Date of Award

August 2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Media Studies

First Advisor

Michael Z. Newman

Committee Members

Elana H. Levine, Richard K. Popp


Cross Promotional, Franchise, Lego, Licensing, Paratext, Video Game


The purpose of this project is to examine how the cross-promotional Lego video game series functions as the site of a complex relationship between a major toy manufacturer and several media conglomerates simultaneously to create this series of licensed texts. The Lego video game series is financially successful outselling traditionally produced licensed video games. The Lego series also receives critical acclaim from both gaming magazine reviews and user reviews. By conducting both an industrial and audience address study, this project displays how texts that begin as promotional products for Hollywood movies and a toy line can grow into their own franchise of releases that stills bolster the original work. This study also examines why Lego was chosen to co-brand with Disney, Warner Bros., and Lucas Films to create these cross-promotional games. The target audiences and industrial strategy behind these games directly affects the difference between these texts and other licensed adaptation video games on the market. This thesis also analyzes the discourses surrounding the Lego video games to discover what these texts offer above and beyond other licensed games that makes them a unique as cross-promotional products.

By using media studies concepts such as transmedia storytelling and paratexts, this study seeks to determine how audiences construct meaning from the Lego adaptations. Jonathan Gray's notion of paratexts provides the groundwork for this meaning construction. The Lego video games edit the original franchise content to make family-friendly changes, offer the opportunity to create and manipulate the gaming environment, and offer humor through parody, which positions the target audience, young consumers who have not been exposed to the films, to understand the content in a way the Hollywood movie may not offer. In the same manner, parents/adults who have seen the films will have a different experience from interacting with the Lego games. Lego games rejuvenate the older franchises through the parents/adults reexperiencing the material, recruit younger consumers into the franchises with the Lego brand, and entice older non-gaming adults into gaming through the familiar licensed material. This thesis determines that the importance of these video games lies in their accessibility to a mass audience, their ability to function as an independent franchise of releases, and as recruitment tools for not only the licensing franchises and Lego, but for non-gamers to start playing.