More Than Meets the EyeSpecial Effects and the Fantastic Transmedia Franchise

More Than Meets the EyeSpecial Effects and the Fantastic Transmedia Franchise

Bob Rehak

Print publication date: 2018

ISBN: 9781479813155

Publisher: NYU Press

Abstract

Today’s franchises of fantastic media depend on visual effects for their existence, not just in their local textual homes (a feature film, a TV episode, a videogame) but across multiple screens and platforms, working transmedially to build ongoing storyworlds, imbue bodies with evidence of life, and ultimately to travel freely as spectacular subgenres in themselves. In this book’s four case studies, major fantastic franchises of the last half century—Star Trek, Star Wars, the Middle Earth films, and The Matrix—reveal themselves as busy sites of negotiation between the late analog era of the 1960s and 1970s and the digital blockbuster era that followed. Arguing that this colonization took place largely in and through the visual effects design and engineering of high-profile media properties, the chapters explore television series art direction and its relationship to an amateur “blueprint culture,” documenting the contents of media’s imaginary worlds; the previsualization practices through which visual effects rebrand complex webs of creative contributions under the sign of the techno-auteur; the animation traditions that bring special-effects-assisted performances to life; and the role of special effects in larger circuits of visual culture. Approaching special effects both as specific technological practices and discursive performances of behind-the-scenes labor, More Than Meets the Eye plumbs the analog roots of contemporary transmedia franchises to find the unexpected behaviors and impacts of special effects that hide in plain sight, constructing perceptions of narrative worlds and characters as on another level they construct our collective ways of imagining franchise cinema, digital media, and technological change.