Recently I have been working on a couple of projects involving popular IP’s. It’s been a very interesting learning process and I thought I would share some take out and opinions.
The first project is the recently announced MAPS Perak, Asia’s 1st animation theme park. The park will feature a DreamWorks-dedicated zone with Megamind, Casper The Friendly Ghost, Mr Peabody & Sherman and The Croods.
The other project is a BBC multi-branded attraction concept design for a new generation shopping mall in China, featuring some of BBC’s most popular IP’s such as CBeebies, Top Gear and Walking With Dinosaurs.
In discussing with both licensing teams it is clear there is a strong appetite for location-based entertainment for a couple reasons. One is purely commercial as they see the fast growing visitor attractions industry in Asia as a new licensing revenue opportunity; the other is more about awareness and relationship with the brands by engaging further with their audience in a different and more emotional way.
To some extend one might wonder if the modern concept of attractions, epitomized by Disney parks, was not invented to serve brands and IP’s. In a recent article in Funworld, I discovered that Walt Disney was commissioned for 4 of the pavilions at the New York World’s Fair in 1964-65 by brands like Pepsi Cola, GE and Ford, which he used as testing ground for his Florida park a few years later (some of the pavilions became actual rides). The Walt Disney touch he used to engage audiences with brands at the Fair was later used to engage audiences with Disney’s own IP’s at his parks.
As designers and developers of attractions, IP’s and brands demand that we excel in creativity to constantly find new ways of engaging with audiences. One of my favorite rides of all times – Test Track – was somehow developed for the GM brand and I would argue this is why it’s so good!
Going back to my projects I find we were hugely inspired by the BBC brands and their content to come up with an indoor concept never seen before, epitomizing BBC’s vision and creating experiences adapted to a specific audience in a way that the brands will be taken to a whole new level. Same thing in Malaysia with MAPS Perak. The DreamWorks zone will take visitors on a unique journey where they will build an emotional connection with DreamWorks IP’s as they relate to their values and cultural background. And that will take the park to a whole new level of entertainment in the country.
That being said there are some limitations and downsides. An obvious one is that one should not just apply an IP to an existing or standardized attraction just to draw more attendance – e.g. Cartoon Networks Waterpark in Thailand or Nickelodeon at Sunway Lagoon – as it defeats the whole purpose of using the IP in the creative process and exploring new frontiers. Another one is the risk of oversimplifying stories for quick entertainment value (cf. this excellent analysis of Disney princesses) or limiting the universe of the brand/IP because of time constraint.