By Judith Rubin
Benoit Cornet has been busy over the last year and a half, which is the way he likes it. Ever since he entered the themed entertainment industry in 2001, he’s made a name for himself as a pioneer of interactive experience. With a background in marketing, business and engineering, Cornet is a walking idea factory, keenly observant and ready to challenge assumptions, as befits a serial entrepreneur and industry leader. In April 2020 he announced having formed a new company, BoldMove, saying, “Now is the time to be agile and prepare for the post-crisis era with attractions that are innovative and smart, offering a fast & high return on investment.”
BoldMove’s tagline is “Creating Happier Worlds,” and after two decades in the industry and a lifetime in tech-related ventures, Cornet has grown toward a focus on simple storytelling and fun. The bells and whistles are still there – the company has already launched an interactive ride product or two – but the emphasis is different. This is underlined by BoldMove’s recent announcement, rolling out “Houba World” – a flexible, conceptual package for attractions based on Marsupilami, an IP with strong appeal and momentum that has already had success across several entertainment platforms.
“Houba” is the call (and the entire vocabulary) of the Marsupilami, a fictional, marsupial type animal originated by the late, Belgian artist André Franquin. The Marsupilami family is best known in Belgium and France, but its international following is growing. Since its first appearance in comic books in the 1950s it has successfully migrated to animated series, a feature film, a video game, a merchandise line and to a limited extent in attractions, notably at Parc Spirou Provence.
With the “Houba World” announcement, Cornet indicates that he has done the legwork for BoldMove to facilitate the Marsupilami IP to roll out onto multiple attractions platforms including theme parks, LBE and zoos. Branded attractions are complex projects with many stakeholders to please, including the fan base, the licensor and the attraction operator. BoldMove brings value to the table in having already run the primary hurdles, starting with the cooperation of Mediatoon Licensing. “We have an established partnership with the licensor, relationships throughout the industry, and a team in place with a proven track record,” says Cornet. “This means that a project can get underway relatively quickly. We can check all the boxes including deliverability and staying within the budget and footprint while setting the stage for a healthy ROI. Our team (in-house and external) has not only the skills but also the deep industry knowledge and credentials – creative, technical, production, operations – to ensure a world-class experience. We’ve packaged Houba World to be scalable, from a single indoor space to an entire park, from re-theming an existing ride, attraction or realm to building from scratch.”
Cornet talked up the value and potential of the Marsupilami IP. “This IP is very rich, with inherent charm and strong appeal to children and families. There is no language barrier as its vocabulary is limited to ‘Houba.’ It has an existing, enthusiastic, engaged fan base and has shown its adaptability across platforms, but is not overexposed. It also has a great merchandise line, especially the stuffed toys. The creature is a sweet, simple, empathetic character, a gentle and lovable marsupial whose behavior and lifestyle reinforces family values. The IP is compatible to many themes related to animals, community, conservation and nature, and works for indoor or outdoor spaces.”
As he discusses Houba World, Cornet renders possible applications spanning a wide variety of rides, interactive experiences and physically engaging activities, from the most classic and basic to the most sophisticated and holistic. The discussion reflects his intimate familiarity with the tools, trends and techniques of branded attractions, storytelling, immersion and interactivity, including gamification, scalability, guest agency, cross-platforming, ride vehicles, VR-AR-MR-XR, retail and dining.
Is there a bad guy in the Houba World universe? Yes, but not so very bad. “There is a character who pursues the Marsupilami with an intent to capture (not kill),” says Cornet. Apparently, the creature also has a few natural enemies in the wild, but in general, Cornet indicates, “the Marsupilami is someone who makes friends, partly due to a penchant for grooming others and eating their fleas.”
Like the Marsupilami, Cornet has established a company culture that depends on a web of relationships to flourish. “At BoldMove, we embody the essence of teamwork. We are proud of what we do, but we are very open-minded and flexible. We listen to and answer the needs of the customer with our ideation process. Being small and nimble, the company can move quickly in a relatively smooth process. But we don’t get lost in the technology and we don’t want our clients to get lost in the technology. We want to make sure that park and leisure center visitors forget their worries for a day and are immersed into a world of magic and fantasy. To achieve this, we want to mix the best creative ideas and concepts with the most advanced technologies. We have the drive; we work long hours, and we like it.”
Images courtesy BoldMove. Renderings are conceptual and may not reflect final designs.