WEDNESDAY: A Case Study in Building a Successful IP Spinoff
Ever since Netflix released Wednesday, a spin-off series based on the infamous 1930s comic created by Charles Addams, “The Addams Family,” viewers have not been able to get enough of the fantastically morbid and irresistibly macabre series.
Racking up more than a billion hours of views within the span of a month, Wednesday quickly reached Netflix’s coveted #1 spot, becoming the second most viewed Netflix original of all time.
What made this show such a hit?
Well…to put it simply, Wednesday did!
Using StoryFit’s AI character analysis technology, we gleaned a variety of insights to determine what made it resonate so well with audiences and why — out of all the kooky, spooky, and ooky family members — why was Wednesday the one who got to go solo?
Wednesday is a Gold Standard Character!
A Character Score is an overall indicator of a character’s potential as it measures the strong and defining character traits audiences will recognize. A higher score is always better as this character assessment correlates to the success of a series.
A Gold Standard character is the calling card for a series — their unique amalgamation of traits makes them interesting, which inspires viewers to follow their journeys.
Looking at the most popular adaptation of the family as a whole — the 90s Sonnenfield film franchise — we measured each family member’s character score across both films to see who stood apart from the rest.
While Morticia reached the Gold Standard in the first film, and Gomez reached it in the second, it was Wednesday who was consistently a Gold Standard character in both. Uncle Fester and Pugsley don’t reach Gold Standard status in either films, so Wednesday came out as the clear winner overall.
Taking this into consideration, it’s no wonder creatives perceived Wednesday as the character most deserving of her own rich story world and spinoff series.
Consistently Bold, Complex, and Likable!
After identifying the film Wednesdays’ Character Score strengths, we compared & contrasted The Addams Family and The Addams Family Values Wednesday character from the Netflix revamp.
All the Wednesdays come across as competent main characters fit to run their own show. They are Bold, Courageous, and Heroic, capable of pushing a narrative forward due to their curious, proactive personalities.
They are Complex, Interesting, and Likable — this provides them with the nuance necessary to sustain a narrative across multiple properties, and the appeal required to keep audiences engaged in their journeys.
Their Unique-Thinking gets them out of pernicious situations, while their ability to Keep Promises generates further appreciation because they stick to their word.
Overall, they drive the story and do so in multi-faceted ways that highlight their idiosyncratic honor code.
In terms of their distinguishing traits, the newest Wednesday is more Arrogant, Honest, and Creative than her alternate versions. Her Arrogance manifests in her judgmental, anti-social behavior when she dryly scorns her fellow Nevermore classmates or family members.
Her Honesty arises in situations where she showcases her blunt, matter-of-fact speech patterns, and her Creativity comes through in scenes where she handles problems on her own terms (to varying degrees of success).
She’s The Perfect Anti-Hero Lead For a Series!
Motivational traits reflect how a character thinks, while Behavioral traits are typically a character’s outward response to their thought patterns. Looking at the current Wednesday individually, several Motivational and Behavioral traits arise at high levels.
Wednesday’s most defining characteristics are her Arrogant thought patterns and Harmful behaviors. She’s quick to belittle and put down those she considers her intellectual inferiors (Arrogance), and is introduced dropping a swarm of piranhas into a high school swimming pool populated with water polo members (Harmful).
These characteristics in conjunction with her more prosocial traits — like Altruism, Keeping Promises, and Honesty — make her a Complex Anti-Hero that piques viewer curiosity and inspires begrudging appreciation.
Her Vulgarity — which manifests in moments where she bluntly delivers clever, morbid details — makes her a Unique, Creative thinker unafraid to push the boundaries of normality, which helps generate a favorable audience perception of her Thought Provoking and Interesting personality.
The amalgamation of all these characteristics makes Wednesday a multi-faceted character fit to lead a series, and a Likable Anti-Hero that audiences can root for!
Wednesday’s Strengths Garner An Expansive Story World
Given that Wednesday Addams is such a strong and defining anti-hero lead, it makes sense that creators would want to set her apart in her own expansive story world.
StoryFit’s Character Network is a visual map of characters’ Centrality to the overall story. Centrality measures the percentage of shared scenes a character has with others in the story. The more scenes a character shares with other characters, the higher their Centrality.
