Matthew Ball said a while back that Disney isn't really in the business of making films—or at least, their doing that is only the first step. Where they really make their money is developing IPs that audiences “love”, and monetising that “love”.
This is something that I feel has been quite well-understood elsewhere for a while: McDonalds has always (as long as I've been alive, anyway) made itself tremendously appealing to small children by having meals with toys in and play areas and bright primary colours—building "love" that's cashed in later when the kids are older, deciding which fast food place to go to and plumping for McDonalds because of the subconscious warm fuzzy feeling.
It feels somehow more cynical when applied to storytelling; I want stories to be stories, not units of content. It comes to something when the Hasbro cartoons selling you toys feel more honest than the things trying to sell you continued investment in the ~intellectual property~.
But I think it can be 'come by honestly', almost backed-into in some cases. It feels related to the 'sonic locations' Jay's talking about here—particularly the ones with detailed descriptions. There are a few channels like this that I follow: this one is less explicitly narrative and more vibes-y:
but I find a lot of this emerges through one of my favourite genres: lofi hiphop compliations. I watch (or at least have on) a lot of lofi videos; they’re really good background noise for work and rest alike. I'm not an expert on their history but my exposure to lofi videos began—as I think a lot of people's did—with ChilledCow's "lofi hip hop radio - beats to relax/study to", a continuous Youtube livestream of woozy instrumentals and muted beats with the famous "lofi girl" (the whole channel has recently been re-named after her, much like Games Workshop changing their name to Warhammer).
Interestingly, the channel's visuals were originally a gif from the Ghibli anime Whisper Of The Heart until it got taken down as a copyright violation. This lead to the owners commissioning their own version (though one clearly pretty closely based on the original). If this hadn't happened, I think it might've been more difficult for them to develop the channel in the way it has been. They realised that nice as the compilations were, people had become really attached to the gif of the girl, so you got variations, with chilling in various different areas of her flat:
(and of course you can buy prints of the lofi girl: I have one, it hangs over the microwave on my kitchen wall.) You also have her nemesis, the Chillhop Music raccoon:
who started as one of a few little cartoon lads in the images for their compilations and has again clearly chimed with the audience and thus slowly grown to become a character in his own right, with merch and everything. Now every season that passes you have a new stage in his adventures. For a while he was staying at this fancy lakehouse:
but now he’s moved to Chill City with his pals:
I should stress: these are things I have on in the background, but I definitely feel some of that investment. Where’s the raccoon going to end up next?
These are more slowly-developed worlds that you see if you've been watching the channels for years, but there are some channels that start from this premise: Blue Turtle’s very nice Lando-looking illustrations of a character on an adventure, for instance:
Or the Dreamhop Totoro lad:
Or this other Chillhop thingforest tales, which go as far as having words in the videos:
Or the cat on the train:
I don’t think this is inherently bad or anything (like I do for the Marvel films etc); I find it fascinating that what are ostensibly music compilations, Now That's What I Call Music For 20somethings To Code To, are all moving in this direction. It’s almost like coming up with the characters has caused them to create a different, situationally specific way to tell stories—like the Burma-Shave billboards (perhaps tellingly, an advertisement), emerging from the way things are presented.