[OPINION] The Future Of Ninjago And The Incoming Outrage

First off, I need to come clean. I was one of those Ninjago fans who assured everyone that the movie and TV show were completely separate. Then I logged onto Twitter today and saw this picture.

Perhaps it was just wishful thinking, but the bleedover between the Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu show and The Lego Ninjago Movie, the bleedover we hoped would never happen, has begun. And like many things in life, there are at least two extreme arguments. One is that the TV show is done for, that the movie is going to melt into each and every episode and create an entirely different, and assumably terrible, show. Another is that the separation is final and that there is no bleedover – simply paralleling the show and movie for the sake of marketing and advertisement.

The thing about extreme arguments is that they’re rarely right.

But while the Hagemen Brothers have been answering the outcry of fans, and while I appreciate their sentiments, not even the show’s writers can curb this bleedover.

With all due respect, that is a little too optimistic and unrealistic of a tweet. The bleedover is inevitable considering that a small show is in the shadow of a several million-dollar animated movie, a movie everyone and their grandmother wants to see at this point. New fans will be arriving soon, and the current fanbase is going to have to batten down the hatches and figure out how they want to respond.

In the end, though the writers and producers have a lot of say in the show itself, the final call depends on the fanbase. Not the fans, the fanbase – there is a difference. There are two ways I can see this process developing, what with the information we have regarding Season 8 and that regarding the movie.

Scenario 1: The Ninjago fanbase expands and evolves by force

If The Lego Ninjago Movie is a massive success, there are going to be swarms of new fans drawn in by the movie. Whether it be the tone, the aesthetic, the plot, the story, or anything else, those fans are going to want to pursue the story further – though no one can guarantee they’ll watch 7 seasons, 2 pilot episodes, and 1 special to catch up. That’s where the genius in Season 8 comes to play – marketing genius.

The planning of Season 8 is a brilliant strategy to prepare for the influx of new Ninjago fans, an influx expected to practically overwhelm the current fanbase. More fans means more interest in the line – but I’ll let the Hageman brothers explain:

They’re right – and they are working with the world’s number 1 toy brand, which drops millions of dollars into advertising and marketing strategies. These are businessmen and businesswomen who have had years to learn from their triumphs and their mistakes. As if the timing could not be any better, let us look back to BIONICLE G2 for a moment. With BIONICLE G2, we all learned the hard way that fresh, eager fans are far more powerful than the hardcores – and that their involvement in a new product can be the difference between theme life and theme death. This isn’t dedication-to-the-fanbase-power, or show-watching-veteran-power, this is raw consumerism power. With that context in mind, the future strategy for Ninjago, a nearly seven year old theme, is quite clear – get the new fans on board. More eyes, more dollars, more Ninjago.

Make no mistake, the new fans also care if Lloyd’s eyes are now green in the show, or if Jay has freckles – but not for the same reason the current hardcore fans care. The movie is going to be their Ninjago, the Ninjago they will be introduced to as we were introduced to Ninjago via “Way of the Ninja” and “King of Shadows.” They will be turned away by much different looking characters and a different plot, thus Lego is acting now lest they lose these new fans – fans who are expecting something super similar to the movie they recently saw. As I mentioned to a friend on Twitter: from an economic perspective, the bleedover is inevitable, and the marketing and administrative power leans in favor of the movie, not the show.

With BIONICLE G2, we all learned the hard way that fresh, eager fans are far more powerful than the hardcores – and that their involvement in a new product can be the difference between theme life and theme death.

And so the Ninjago fanbase will inevitably expand, but it will also evolve. New fans will crave for new fan content. Well-known Ninjago fans and fan groups like TannerFishies, DTinaglia, TTV, and so many others will have to keep up with the new fan content in order to stay relevant. In the wake of it all, new fans will rise to celebrity status because they know the new audience. This is the inevitable evolution.

Of course, there’s another route the bleedover can take.

Scenario 2: The Ninjago fanbase takes a beating

No, the fanbase is not going to up and die – the title is simply extreme because I felt like grabbing your attention. If anything, it would be more of a slow dance (with death).

This is the scenario where The Lego Ninjago Movie is anything less than spectacular and it doesn’t quite succeed. Now, the fans coming from that movie will be far fewer and the damage to the series will already have been done. The new fans that are expected to plug into the show will not be there, and the current fans will be dismayed by the fallout and the damage done to their show. The fan influx would be damaged, many current fans would be discouraged, and suddenly the fanbase would find itself at a low point.

In the end, whether you like it or not, the Ninjago fanbase needs the movie to succeed if it is ever going to have a bright future. If you consider yourself a fan of Ninjago at the time of this article, your best bet is to go watch the movie, buy the sets you like, and have fun watching it. Then be ready for the new fans and the new show. Who knows, perhaps something radical and crazy will happen and you’ll actually enjoy the new path the show takes?

Then again, did we really expect Ninjago to last forever? I don’t care what you think of the show – assuming Ninjago would always be what it is now is an unreasonable stretch.

One last thing: Lego goes far and above the call when it comes to listening to its fans, but they can only do so much until it conflicts with their interests as a company. For perspective’s sake, should Lego risk the jobs and careers of its designer, story, marketing, and production teams simply because a small group of fans demand something that’s economically unfeasible? I really hope you don’t think that’s a good idea.

Here’s the part where I say that hindsight is twenty-twenty, that maybe we’ll look back on the series and the movie in a few years and see 2017 as the best development in the Ninjago community, or that it was the catalyst that killed everything, or maybe it was not quite as bad as we all anticipated.

The more I think about it, the more I’m sure it’s going to be that third one.

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