Looking closely at the visual network, Wednesday rests in the very center of a spider-web of characters, linked to almost everyone in the pilot — aside from very minor characters.
Wednesday has the most scenes with her colorful roommate Enid, so their connecting line is the thickest, followed by connections to Tyler, Principal Weems, and her family members (Morticia, Gomez, Pugsley).
Notably, Wednesday’s connection to Xavier is thinner than the one to her other love interest in the season — Tyler. This means the pilot spent more time establishing the relationship between Wednesday and Tyler than Wednesday and Xavier, which coincides with the dialogue breakdowns for the characters.
With 39% dialogue, Wednesday has over 3X the amount as Enid (the character with the 2nd most dialogue), and almost 4X the amount as Tyler (who has the 3rd most dialogue).
She also has 95% Centrality, further establishing her role as the heart of the pilot.
The other characters listed in the chart are considered Secondary due to their lower dialogue percentages and/or lower Centrality.
Wednesday’s Superpowers: Modernizing an Existing IP
Compared to its genre norm, the Wednesday pilot has 5 distinguishable superpowers that mark it apart from other TV Drama Fantasies and previous Addams Family films to make it a standout in today’s entertainment environment.
The story element, Superheroes is 2x more prominent in the Wednesday pilot, which coincides with the presence of the Nevermore students and their varying supernatural abilities.
Wednesday’s own burgeoning psychic visions — which allow her to see both past and future memories upon physical contact — are also grouped under this term.
Destiny is 1.4x stronger than the norm, which is a reflection of Wednesday’s prophesied role as the student who will destroy Nevermore, a safe haven for all the Outcasts in need of an accepting and nourishing community wherein they can finesse their powers.
Wednesday’s alliances with characters like Enid, Thing, and Tyler make Teamwork 1.2x stronger than the norm, while Manipulation foreshadows Tyler’s betrayal and references Rowan’s superpower of telekinesis.
The element of Fear lies in Rowan’s untimely death at the very end of the pilot, as he’s mercilessly killed by Hyde.
Incorporating Traits From Other Successful TV Drama-Fantasy Leads
Wednesday vs. Sabrina and Buffy!
StoryFit also looked at two other iconic TV Drama-Fantasy series that revolve around teenage female protagonists and the weight of destiny on their shoulders — Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and the ever relevant Buffy the Vampire Slayer.We compared Wednesday to Sabrina and Buffy to see which traits they have in common, and then compared their scores to the genre norm, to see how much stronger they are against the average. Unsurprisingly, this trio is defined by their roles as Heroes. The size of the bubble corresponds to the strength of the leads’ traits compared to the genre norm.
Facing everything from Dark Baptisms, vampire masters, and falling gargoyle statues, Wednesday, Sabrina, and Buffy face the world with a Bold and Courageous outlook. Known for their Innovative quick quips and confidence, they also Keep Their Promises, which makes them reliable and honorable, which feeds into their Heroism.
The combination of their traits makes them Complex, Interesting, and Likable leads that can stand the test of time (and garner a strong response from audiences for decades).
The Hero’s Journey, The Big Bads, and The Banality of Teendom
We also combined the 3 pilots to assess their story metrics against the genre norm and see where they really excelled.
Story elements commonly seen in a Fantasy Hero’s Journey are strong in these titles, with Superpower and Chosen One 1.6x stronger than the average, and Heroism 1.3x stronger.
Borrowing a term popularized by Buffy, The Big Bad is the glowering, malicious figure intent on causing trouble for the hero in any manner possible. All three shows incorporate this figure in a unique way, but are sure to include it in the central narrative.
And what Fantasy Drama series about a teenage girl would be complete without depicting the banality of Teendom? Popular themes like Fitting In, Being Yourself, and Friendship stand at the forefront of adolescent struggle.
No film or TV series can stand the test of time without a strong character at the front-and-center, and Wednesday proves to be just that.
As the leading character in previous adaptations of The Addams Family, Wednesday possesses all the essential characteristics showrunners look for when making a spin off series and audiences latch on to when finding their next favorite character to root for.
We can’t wait to see what season 2 has in store.
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