Just Published: Theme Park Insider: 2016 Year in Review
1.) Earthsea-I like to call this series Harry Potter before Harry Potter. Earthsea is a fictional fantasy setting based upon the works of Ursula k. Leguin, a best selling and award winning novelist. What sets Earthsea apart from many other fantasy series is its emphasis on a world which, unlike our own which is mainly comprised of large, single-body continents, consists of hundreds of smaller island nations. The cultures are also more influence from Polynesian/Native American, middle-eastern, and Asian cultures rather than Ye Merry Olde England type of fantasy. The idea of having a fantastic boat ride through Earthsea is highly captivating, let alone the idea that this could possibly be its own park.
2.) Narnia-it's a shame Disney didn't do more with this property as it is truly right up Disneys alley. Talking animals, noble knights, fair queens, child heroes, fantastic settings. I could go on and on about Narnia but I will simply say that Disney really dropped the ball on this one.
3.) Beatrix Potter-I don't know why Universal hasn't tried to go after this property as it could essentially be a competitor with Winnie the Pooh, for which it shares many similarities. And besides, I don't think I know one person who hasn't at least heard of great characters like Peter Rabbit, Tom Kitten, or Jemima Puddleduck. This property SCREAMS kid friendly and it's nostalgic and moral nature would make it popular among older generations as well.
4.) Kingdom Hearts- Maybe this one is more obscure, but this series has some seriously good storytelling and captivating characters. With the announcement of Kingdom Hearts 3 perhaps we may actually see something in a park someday. Probably at one of the Tokyo Disney parks.
5.) LOTR-enough said. Really the only problem with doing a LOTR style park/land or attraction is that Middle-Earth is so stinking huge. Where would you start? Almost too daunting of a task perhaps.
6.) Blizzard Entertainment Properties (World of Warcraft, Diablo, Starcraft)-the creator of (arguably) the most popular video game of all time (WoW), Blizzards Properties are extremely rich in story, setting, and character and are almost universally recognizable, even by people who have never played any of their games. With three rich mythologies to pull from, the Blizzard Properties would provide an almost limitless supply of fresh new ride/attraction material and content. I think we're overdue for certain video games to make their way into theme parks. I can't really think of a better video game property to utilize. I understand that there is a park in China based upon Blizzard's worlds however it is unofficial and has not, nor will ever be approved by Blizzard Entertainment.
7.) Warhammer & Warhammer 40,000-Frankly a dark horse selection, as Warhammer appeals to a niche market. Still, the Warhammer properties offer some very rich backstory and highly detailed worlds upon which to draw upon. I think this may also be a much darker property, as these properties are known for violence and war, not something that most parents want their kids involved in. Yet the possibilities are nearly endless.
8.) Urth-Certainly the most unrecognizable of the properties mentioned so far, Urth is essentially a version of our Earth as it would exist millions of years in the future, when the sun is on the verge of supernova. The world of Urth exists in Gene Wolfe's infamous "Book of the New Sun", arguably the greatest sci-fi novel ever written. Though I think it would be fascinating to see this world brought to life, I fear it may be simply too dark and confusing, as it deals with a feudal system, a large amount of torture, and some of the oddest characters in all of literature. Still,it is a fascinating and incredibly rich world.
So what do y'all think are some properties that are being either overlooked or simply overshadowed by these other, more recognizable properties?
With the exceptions of maybe Narnia and the LOTR franchises, the others have too much of a 'niche' following. Wildly popular with certain groups of people, but others have an extremely limited knowledge of the franchise or even none at all. Then some franchises, like Beatrix Potter's, are sadly outdated. True, it is somewhat popular with kids today - but compare it to other book franchises and it doesn't exactly scream 'theme park potential'. Besides, I think Disney's closure of 'The Wind in the Willows' based attraction in Orlando (in spite of its continuation on the West Coat) suggests possible issues with the longevity of the franchise.
However, who knows. Maybe I've written off these franchises and creative teams who may transform them into something big and inject some life into them.
My kids are 6 and 9 and know ALL the Mario characters, even the fairly obscure ones such as "Wiggler". Further, it's amazing to me how many Mario, Luigi, Yoshi, and other items I see at their school on backpacks, lunchboxes, etc.
