SeaWorld expands its Sesame Street license, promising new park and land
SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment today announced an expansion of its licensing deal with Sesame Workshop, the producer of Sesame Street and other children's shows.
Sesame Street characters have appeared at SeaWorld and Busch Gardens parks for decades, with SeaWorld also owning and operating a Sesame Street-themed park, Sesame Place, north of Philadelphia. The new deal calls for SeaWorld to build a second Sesame Place theme park somewhere in the United States, as well as to add a Sesame Street land to SeaWorld's largest park — SeaWorld Orlando, the one park in the chain that has lacked any Sesame Street presence up until now.
Sesame Street provides SeaWorld with its most powerful outside IP — something the chain has lacked in competition with IP-rich Disney and Universal. Once Universal's equal, or superior, in annual attendance, the SeaWorld parks have slipped toward the attendance levels of the Cedar Fair and Six Flags parks the chain's leaders once considered a step below them, ever since SeaWorld left the protection of the Anheuser-Busch corporate umbrella (and lost the free beer) and rival Universal dropped Harry Potter on the industry.
SeaWorld and Busch Gardens have been struggling to find a marketing hook that will allow them to appeal to theme park fans who seem to love the wizards, princesses, and superheroes available to them at competing parks. Even among the preschool and early elementary set that Sesame Street targets, SeaWorld has been losing ground to Legoland, which has undercut SeaWorld's family business in San Diego and now started to do so in Central Florida, too.
Will another Sesame Place park be able to compete with Legoland's ongoing expansion? Compared with Legoland, or any other theme park, the Sesame Place in Pennsylvania in tiny. Located on 14 acres tucked between shopping malls, the park offers a lightly decorated collection of standard kiddie rides: spinners, waveswingers, play areas, and water slides. It's a bulked-up version of the Sesame Street lands you would find at SeaWorld San Diego or Busch Gardens in Tampa or Williamsburg. Compare that with Legoland California and Florida — which offer robust collections of multiple themed lands, offering dozens of attractions with a wider range of ride and show experiences, including interactive dark rides, tours, robocoasters, and hands-on Lego building opportunities — and it's easy to understand why a kid rather would go to Legoland instead.
Ultimately, having a license to an intellectual property isn't as important for a theme park as what the park does with that IP. Sesame Street built its brand on educating preschool children as it entertained them on TV. It took the time to develop its human and Muppet characters, allowing young viewers to feel a relationship with them. While the Sesame Street IP fits perfectly with SeaWorld's stated corporate goal of inspiring and educating its guests, none of SeaWorld's Sesame Street attractions manages to recreate that intimate, educational experience that defines the Sesame Street TV show.
If all SeaWorld does with this expanded license is to dupe another Sesame Place in a suburban mall parking lot somewhere and rebrand Shamu's Happy Harbor in Orlando to Sesame Street Bay of Play, I would expect the market to yawn with indifference. For SeaWorld to get the jumpstart it's seeking with the public, the company needs to throw out its existing Sesame Street designs and work on creating a new experience that more closely reflects what made Sesame Street so powerful among generations of American children.
Whether it is with a ride, show, character meet, or some hybrid of all three, SeaWorld needs an experience that puts young visitors and their families in connection with the beloved Sesame Street characters — breaking the fourth wall of the television screen — so that they can discover and learn something together. And SeaWorld needs to deliver that experience within a themed environment that physically recreates the urban, Greenwich Village-look of the actual Sesame Street from the show. If you're not going to visit the "real" Sesame Street at a SeaWorld park, then what's the point of having the IP?
SeaWorld has bought itself an opportunity it sorely needs by doubling down with Sesame Street. Whether SeaWorld takes advantage of that opportunity remains to be seen.
They do need something with attendence so bad. Linking it with these characters seems a smart move and if they can be smart enough to get them with the property (think Bert and Ernie or Elmo talking of aquatic life) and a recreation of the places fans want to see, this can be the boost this park needs.
Sesame Street isn't going to do much for SeaWorld. It is worse that Sesame Street is available to both SeaWorld and Busch Gardens so the IP is split and diluted.
