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Penguin Ventures talks licensing, live shows and immersive experiences

Fans can connect with brands such as Peter Rabbit at a range of new attractions & experiences

Opinion
merlin peter rabbit attraction blackpool
Thomas Merrington Penguin Ventures

Thomas Merrington is creative director at Penguin Ventures, part of Penguin Random House Children’s. He recently spoke to License Global about the modern location-based experience market.

Penguin Ventures has a range of popular IPs that are ideally suited for experiences and attractions. For example, The World of Peter Rabbit, The World of The Snowman, Spot and The Flower Fairies. Location-based entertainment (LBE) is an important and growing category for the company.

This is because live shows, exhibitions and immersive experiences are an ideal way to reach and engage audiences. They allow the company to reach more people and build affinity, as well as to emotionally connect with fans.

“LBE offers a significant opportunity to bring our classic brands to life off the page in an impactful and memorable way,” explains Merrington. “Everything we do in the live and experiential space is in service to the audience. We want to make sure that we are creating special memories for existing and new audiences.”

Penguin Ventures’ approach to new LBE opportunities 

Merrington says that Penguin Ventures takes a balanced approach to new licensing opportunities in this area:

“With LBE, there is enormous scope to create bespoke merchandise unique to each experience and offer something new to the fans. With that in mind, we always work with our existing licensing partners in the first instance, wherever possible, to create new product lines.”

One key example of this is the new World of Beatrix Potter Attraction in the Lake District. Here, visitors can purchase almost every single Peter Rabbit product from Penguin Ventures’ UK partners. The attraction also offers its own bespoke collection of merchandise.

“We are also about to open a landmark Peter Rabbit exhibition in Japan, touring three cities with over 200 bespoke lines of merchandise and collaborations. Some exciting product launches are exclusive to the exhibition. And as the rights holders to The World of Peter Rabbit, we have licensed a bespoke range of merchandise to accompany the current V&A Exhibition, Beatrix Potter: Drawn to Nature.”

“Furthermore, we are also in a unique position as a publisher to offer custom books for our various live events and partnerships.”

Engaging with Penguin Ventures IP

In addition, 2022 marks the 120th Anniversary of Peter Rabbit. This is one of the company’s most popular IPs and one that has been beloved by families for generations. Recently, Penguin Ventures launched a new Peter Rabbit: Explore and Play attraction in Blackpool, UK, in partnership with Silvergate Media and Merlin Entertainments. This is a standalone attraction where young visitors can connect with the Peter Rabbit TV brand.

“We have also built our own Peter Rabbit Storytime Trail,” he adds. This is a wooden panel, interactive exhibition touring libraries and galleries across the UK through to 2024. The trail will enable the youngest fans to enjoy the original illustrations from the classic Beatrix Potter tales without the need for exhibition conditions.

“Our landmark Happy Birthday Peter Rabbit exhibition in Japan is launching soon,” says Merrington. This is the first time all the original Peter Rabbit watercolours have been overseas. There will also be a new Peter Rabbit English Garden attraction at the base of Mount Fuji.

More experiences are set to come later this year for The Snowman and The Snowdog. This marks the 10th anniversary of the animated sequel to the Raymond Briggs classic.

The future of LBE

Finally, looking ahead to the future, Merrington adds:

“We are fortunate to be the custodians of brands that resonate and appeal to international audiences. So, LBEs form a central part of our strategy for global growth.

“Technology is at the core of many immersive new experiences. I think this will continue to explode across LBE in licensing. The developments in technology offer so many opportunities for much-loved classic brands, such as those in our portfolio, to be experienced in entirely new and exciting ways. We are currently exploring how digital technology can work alongside heritage properties to bring our brands to life like never before.” 

Location-based entertainment will be the core theme of Licensing Expo 2022 in Las Vegas. For more information on attending the event to meet exhibitors, delegates, and speakers from across the brand licensing market, as well as finding future partners in the LBE space, click here to register 

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