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Parks benefit from the power of the brand(s)

Having taken an initial look at the use of intellectual property (IP) in parks earlier this year, in another instalment on the subject in this issue of InterPark we delve further into the world of IP, talking to operators and other experts about the success of particular projects, the expectations they create for the audience and the importance of a superb end product, as well as highlighting some specific attractions that have been created around well-known IPs. Andrew Mellor reports

ITEC Entertainment was involved in the creation of Batman the Ride attractions at two Six Flags parks (Image courtesy of ITEC Entertainment)

PARKS and attractions making use of intellectual property on rides or in fully themed areas put themselves under considerable scrutiny and create a heightened expectancy among guests. Fans of a particular IP will expect a high quality replication of what they have seen in films, books and on TV, so no matter how far a park may take its use of a branded attraction or area, it must be done very well to succeed. The true benefits of why a particular IP was chosen and used will then come to the fore. “Pre-sold brand recognition is the obvious advantage

of licensing intellectual properties,” says Bob Rogers at BRC Imagination Arts. “But as storytellers who create the attractions, BRC Imagination Arts also appreciates something else - to serve shorter attention spans, our stories need to be instantly understood. Licensed brands and characters achieve this. “Attention spans are shrinking,” he continues. “Today,

Image ©2009 Universal Orlando. All Rights Reserved

our guests expect to walk up to any new product, even something as complex as an automobile or a toaster oven, and intuitively know how to work it. Computers and cell phones have taught us that we should never need to read the instructions. (These days, opening the computer’s instruction manual usually signifies that you have given up all hope of ever solving the problem). “In the same way, our guests expect to understand

our theme parks and attractions instantly and effortlessly. Guests have no patience for ‘exposition,’ the sometimes boring background information that the reader or audience needs in order to understand the characters, motivations or action. Today’s guest wants to skip ahead and immediately plunge into the good stuff. “From a storytelling point of view great IPs represent a

huge responsibility. Imagine getting the detail wrong on a Harry Potter or Star Wars based attraction. Aficionados would pick up on it immediately. They (the audience) want to go to places they’ve seen on TV and in films. The imagination of the creator must take a back seat to do this and concentrate on the fine detail. It is a privilege and responsibility to build things based on famous IP.”

58 To minimize the owner’s risk, storytellers and designers

are often forced to recycle the tried and true rather than invent the new, says Rogers. Basing a themed attraction on established characters or familiar stories reduces risk, at least on paper, he adds. “Who can blame the owner for wanting to minimise the risks associated with developing multi- million dollar projects. “For attraction creators, this means clients will

be asking you to do more and more ‘derivative’ work. Characters and settings will mainly be imported into the themed entertainment business from movies and television. There will be more spin-ins than spin-offs. It will be harder to sell new intellectual property. And directly or indirectly, the wisest of planners will leverage the stories their audience already knows. All this, because the 21st century audience doesn’t have the patience to take on the completely new,” while he adds: “In all fairness, a lot of original work is still done in the theme park industry, just not enough.” Longevity is also a key element, he says, while also

pointing out that no matter what IP an attraction is based on “if it’s not done well, it won’t succeed.” From a supplier point of view too, IP based attractions

have become increasingly significant. At Belgium-based 3DBA, Roger Houben reveals he is currently working with many well-known IPs, such as Cartoon Network, Marvel and Classic Media brands including Casper Scary School, George of the Jungle and Finley the Fire Engine. And he believes IPs aimed at the younger market are the best to make use of if a park is thinking about an IP based attraction. “Many of the cartoon based IPs are the best, so an age

demographic of five to 12 years old is the best to aim at. Some IPs target the four to eight and six to 12 year old groups, but five to 12 is the strongest group. If you go with Marvel, as another example, that covers all age groups, while if you use a film based IP, such as Men in Black, the age group would be 12 to 18. But they are not as loyal (as younger children) so you would see these combined with larger attractions. And does he feel the use of a strong IP is a guarantee

of success?

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