I am as big of a fan of Sea World/Busch Gardens as anyone, but I think doubling down on the Sesame Street IP is a mistake. I think it does work well as a kiddie land, but I think as many theme park designers and operators are finding is that you have to keep families together. Creating a Sesame Street Land in Sea World Orlando would further split families that are already seeing teenagers and thrill seeking parents run for the park's signature roller coasters. It's a tactic that tends to work fine with regional "amusement" parks, but when you're in Orlando and competing with the likes of Disney, Universal, and now Legoland, you have to keep families together or they simply won't bother coming at all.
Does anyone else agree that SeaWorld has been floundering badly since they lost the corporate ownership and good leadership of Anheuser-Busch?
I love 'The Count', always counting no matter what happens. He's my favourite. Along with Supergrover.
Anton, I doubt Aquaman would be available as Six Flags does use it, although not as extensively as Batman & Superman obviously. With an Aquaman film coming out, I doubt Six Flags would be willing to part with those IP rights unless they get compensated handsomely.
I think Sea World should take a risk with Sesame Street. I agree that the lands that already exist need to be redesigned, however if Sea World really wants to whip out the big guns, then it needs to think in terms of Fantasyland at Disney, meaning it needs the family style dark rides, whether it be standard track rides like Winnie The Pooh or water track rides like It's A Small World or Pirates of the Caribbean, but it should add family rides like that. Perhaps keeping 1 or 2 of the kiddie rides, but definitely investing heavily in immersing the guests into the concept of the theme of the area, meaning they don't have to necessarily recreate the urban city look, which wouldn't work at Sea World or Busch Gardens, but being that the theme concept of either Bay of Play or Safari of Fun creates images of the outdoors, the target level of theming should be similar to the level of detail Disney puts into its Animal Kingdom park, namely the new Pandora: World of Avatar which from pictures looks stunning. So attract them in with an incredible look, then keep them in with immersive family dark rides or family carnival rides like the Tea Cups or a well themed family coaster like the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. It can be done, again Sea World should take the risk and invest heavily.
They should license the Fox's Blue Sky Studios characters, the characters from Rio would be a nice addition to Buschgardens and they could retheme the Antarctica to Ice Age. Or maybe try a deal with Warner Bros to get Cartoon Network and Hannah-Barbera characters.
People pay to visit zoos all the time and few people complain about the predicament of the animals (in fact, in our Oregon Zoo, it's often applauded for its habitats). I know that SeaWorld has made mistakes in the past, but they're obviously doing all that they can to give back to the oceans that gave them their namesake. I can't understand how people can be okay with zoos but hate SeaWorld. If you're going to be mad at them, then I guess we should also be mad at Disney for putting on their Flight of Wonder show or for using horses on Main Street. SeaWorld contributes millions of dollars to research and conservation, and because of the Blackfish documentary, they are vilified. They seem to be making serious steps in the right direction, and as with any institution that employs thousands of people, I wish them the best. This valuable IP could, if used well, help them inject some life into their parks.
I agree with the above poster regarding detailed theming and immersion in the lands, but I'm going to have half disagree about the rides you suggest. If they had any track record of getting it right then sure, but their family style dark rides are terrible. Trying to beat Disney at their own game may be a lost cause for SeaWorld.
I don't have a problem with a Sesame Street presence at a Sea World park. My fear is that they will do a *half-fast* job, and it'll be underwhelming.
Low cost and low risk (especially since most everything is already there), and could draw more attention to the Sesame Street character dining they already have. This is pretty much a no-lose addition.
Just look at Busch Gardens Tampa. They re-skinned the kid's area with Sesame Street and added a new coaster and a really nice water play area. The anemically small kid's water play area in Shamu's Happy Harbor at SeaWorld Orlando definitely needs some help. So many kids jammed on a tiny little pad vying to cool off.
>>>Sesame Street land to SeaWorld's largest park — SeaWorld Orlando, the one park in the chain that has lacked any Sesame Street presence up until now
So here's how you bring Sesame Street into SeaWorld in an immersive, educational way that aligns with SeaWorld's educational and environmental goals:
The past few weekends, Busch Gardens hosted their annual Sesame Street Weekends event. It drew very large crowds (as it does every year) ... so the interest in the Sesame Street IP is there. It just needs to be layered in to the park properly.
I've said it before. Disney should have made a play for SeaWorld purely for Sesame Street IP, then added that to the muppets to have a dedicated Henson based park to fix DHS. And then fifth gated a star wars/marvel adventure park. I'd go to actual a copy of Sesame Street amd it would have fit with the streets of New York!
Wouldn't Sesame Street draw a very "small" crowd?
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