I'm actualy in the middle of project feasibility research around one piece of IP , for a location based stand alone attraction. First wild guesses range as much as 20,000 - 150,000 visitors/year. But there will be only one outcome in the real world... alas, after investments being done. Can you feel the sweat breaking out? We're playing with money... So, feasibility study must be done "deep", culturally based. And even then, it's not 100% shure.
Basic considerations from reality :
Not all storylines are open to all markets. It is about both the culture and the language of origin. Mostly confined to one reference market only.
F.i. the examples listed by Blake are American / Anglosaxon produce. Making abstraction of those markets, what is their relevance in the other 85% of the world? Unclear, even if it's a (regrettable) financial fact that "what is written in the English language, is more likely to be translated in other languages, then the other way around". Means, that even average (mediocre?) storytelling originating in english language, can be nominated for "bestseller", while top-level masterpieces originating from small size language zones, sometimes do not receive one single translation into English...
However, mediocre storytelling, even if read by "many", still is mediocre storytelling, so could be refuted to be included in theme parks. ("It was crap, after all...")
Notorious exceptions of worldwide penetration from different-then-English language zones, are... brothers Grimm, C.Perrault, H.C.Andersen, J.Verne, A.de Saint-Exupéry, A.Lindgren, ... well, add 10 more obscure names, and we're done. At least, in the Anglo-saxon penetration zone. In the different native language zones, "hits" may be very different, but confined to small sizes of markets.
F.i. , if Pippi Longstockings is reknowed worldwide, none of the other novels from Lindgren is especially known out of Sweden-Finland, or out of Scandinavia, more generalised. Astrid Lidgrens World park is a HIT in Sweden, would attract only squirrels in other parts of the world.
First conclusion here is
==>> Initial "bestselling" quote is saying something about market size, but nothing about "repeat market reception" value, neither about "correct location" for establishment of such an attraction.
One IP source for a whole theme park, is VERY risky. Walt Disney was 900% opposed to it. He had both a popular saying for it, and a business risk calculation... ;-)
Astrid Lindgren's World, proves it "can" be viable. But nothing tells us that what is achieved in Sweden, could be repeated elsewhere, or with any type of IP. There are countless trials that proved the opposite.
Second conclusion here is
==>> In most cases, it's about the right MIX = risk spreading, and mixed parties attracting. Generally speaking, building parks around one IP source are to be avoided.
Curiously, there are countless instances of IP right holders that refuse cooperation. Film makers approaching novellists, theme parks approaching film makers ... etc, could end up with refusal and even hostilities. "Personal".
So, this plays a role... ;-)
Disney always "TOOK" IP that's old enough to have lost all rights, yet advocated heavily to get the rights on their own production up from 50 > 70 years. (Not really clean business) (Any way, that's off topic rant, isn't it ?? ;-) See all clear reasoning behind this symbol : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Disney-infinite-copyright.svg )
Third conclusion here is
==>> It's not because you 'want' to use some IP , that you will be allowed to do so.
There seems to be a long forgotten principle in the world of creativity. The original act to "CREATE" = generating spinn-offs. Re-use, is just being one spinn-off.
Disney created a few original attractions, not based on previous IP. Is it too commonplace to remind that The Haunted Mansion, and Pirates of the Caribean were there FIRST, then film was made "based on", then the attraction re-inforced the success etc etc. Redone the trick with Tower of Terror. Anyway: this path is MORE successfull, then buying in IP, and being 2nd or 3rd grade/generation, only.
Other example. Efteling originally created the "Laaf people" attraction. Since debute of the attraction, hunderds of thousands of Laaf-lings are populating gardens in and around the Netherlands. Or, the creation of the original mascotte "Pardoes" in the Efteling, led to a TV series from Efteling, and now will be followed up by a massive dark ride, which will probably induce a follow up TV series.
Fourth conclusion here is
==>> True creativity takes/builds "prime position" to anchor a longlasting future. Corporate thinking (uncreative), only provokes running behind "successfull things". That could prove to be late... ;-)
I could even add to all this, something from real-reality :
Buy-in IP. Are you safe ? Not necessarily.
There could be a quarrel, one day. Before you know it, the theme park and the IP right holder meet each other again, in court. Don't say this does not happen, it DOES, and more then is good for business.
You will never meet in court, with yourself, if you produce your own IP, of course... ;-)
Park gets a new owner ? Problem ! The IP right aggreements are not moving on with the new owner !... Again whether BIG costs, or meeting in court.
Do the (short term) profits really outweigh these risks? Who is going to predict that...
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