Magic Light first entered the location-based experience sector in 2010 with the first Gruffalo carving trail at Thorndon Country Park in Essex, inspired by the idea that finding a life-sized Gruffalo in a forest could connect fans with the character beyond the picture book and animated special.
Connecting in a physical space to make memories with families has become key to the success of the brand extension program, and the immersive experiential activity offering has grown rapidly as a result. Now several extensions to existing experiences plus some exciting new additions opening around the U.K. promise to make this year a particularly strong one for LBEs.
A long-standing partnership with Forestry England launched as part
“2022 brings the animated star of last Christmas, Superworm, to 26 sites nationwide, encouraging children to become superheroes of the forest themselves,” says Alex Sanson, brand manager, Magic Light Pictures. “Forestry England also hosts permanent Gruffalo sculpture trails, and Gruffalo-themed orienteering trails, which act as an introduction to the hobby for young forest adventurers.”
The success of these trails led to another partnership, this time with Merlin Entertainments. Magic Light launched its first theme park attraction, The Gruffalo River Ride Adventure, at Chessington World of Adventures Resort in 2017 and it remains one of the resort’s premier attractions, along with Gruffalo-themed bedrooms at the on-park hotel. Visitors can also enjoy a spellbinding walk-through adventure, Room on the Broom – A Magical Journey! and then star in their own magical journey in the Room on the Broom – Animated Movie Experience.
“Following the success at Chessington, Magic Light has since extended its partnership with the Merlin group at Warwick Castle, which is the perfect home for Zog,” says Sanson. “Warwick initially created an exciting 3D interactive Zog trail, which has returned following its roaring success last year. Zog has proved to be so popular that Warwick has created another attraction – a brand-new playland inspired by Zog and the Flying Doctors.” The attraction combines sensory and physical play elements and offers an inclusive, accessible play experience for children up to age 10. Special Zog Stay and Play accommodation packages are also available.
Another new immersive experience launches this year at Twycross Zoo. The U.K.’s first Gruffalo Discovery Land, a four-acre, multi-million-pound development features real-life animals, animatronics, film clips, games and much more, aiming to inspire the next generation of conservationists.
“Ushaw historic house is cast under a spell in 2022 as the Room on the Broom activity trail comes to County Durham,” says Sanson. “This fun family adventure weaves through magical woods, meadows, gardens and by the former lake at Ushaw.” There are also plans for a third trail with Wakehurst, sister site to the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew.
“Magic Light’s experiential portfolio now covers a variety of settings, from stately homes to theme parks and forest trails,” says Sanson. “We know how important these interactive experiences are for our fans in giving them additional touchpoints to engage with their favorite characters in the real world. We are very proud of the strength of our partnerships and attractions and have plans in place to build on our success and launch even more exciting initiatives over the next few years.”
Over the last 12 years, Magic Light has worked with its partners to offer fans magical experiences that bring its brands to life and deepen connections. “People who say they love our attractions are at least 32% more likely to buy licensed product and revisit figures are extremely high,” adds Sanson. Magic Light has plans to broaden its work in the experiential space further still in the coming years.
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