Lost in Oz creators take the Alexa brick road

Bureau of Magic's founders on creating an Alexa skill to get kids engaged in the animated series ahead of its season two premiere on June 8.
June 6, 2018

In the nine months since Amazon put out its first Alexa skills for kids, the voice-assistant technology has quickly become a creative way for producers to market TV series to today’s connected kids. From Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob Challenge to Amazon Storytime activities that feature Prime Originals such as Niko and the Sword of Light, producers are coming around to the idea that you can’t truly have a 360-degree IP without some kind of voice tech integration.

Now Amazon is capitalizing on its own tech to promote the second season of its series Lost in Oz, with a new Alexa skill titled Lost in Oz: Dorothy Gale & The Wizard’s Labyrinth. 

Bureau of Magic’s Darin Mark, one of the co-creators of the series and app, says Choose Your Own Adventure books were an inspiration for the team behind the app. “Choose Your Own Adventure books were a game-changer when it came to reading time because it was about participating in the story. To bring this structure of storytelling to Alexa is very exciting. In the future, as new technologies develop, we’d love to explore those storytelling possibilities for Lost in Oz.

Based on the Oz books by L. Frank Baum, the 13 x 25-minute series Lost in Oz is created and produced by LA-based production company Bureau of Magic in collaboration with Amazon, where it’s currently available. The pilot originally aired in 2015, followed by the rest of season one in 2016, with the new season set to premiere on June 8. After the Alexa team saw what Bureau of Magic did with the show, they approached them with the idea of working together to expand it into a skill. Lost in Oz‘s Alexa skill has been available in the US since May 9 and will soon roll out internationally.

“The way we designed the story was tease up new characters and information for season two,” says fellow co-creator Abram Makowka.

After first enabling the skill, users can launch the game by saying “Alexa, launch Lost in Oz.” Following voice prompts, users can play through a 25-minute branched narrative game involving multiple-choice questions and answers. Previous knowledge of the show isn’t required, but the creators stress that the two are intended to enhance each other.

“The show and the skill are reflective of each other. They are both about decision-making,” says Mark.

This move into voice as both a marketing technique and a way to boost fan engagement is a prudent one, in light of current research into the tech. According to a study by the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI), one in four parents have a smart speaker in their home, and almost 94% of these parents are comfortable with their child using it. Taking note of this potential to reach younger listeners, Amazon has upped its kid offerings on its Alexa-connected devices, including the recently launched Echo Dot Kids Edition featuring child-friendly, ad-free radio stations and playlists, along with 300 audible kids books.

Bureau of Magic isn’t the first to jump into this realm as a way to expand on an existing property. As the average consumer grows more advertisement-adverse, traditional marketing arenas such as print or TV commercials are struggling to break through and companies have been looking for a voice-activated way to cut through the noise. Bandai Namco recently used the tech as an opportunity to make its iconic property Pac-Man more relevant for today’s kids with its Pac-Man Stories skill. LEGO also followed suit, adding an audio element to its play pattern with LEGO Duplo Stories, an interactive story that involves kids building LEGO toys to the prompts given on the speaker.

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