Today I spent the day at the FMX Conference in Stuttgart where I’d been asked to introduce the keynote talk “Envisioning the Literary World of Cornelia Funke.” As you may know, Cornelia Funke is an international best-selling author who has penned Wild Chicks, The Thief Lord, the Inkwell series, and Dragon Rider, for example. In the past, Cornelia’s works have often been adapted to film, theater and computer games. However, after her works had been adapted, Cornelia often felt that they no longer matched the image and vision of the story as she saw it inside her head.
The MirrorWorld App
In her newest series, MirrorWorld, Cornelia has decided to extend the story world created in the first two books of the series – Reckless and Fearless – across different media, and to retain creative control over it. She chose Guillermo del Toro’s Mirada Studios as collaborator and Andy Merkin, Producer for Special Projects and Transmedia at Mirada, led the studio-side of her efforts to “build a living, breathing world” that would allow Cornelia to show her readers the story world she had created in her head.
Some of you may remember that Andy already presented this project at last year’s Storyworld Conference. However, as MirrorWorld was still in development back then, Andy was only able to present his and Cornelia’s overall vision for the project and their general transmedia concept. Today, Cornelia and Andy were finally able to show us the final product. The MirrorWorld app is a multi-media experience including 110 minutes of new stories, content, and characters, packed into a combination of cinema, interactive elements, and storybook. All in all, the app provides a highly immersive story experience that offers both Cornelia and her readers the opportunity to explore the MirrorWorld universe without the constraints of just one type of medium.
And let me tell you, it is awesome. It is one of the best, if not *the* best, transmedia experiences I’ve ever seen.
A Perfect Creative Match
Cornelia and Andy both highlighted how their collaboration was marked by an exceptional creative match, and it shows in every feature
and every piece of content presented in the app. “It was like they could see into my head,” Cornelia explained. While she had brought the initial story universe to the table and Andy’s task was to implement her vision, both fed off the creative energy of each other. Mirada’s employees asked Cornelia the right questions – e.g. what happens if one of the child-eating witches in the story ate too old a child? – which prompted Cornelia to let her imagination roam further. At the same time, Mirada took care not to bend Cornelia’s stories to technology. As Andy explained: “We tried to use technology at any given point to further the narrative. Rather than saying ‘Look at the cool things we can do with technology!’ it was only to further the story.”
The MirrorWorld app consciously steers away from a game format in order to continue the feeling of immersing oneself in an imaginary world. On that same note, the app lets the user chose between a book mode and a spectacle mode (i.e. read a story vs. being told/shown the story). No matter which one the user chooses, s/he explores the “World Behind the Mirror” on their own accord, in a non-linear way. The graphics, designs and animations are exceptional, and the look, feel and tone of MirrorWorld remains perfect throughout the entire experience, starting with the moment the user him/herself dives through their own mirror image into the MirrorWorld. Moreover, Cornelia’s direct involvement isn’t just limited to the supply of content and vision, either. If you chose, you can even have her herself read the storybook passages to you.
Combining Old and New
In addition to combining different story world elements and different types of media, the Mirror World app also combines old modes of
illustrations with new ones. For example, animations are juxtaposed with traditional, 19th-century embroidery, shadow play, and multi-layered pictures, each type of illustration being used as it fits the narration. And as necessary in a good transmedia project, each piece of content is conclusive enough to stand on its own while giving the overall narrative and story world additional insights and depth.
A Milestone for Storytelling
As Andy proudly told me after the presentation, the MirrorWorld app is made up of over 9000 assets. Compare that with 250 assets that make up your average game app, and you can imagine just how much content the MirrorWorld app holds for its users. Unlike Pottermore and its companions, MirrorWorld offers masses of actual, new content – encyclopedias, background stories, character POVs, pictures, etc. All in all, the app has taken just less than a year to develop and sells at €5.49/$5.99 in the German and American iTunes stores.
I think it becomes quite clear that I am deeply impressed with the MirrorWorld app, and for very good reasons. Go and try it out; it is well executed, truly story-driven, and it it will captivate you right away. The MirrorWorld app really is another milestone for the future of storytelling. I wish that something like this app existed when I was younger and couldn’t get enough of the books I was reading, and I hope even more so that MirrorWorldwill finally pave the way for more transmedia projects like it.