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Machines de l’Île and the success of “making of” attractions

Machines de L'ile making of attractions

With the announcement of the new Warner Bros. Studio Tour project in Tokyo, it seems that “making of” attractions might be the next big thing.

By Thibault Paquin, CEO, Celebrating Life

elephant machines de l'ileA couple of days after reading the news about the Warner Bros. Studio Tour project in Tokyo, I visited Machines de l’Île in Nantes. Was this a coincidence? Or maybe it is a sign that “making of” attractions might be the next big thing. Especially in the context of physical distancing and crowd control becoming the norm.

Like the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter, Machines de l’Île can be experienced as a behind-the-scenes tour. It shows how the creators of these incredible machines have brought them to life. Both attractions are very popular. In fact, Warner Bros. Studio Tour London draws around 2 million visitors every year. But what makes them so successful?

What makes “making of” attractions so successful?

In the case of Warner Bros. Studio Tour, visitors get a truly immersive experience with original sets, props and costumes from the Harry Potter movies. There is even the opportunity to drink Butterbeer.

As for Machines de l’Île, visitors find out about the history of the street artists who started everything. They learn about the engineering process, the dream behind each project, and they even get to try the machines themselves; both the prototypes during the tour and the finished ones (such as the big elephant and the marine worlds carousel) after the tour – for an additional fee.

making of attractions machines de l'ile

Each time you visit Machines de l’Île, the team could be working on a different project. This makes for great content renewal. At present, they are working on the gigantic Herons’ Tree commissioned by the city of Nantes for the Chantenay quarry.

Both “making of” attractions draw sufficient visitors that they can serve as anchors for larger lifestyle hubs. In the case of Tokyo, the attraction will be surrounded by a large hot spring spa, a public park and probably some F&B and retail offering. And in Nantes, the attraction is the hub of the new urban area of Île de Nantes, in development for the past 20 years.

Truly experiential

machines de l'ileWhen I visited, Machines de l’Île seemed to operate normally despite COVID-19 restrictions. This is because the capacity is naturally limited to 200 people in the gallery, for guides to be able to conduct the tour and demonstrations in good conditions. The movement of people is fully controlled during the 1-hour visit.

Being truly experiential, “making of” attractions are especially popular among the millennials. When I was there, visitors at Machines de l’Île were happy to take pictures of their friends or family members on the control seat of the big spider or the flying heron. They all screamed of joy when the big elephant sprayed water from his trunk on people on the street.

I was personally a bit let down by the lack of poetry and emotion in the tour experience. Maybe it was because the guides were wearing masks. But I think it is also because there are limitations in the storytelling for “behind-the-scenes” experiences.

These need to be more factual and therefore don’t necessarily make you dream as much as the final product (i.e. the movie in the case of Harry Potter or the carousel and the big elephant in the case of the Machines). However, because Nantes offers both the “behind-the-scenes” and the final products on the same site, it makes for a complete experience.

I believe for the reasons listed above, “making-of” attractions have a great future ahead. Especially if the show component is well treated with the right dose of poetry and emotion.

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Thibault Paquin

Thibault Paquin

Thibault Paquin is the founder and CEO of Celebrating Life, a destination consultancy firm which provides independent consulting, development and project management services for companies in the leisure and entertainment industry.

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