Children and their grown-ups will likely already be fans of the award-winning animated series Bing and its relatable stories about the pre-schooler and his carer, Flop. Now, more audiences than ever are set to discover the world of Bing and his friends as the series expands to new channels and experiences.
Blooloop spoke to Kirsty Southgate, Director of Experiential & Promotions at Acamar Films, the creative studio behind the phenomenon, to explore the studio’s ongoing mission to move and delight audiences worldwide.
Acamar Films is an independent studio headquartered in London, which distributes, markets and licenses its pre-school animated series, Bing. The company was founded in 2005 by Mikael Shields. It has since grown to a team of 80 people who focus solely on Bing.
“At Acamar, our objective is to ‘move and delight’ audiences,” says Southgate. “By managing all aspects of the property in-house, all departments can work closely together and strive to deliver something quite exceptional to our treasured young audience.”
Celebrating the noisy, joyful, messy reality of pre-school life, Bing stories are small, but they are full of drama; everyday ups and downs that all young children and the grown-ups in their lives will recognise. Bing is an energetic, playful and engaging pre-schooler. As he encounters new experiences, a combination of enthusiasm and inexperience can sometimes lead to disappointment – but Bing can always count on Flop and his friends to help navigate his way.
“The programme does not shy away from difficult moments. The characters go through a range of emotions in various situations. Our audience can relate to these experiences, learn from Bing and build resilience in their own lives.”
Why Bing is special
With gender-neutral appeal, Bing offers real-life learning tools for soft skill development. Consulting with educational experts, the programme is written in a way that supports the growth of young children’s identities, cognition, coping mechanisms and emotional resilience. It also engages multi-generational audiences.
Acamar Films strongly values authenticity, curiosity, empathy and universality, which shines through the timeless, honest and unique stories found in the 104 episodes of Bing.
“We take great care to make sure the content feels ‘around the corner, not far away’,” says Southgate. “The pace of the show allows children to absorb what is going on and to recognise something of themselves in Bing. The stories and locations are universal no matter where you are in the world. A child goes through the same emotions, whether they’re in France, Japan or the US.”
Building a global audience
Bing first launched in the UK in 2014. It has since become a beloved character amongst Bingsters and grown-ups across 130 territories. Following a successful launch of Series 4 in the UK in 2019, the new series has since launched in Italy, Poland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden and Australia and continues to roll out internationally across other countries.
Bing also has a strong licensing programme in eight key markets with over 100 licensees across more than 70,000 points of sale. The 2019 toy launch by master toy partner, Golden Bear, was a sell-out success in the UK, Italy, Poland, Benelux and Norway.
This success was consolidated with the win of Property of the Year in Italy and the most recent win of Toy of the Year in the Netherlands for the new plush, Musical Statues Dancing Bing. Bing’s consumer product presence is going from strength to strength, with more products launching in new markets in 2022.
“Our audience is at the heart of everything that we do,” says Southgate. “Children form a passionate connection to Bing and it’s fantastic to see how this relationship develops in every new market we enter.”
A strong digital presence
With the programme available on linear channels and various digital platforms (such as Amazon Prime Video, KidoodleTV and Vodafone), Bing has also seen a great uplift in its digital presence on a global level. In September, Acamar Films celebrated the milestone of 4 billion lifetime views across its 20 Bing channels on YouTube, with over 250 million hours of watch time generated in the last year.
“The way that we consume content has changed so much. So, it is important that we make Bing content as accessible as possible to reflect viewing behaviours. Our multi-platform approach to building audiences worldwide, whether that’s on linear TV, digital platforms, YouTube, app or cinema, allows Bingsters to return to Bing time and time again in different ways and locations.”
In September 2021, Acamar also celebrated another milestone as the first episode of the American version of Bing aired on WarnerMedia Kids & Family’s pre-school programming block, Cartoonito. The studio worked on a brand new bespoke American version of the show so that the characters feel familiar and genuine.
We want to ensure the experience of watching Bing is as authentic as possible. That’s why our audience can hear a child speaking rather than an adult doing a child’s voice
“As with all other language versions of Bing, the pre-school characters are all voiced by child performers. We want to ensure the experience of watching Bing is as authentic as possible. That’s why our audience can hear a child speaking rather than an adult doing a child’s voice,” says Southgate.
A multi-platform approach
Acamar Films’ multi-platform approach extends to other touchpoints, including a new interactive Amazon Alexa Skill, Bing Time, which launched on Amazon Kids+ in July 2021. There is also the Bing: Watch, Play, Learn app which first launched in the UK in 2019.
Bing Time was developed in partnership with voice design agency Voxly Digital. It provides exclusive audio stories and play-along games, as well as a selection of Bing music and songs.
