Vote of the week: What's the top animated franchise you want to see in a theme park?
Written by Robert Niles
Yesterday's opening of the new Madagascar stage show at Busch Gardens Tampa surprised a few readers who hadn't heard the news that Universal no longer holds the rights to use all the DreamWorks Animation characters in its United States theme parks. Universal and DreamWorks did not renew that licensing deal, though Universal has re-upped for the theme park rights to the Shrek franchise.
From the Shrek land at Universal Studios Singapore: Go home, Gingy, you're drunk.
SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment then signed for the U.S. theme park rights to the Madagascar characters, setting the stage for the new production in Tampa this week. Another production of the same show will debut at sister park SeaWorld San Diego next month. Character meals and meet-and-greets are on the way, too.
These deals apply only in the United States, though. A trip abroad can blow the mind of any American theme park fan who's gotten used to seeing certain characters in certain parks. Merlin Entertainments has had the rights to use the Madagascar characters in its parks in Europe. And Universal retains the rights to these DreamWorks characters for its park in Singapore, where Universal's built entire lands devoted to Shrek and Madagascar. Universal also holds the rights to use the Sesame Street and Peanuts characters in its Asian theme parks, where SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment and Cedar Fair don't have a presence.
The "Madagascar: A Crate Adventure" ride from Universal Studios Singapore
Licensing rights are multi-million-dollar deals for film studios that don't have their own theme parks, and for parks looking to expand beyond their own intellectual property. Market leader Disney's long relied on its in-house collection of animation franchises to populate its parks. And Universal's going all-in with its own Despicable Me franchise, building a new attraction and Super Silly Fun Land area at Universal Studios Hollywood, to complement the existing Despicable Me ride in Florida. But before Gru and the Minions came along, Universal had to rely on licensing deals, including DreamWorks, Nickelodeon, and Jay Ward characters.
But these licensing deals pay off for theme parks only when they move people to visit. Of the top movie animation franchises out there today, which is the one that would most influence you to visit a particular theme park, if it featured those characters? We'll make this our vote of the week. We're looking only at feature film animation franchises not developed by Disney or Universal. For our five selections, I've included four of the top-grossing animated film franchise, according to BoxOfficeMojo.com, along with an up-and-coming franchise that promises to be the next into the top five, based on the success of its first film (of three now planned).
Obviously, the number-one grossing franchise, Shrek, already is in several Universal theme parks. But consider both existing attractions and the potential for future rides and shows when casting your vote. Or, if that's too complicated, let's just make this easier: Which franchise's characters would you most want to take a photo with in a meet-and-greet?
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