Undeniable Attractions

Licensed merchandise is one valuable way to propel the presence of a character or entertainment property, but another platform, the theme park attraction, can create the next best thing to a real life experience for a fan,

April 6, 2018

7 Min Read

Licensed merchandise is one valuable way to propel the presence of a character or entertainment property, but another platform, the theme park attraction, can create the next best thing to a real life experience for a fan, or even loop in a new generation of followers. i1_793.jpg

That's the idea behind Warner Bros. Consumer Products' opening last month of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter attraction at Universal Orlando's Islands of Adventure theme park, as well as several other upcoming launches at Disney's California Adventure, Rainbow Magic Land in Rome and more.

WBCP intends to extend the lifeline of its mega tentpole, which will be concluding its film run with the two-part release Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows this November, followed by Part II in July 2011. The wizarding journey of a 12-year-old boy, named Harry Potter, began in 1997 with J.K. Rowling's first book "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" ("Harry Potter and the Apprentice's Stone" in the U.K.), followed by WBCP's acquisition of the film rights in 1999. More than 10 years later, the property has spawned a total of seven books, six films, a touring exhibition and a slew of merchandise. Global retail sales of licensed product has grown to more than $7 billion to date. i2_434.jpg

The 20-acre Wizarding World of Harry Potter attraction is a ripped-from-the-pages adaption of Hogsmeade village and its townsfolk, equipped with its very own Hogwarts Castle, Ollivander's Wand Shop and more. Although Universal Orlando does not officially release numbers on park attendance, the opening week's fanfare of celebrity appearances, press coverage and crowds of eager guests stretched throughout the entire park was evidence of the continuing popularity of the Potter franchise. WBCP and Universal collaborated with Rowling and the films' production designer Stuart Craig and art director Alan Gilmore on the $300 million attraction, where park-goers can sip butterbeer in Three Broomsticks restaurant, buy extendable ears at Zonko's and ride the Dragon Challenge twin high-speed rollercoaster.

"With Harry Potter being one of the best-loved characters and collection of books and films of all time, we knew we had a huge responsibility with this project," says Brad Globe, president of Warner Bros. Consumer Products. "Every detail, every experience had to be perfect, not only to honor the characters and the stories created by J.K. Rowling, but also to deliver fans from around the world a once-in-a-lifetime Harry Potter experience. Through an amazing amount of effort and dedication on our part and that of our partners at Universal, I can say on behalf of all of Warner Bros., The Wizarding World of Harry Potter delivers." i3_281.jpg

The key attraction to Hogsmeade is Hogwarts Castle, where Harry Potter and The Forbidden Journey ride resides. Leading up to the ride, waiting time (estimated at 120 minutes) seems shorter as guests take a winding, detailed tour of the castle, which features Madame Sprout's greenhouse, living portraits of The Fat Lady and Hogwarts' four founders, Dumbledore's office with interactive holographs of Harry, Ron and Hermione, the Room of Requirement complete with floating candles, the Sorting Hat and finally, The Forbidden Journey ride, which combines immersive screenings and an advanced robotic system, as guests compete in a quidditch match and escape evil dragons and spitting spiders. For much younger riders, there's a kiddie coaster, called Flight of the Hippogriff.

A number of exclusive items are available throughout the shops in Hogsmeade, including Pygmy Puffs, a plush version of the miniature "puffskeins" often kept as pets by young wizards and witches (including Ginny Weasley), available at Zonko's; pumpkin juice, served on the Hogwarts Express, in Hogsmeade and at Hogwarts; Fanged Flyers, a flying disc with teeth and handler's glove, banned within Hogwarts; and the Chocolate Frog, a confectionery that contains a collector's lenticular trading card of famous witches and wizards in authentic packaging, found at Honeydukes. Visitors can also stop at Flourish and Blotts for school supplies and apparel or get a glimpse of the unruly Monster Book of Monsters. In addition, omnioculars, remote-controlled golden snitches and more are available at Filch's Emporium of Confiscated Goods. At Three Broomsticks restaurant, guests can sip on butterbeer, a concoction of shortbread and butterscotch flavors, and for the very hungry, there's toad in a hole. i4_213.jpg

A limited assortment of pre-existing licensed product is also available, including from WBCP's licensee The Noble Collection, whose widely sought wands are featured in the village and presented in custom-created packaging.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is just the start of a growing wave of new licensed attractions. Licensed theme parks continue to push the envelope, creating the most immersive and, sometimes, hair-raising experience for customers. One of the pioneers of the concept, Walt Disney, has invested a reported $1.1 billion into an expansion and refreshment of its Disney's California Adventure Park, which will include Cars Land and a new Little Mermaid ride.

Cars Land, a 12-acre park, is anticipated for a 2012 launch. The attraction will feature rides, stores and dining establishments. Amusements planned are Radiator Springs Racers, featuring a third-generation technology based on the Test Track ride at Epcot, as well as Luigi's Roamin' Tires and Mater's Junkyard Jamboree. i5_164.jpg

The new Little Mermaid ride, called Ariel's Undersea Adventure, will take guests on a simulated underwater adventure, featuring characters from the film. Glen Keane and other animators from the film have been brought in to provide details for the ride. It is slated to open in 2011.

More is also planned for Disney's Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Fla., with the expansion of Fantasyland. The project, scheduled to be completed by 2013, is expected to include individual areas for Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Belle, as well as a Pixie Hollow home for Tinker Bell and another Ariel's Undersea Adventure ride. i6_116.jpg

Meanwhile, Universal Studios Hollywood has begun to move forward with plans for the construction of Transformers: The Ride, in partnership with Hasbro. Mark Woodbury, president of Universal Creative, recently announced that film director Michael Bay had joined the design team. The amusement concept was introduced in 2008, but delays followed after the park's backlot fire in the same year. Transformers: The Ride, will replace the former Backdraft attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood. It is now slated to open in summer 2012. Another version of the ride is set to open at Universal Studios Singapore in summer 2011.

Universal Studios Hollywood most recently opened King Kong 3-D 360 for its backlot studio tour. Peter Jackson collaborated with Universal on the project. i7_89.jpg

Overseas, Rainbow, the creators of Winx Club, Alfa Park and Draco Group, have begun construction on Rainbow Magic Land in Rome—set to open in spring 2011. The more than 6 million-square-feet theme park will feature more than 30 attractions, including amusements based on Rainbow properties' Winx Club, PopPixie, Huntik and Monster Allergy. Rainbow's Winx Club will be present at the Castle of Alfea, where families will enjoy 4-D shows and more. Meanwhile, Pixie Village will have PopPixie characters and rides for younger children. Catering to the boys' market, Magic Land will have a Huntik Foundation attraction and the Huntik Spillwater river ride. The €300 million ($370 million) park will also feature three theaters, including one with a skating rink and six restaurants.

Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, the first Ferrari theme park, will open on Yas Island later this year. It will feature 25 rides, including the GT rollercoaster, which will send two competing coaster cars along twisting parallel tracks toward the finish line. The coaster is touted as the fastest in the world, reaching top speeds of 149 mph (240 kmh). Each car is a replica of a Ferrari F430 Spider. Besides amusements, the more than 2 million-square-foot area will also include restaurants and shops offering licensed Ferrari and exclusive Ferrari World Abu Dhabi products. The park, expected to open on Oct. 28, is owned by Aldar Properties and managed by Farah Leisure Parks.

Subscribe and receive the latest news from the industry Article
Join 62,000+ members. Yes, it's completely free.

You May Also Like