, and a world and say this is what I want to see, you are expressing a lack of interest in a relationship with a fanbase. Successful IPs care about the stories people want to see, the characters they want to see, and the worlds they want to see. If your story sucks or people don’t like your creations, you need to listen more and think more about what an audience wants. Selfish storytelling, whether for a new or established IP, kills the relationship, and the IP will not proceed to success.
Creators and audiences have a relationship when something is created. Selfishness will kill your creation, shallowness will kill it, and not caring about your audience will kill it. Invested relationships take a lot of communication and work; that’s what it takes to make a lasting strong IP.
“Pandora: The World of Avatar,” (2018), digital image, CNBC, accessed 29 May 2023,