The owner of brands including Basil Brush, Postman Pat and George of the Jungle, Entertainment Rights boasts a portfolio of licensed properties perfectly suited to amusement park audiences. Recently acquired by Boomerang Media in the United States, the company now plans develop a varied range of branded attractions using its characters.
It was such family-friendly fare as that highlighted above that persuaded Roger Houben of 3D Branded Attractions (3DBA) to appoint Entertainment Rights as a key provider of content for his new enterprise Immersive Intellectual Property. Owen Ralph visited the company’s London offices recently to talk with global head of live entertainment Mat Way, live entertainment manager Clare Wiggins, and Roger Houben of 3DBA.
Why did you choose to work with Entertainment Rights?
Roger Houben – When I started my company, I had always wanted to do something with IP (intellectual property), that’s why I called it 3D Branded Attractions.
Three years ago I decided to visit the New York Licensing Show. I had around seven or eight meetings and then I waked into the Entertainment Rights booth; it really caught my eye, with George of the Jungle, Casper and Finley the Fire Engine all in one line. From my experience of theme parks, those were the right products that we could easily maximise and also the look was very attractive for this market. We had a very nice meeting and the rest if history
People may not have realised it before, but that is what we stand for at 3DBA: Interactive, immersive and media-based attractions. As well as Entertainment Rights we are also working with other partners including Falcon’s Treehouse and Art Project (art and design), P&P Projects (theming), Alterface (interactive technology), Kraftwerk (AV systems and 4D theatres), nWave (3D/4D films), SkyTrack (Airball ride systems) Westech and Preston & Barbieri (family rides). I’m pleased that we are now able to prove all that we can do.
What attracted you to the theme park market?
Mat Way – By developing immersive attractions we can present exciting opportunities for consumers to engage with our brands in a way they’ve never experienced previously. It should also provide us with cross marketing opportunities that will offer more value to the customer, in addition to driving consumer product sales. Although it will become a licensing and revenue stream for us, I think the most important thing will be that deepening of the relationship with the brand.
Brands are now playing a large part in people’s lives and parents want to take a more active role in what their children enjoy. It’s no longer just enough to sit them down in front of the television, we are seeing more parents and grandparents taking children out to live shows, theme parks etc. That’s great news for us as some of our brands have a tremendous heritage, making them very strong across several generations. We hope to create a very nice environment within a park that will increase the dwell time, leverage good retail sales and keep the family together.
What are you looking for in a park operator?
MW – We want to work with what we consider to be like-minded parties, not necessarily the parks with the largest footfall, but a partner that understands the brand, has the same integrity and values, and has the marketing team that understands how it can work with the brand. We are licensing something that is very precious to us and therefore we want the right people to do business with and that’s why we appointed Roger.
How does an operator justify the extra investment?
MW – The value really is that your’re investing in a brand that is going to get ongoing support and cross marketing. We work with the best broadcasters, we’ve got the best partners, and each park will be able to benefit from that.
Parks can also expect an increase in secondary spend. I think once we’ve got our first attractions up and running we will be able to come to the table with some very interesting information about the impact on footfall and retail.
RH – One of the reasons people go into IP is because they want to have something different than the next person. If you look at the family entertainment centres (FECs) in the Middle East and Far East for example, you have so many malls, so you want to offer something different and our combination of IP and attractions offers something unique that cannot be copied.
Surely such attractions are only accessible to larger parks?
RH – No, we want to work with small and medium-sized theme parks too. You do not necessarily need to take over a whole area of a park. For instance, we are also working on some 4D productions, so people can still introduce the brands if they have a theatre.
What will you offer operator in return?
Clare Wiggins – In each territory we will have a number of opportunities to cross promote via television, consumer products, or maybe even a broadcaster that might look to come and broadcast from the park. Once a deal’s closed, it’s not a matter of leaving it, because the partnership is there. We want to work with the parks consistently throughout the term of the contract.
How will you keep the attractions fresh?
CW – There will be some obligations to refresh where necessary. When we produce new characters and new series we want to be able to go back to the partner and incorporate these, and of course it’s in the interest of the park to ensure the attractions remain relevant. There are also other ways of introducing fresh elements, such as a live show.
What’s more important – the brand or the attraction?
MW – Obviously the brand is going to be the fist point of communication with the consumers, but ultimately we want to create genuinely immersive environments. People will have paid quite a lot of money to go the park and will have high expectations so we want to get the attractions right. Although there will be some adaptations of existing products where there’s a natural fit, like a George of the Jungle Splash Battle, many of the attractions are being developed from scratch, and some will be media-based.
RH – One of the attractions will be based around Finley the Fire Engine, which as a brand has everything a theme park wants. However, we are not just going to take a ride and put a sticker on it, we are going to invest in the moulds. Each customer will contribute only a small percentage of the cost, and in return gets a unique product for almost the same as something off the shelf.
What is the “Ready Zone” concept?
RH – To show operators what can be done with a particular area, we want to present a ready-made mix of attractions, which can be changed according to the location. A lot of park owners still think their next investment should be a three or four million dollar rollercoaster, but we want to challenge those people and show them what else they could get for the same money. What is more important – a new rollercoaster that everyone has forgotten about in a couple of years’ time and you then have to write off for the next 10 years, or a Ready Zone based on a strong IP that appeals to a wide range of guests, and is backed up by multiple marketing opportunities?
What attractions will open in the coming months?
RH – The first attraction will be based around Finley the Fire Engine and open in Saudi Arabia within the next four to five months. This will be followed by a Casper themed area within an FEC including an interactive dark ride, plus a George of the Jungle expansion of an FEC including a compact Splash Battle and interactive game/walk-through dark ride. Both these will open elsewhere in the Middle East. We are also working on a 3-2-1 Penguins! 4D film, plus a few brands aimed at an older age group, so it’s quite exciting.