Meanwhile, the Bing: Watch, Play, Learn app features episodes and games designed to help pre-schoolers develop imagination, creativity and motor skills. It has enjoyed over 1.5 million downloads in the UK, Italy, Poland, The Netherlands, Spain, Canada and Ireland.
“The Bing: Watch, Play, Learn app allows us to communicate directly with our audience. We can provide all things Bing in one central platform in a carefully crafted, safe environment for children,” explains Southgate.
Bingsters living in other territories can enjoy the new Bing app, Let’s Play. This is a games-only app that launched in July 2021.
Bing on the Big Screen
Acamar Films has also released Bing cinema experiences. This began with Bing at the Cinema in 2018 and Bing’s Christmas & Other Stories in 2019/20. Now, the studio has launched its latest offering, Bing’s Animal Stories, bringing together some of the most popular animal-themed episodes with play-along fun and games.
Bing’s Animal Stories opened in the UK in July. This was followed by a September release in the Netherlands, across almost 100 cinemas, and in Italy, where it opened in 250.
“The theatrical releases create an opportunity for families to interact with Bing content outside of the home,” says Southgate. “Quite often this is the first time families with young children are going to the cinema and seeing their favourite character on the big screen.”
Experiencing Bing in real life
Bing is an ideal choice for an experiential attraction. There are dedicated audiences wanting to meet their favourite characters and to enjoy an opportunity to become immersed in the world of Bing. In the UK, Bing and Flop have been meeting guests at CBeebies Land at Alton Towers since 2017. Plus, in 2020, Gulliver’s Theme Park Resorts welcomed the pair to its Milton Keynes Park.
Acamar Films also partnered with ZSL London Zoo to bring Bing-themed activities to the attraction this autumn. The activities include storytime sessions, a self-led trail and photo opportunities. Experiences such as these provide children with a brand new way to deepen their relationship with the stories and characters.
“There’s a real opportunity to engage with families with very young children. Quite often there is something on offer for the older children, aged 5 to 11. But what about families with much younger children?”
“Bing can provide parents with a solution for days out and experiences, creating treasured moments when children meet their favourite character for the first time. For venues, it is a way to attract new visitors and increase footfall during off-peak times. It helps them to build loyalty with families from an early age.
“In addition, we want to make sure our experiences are as accessible as possible. Not just in terms of the price point but also geographically. We have a very passionate and engaged community who are looking for ways to engage with Bing.”
New Bing-themed area for Leolandia
In October 2020, Acamar Films announced a new multi-year partnership with Leolandia, a leading theme park for young children in Italy. Building on the success of the park’s Bing and Flop Meet and Greet, and its exclusive mini-show, Leolandia is currently developing a Bing-themed area covering 9,500 square metres. This will include interactive play areas, live show venues as well as themed F&B and merchandise.
“Bing is hugely popular in Italy,” says Southgate. “Following Bing’s debut at the park in 2019, it quickly became clear that families loved Bing and Flop. Due to the overwhelming success of the mini show and Italian audiences’ love for the show, Leolandia will be the first park in the world to host a dedicated Bing themed attraction set to launch in 2023.”
Bing on stage
Bingsters in the Netherlands and Belgium were the first to experience a new live theatre show. Bing is Jarig (Bing’s Birthday) launched in October, thanks to a multi-year deal between Acamar Films and Dutch theatre production company, Trend Media.
The hour-long show features puppetry and music in a production suitable for children aged one year and above. More shows are to come in the new year with a further three seasons planned.
“The first performances sold out in a couple of days,” says Southgate. “The show looks gorgeous. The set pieces include the key locations within the show that children will instantly recognise. For example, the performance opens with the exterior of Bing’s house, just like the episodes.
“We’ve included music and songs that children will recognise from the series, as well as a lot of new ones. Plus, the children are invited to come dressed up, so they too are taking part in Bing’s birthday party as the grand finale of the show.
“More performances are to come in Spring 2022. Our plan is to take the show and localise it for other markets.”
A bright future for Bing
With a robust licensing programme, multi-platform approach and launches in new markets like the US, Bing is poised for ongoing global expansion and success as the world starts to open up.
Families are eager to experience life beyond the home and Acamar Films is committed to expanding Bing’s worldwide experiential footprint with unique events and experiences that are safe and enjoyable.
“Many families relied heavily on in-home activities during the lockdown periods of the pandemic. We understand that screen-time played a significant role during this time. But families also value screen-free experiences. They are ready to return to events, theme parks and live theatre shows with their loved ones.
“We’re proud that there are already many ways to interact with Bing on and off-screen. However, we strive to always find new ways to bring the characters and stories to life.”
For more information about Bing please reach out here.